The past few years' worth of X-Men movies have been a surprising mix of unlikely blockbusters and devastating flops. While 20th Century Fox found success with spinoff X-Men films like Deadpool and Logan, the main series itself suffered. Although the studio tried to reinvigorate the franchise with a fresh cast of fan-favorite characters and well-liked actors, X-Men: Apocalypse proved a critical dud, and Dark Phoenix bombed at the box office.
While those twin failures and Disney's acquisition of the Fox and Fox-controlled Marvel properties, the stage seems set for the X-Men to be rebooted and introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, Disney still faces the lingering issue of The New Mutants.
That long-gestating, horror-influenced spinoff about a new generation of mutants still hasn't seen the light of day, and at this point, it's not clear if it ever will.
Technically, the film is still set to be released on April 3, 2020. However, it's already been pushed back from multiple earlier release dates, including April 2018 and August 2019. That's due to a combination of re-shoots and scheduling conflicts, such as Fox not wanting The New Mutants to compete with its other releases. It's now part of Disney's stable, although a new report indicates the studio is skeptical of The New Mutants' commercial appeal.
Despite its troubled production, The New Mutants theoretically has a lot of potential. The cast bustles with the star power of up-and-comers like Game of Thrones' Maisie Williams as Wolfsbane and Stranger Things' Charlie Heaton as Cannonball. Anya Taylor-Joy is a picture-perfect fit for Magik, and her character's presence seems perfect for the movie's horror tone.
Reportedly, that horror tone is a big part of the reason for the film's delay, as reshoots were initially attributed to a desire to play up that element. Rather than going for the typical sci-fi action-adventure tone of the other X-Men movies, The New Mutants set its sights on telling the story of a band a teenagers newly discovering their powers while trying to escape their terrifying captors. Different cuts and approaches to the film reportedly embrace horror and a more traditional superhero story to varying degrees.
While the New Mutants' comic book adventures certainly depicted some more horrific elements, that was never what the team was solely about, especially in its early days. While the team has plenty of zany and mind-bending adventures, those comics worked because they were awkward teenagers coming to terms with themselves, one another, and the world around them. In a move that was quite progressive for their 1982 debut, the team consisted primarily of women and people of color, and the diversity of the team's backgrounds was a central part of what made the New Mutants such fan-favorite characters.
On the other hand, a more horror-centric tone inspired by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz's "The Demon Bear Saga" storyline could give the film a unique, genre-focused angle.
With the debate over the merits of these approaches is probably still going on somewhere in Hollywood, Disney also has a reasonable motive to hold back the film from release. Keeping it unreleased would give Marvel Studios a clean slate to build up the X-Men's debut in the MCU.
Given the promise and potential of its cast and premise, it would be a shame for The New Mutants to get the short end of the stick. Even if the movie is just quietly released on Disney-controlled streaming services like Disney+ or Hulu, The New Mutants deserves to see the light of day, even if it doesn't have a theatrical release.