“We don’t need no, interference...” The complicated history of the New Mutants movie!
Wow! After two or more years in release limbo, Fox’s anticipated spinoff set in the X-Men universe, has finally arrived in theaters!
Okay, what is left of the theaters since audience participation is expected to be an all-time low thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, when looking at the sorted details of the movie’s problematic past, offers a deeper perspective on studio meddling that may affect the outcome of film production and or lackluster results. It seems that director Josh Boone who co-wrote the Marvel Comics’ live action spinoff, originally had intentions for ‘Mutants to be this hybrid of The Breakfast Club but featuring Horror elements. And like John Hughes 1985 seminal classic, New Mutants was to be set in the 1980s paying homage by including elements of Breakfast Club, which unfortunately or fortunately depending on your personal preference, was scrapped prior to production. However, according to sources familiar with New Mutants’ production both Boone and his co-writer, Knate Lee who are fans of the Marvel IP, were reluctant to implement script revisions requested by Fox, resulting in numerous rewrites and one intervention-like roundtable read just before filming.
Fox hated the original cut as they discussed throwing the entire movie out to “start over” with a total reshoot. So now we have this finished product akin to some PG-13 dark fantasy full of “jump scares” sans horror or gore. But wait..!! Before there were official plans of distribution, enter Disney who during the studio merger did not find New Mutants as what would constitute as a Disney film?
Their answer was not this.
“Deadpool had come out and was such a hit. It was sort of like, ‘What would an X-Men movie look like if it was hard-R, broke down some walls, was kind of meta, but it was also like a teen-horror flick with a John Hughes sensibility?’”
And when all is said, perhaps Disney was right?
Despite this rather interesting premise, Lee and Boone’s initial 2015 screenplay drafts failed to deliver the kind of teen angst drama the filmmaker had pitched to the studio. Furthermore, the script’s crude humor needed some serious toning down. according to anonymous sources, “Josh was sending around posters where [the New Mutants] characters are put into the Breakfast Club poster. The Legend of Billie Jean was another movie he was always bringing up,” .“Punk-rock-y, rebellious teens are already baked into the X-Men, but here, one of the characters was a misogynist and graffiti-ing his penis on stuff. There were head scratchers. Like, That’s not going to work.”
To complicate things much further, some outside observers felt Boone and Lee’s initial script violated viewers and fans’ expectations of iconic X-Men characters such as Storm as this prison warden in the early drafts of Mutants. “She was their sadistic jailer,” says another source. “It felt like the kids were being tortured. If the X-Men are holding [the young mutants] there, it can’t feel different from the mental furniture that audiences bring into the theater knowing that the X-Men are good guys. Storm like that made no sense.”
Fox sought outside help with writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (Fault of our Stars) to give an uncredited do over to the characters. As new versions of the script would come in, Boone would revise them by replacing or eliminating some of the work that had been added. By the winter of 2016, Fox officially lost confidence in the direction which New Mutants was heading. Studio chairperson–chief executive Stacey Snider personally “didn’t want to do anymore Breakfast Club parts. It had to be horror. Straight horror,” says a source. Another source adds, “They had zero faith the horror-[teen movie]-hybrid version would work in the marketplace.”
Even with additional writers hauled in, to dial up Mutants’ scares like Chad Hayes and Carey W. Hayes (The Conjuring and its sequel), Joshua Zetumer (Robocop), and Seth Grahame-Smith (writer of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and producer of It and 2019’s disappointing It: Chapter Two). Boone continued to reject script changes as soon as they came in: “Josh and Knate clarified the horror. Then the Fox executives, bring in another outside writer. And then Josh went back again. There was this pattern where it would be Josh, then someone. Then Josh, then someone. Then Josh. That went back and forth.” A representative for Chad and Carey Hayes said, “They aren’t credited on this film. I don’t think it’s imperative they are part of an article on this film.”)
The span of Disney’s nearly two-year acquisition of 21st Century Fox, was ostensibly responsible for several of the film’s release delays with the Mutants cast members aged to the extent that made shooting continuity impossible. During an interview with EW.com Boone mentioned;
“I’ll tell you this: If there hadn’t been a merger, I’m sure we would’ve done reshoots the same way every movie does pickups,”. “We didn’t even do that, because by the time the merger was done and everything was settled, everybody’s older.”
“People have talked about this being a ‘cursed’ film because it’s taking forever,” “But I think in some respects, the lockdown has actually just amped up the level of interest. People are really rabid for this.”
-New Mutants comic-book artist Sienkiewicz said at the Comic-Con@Home panel last month.
With all its problems, New Mutants got greenlit since Disney inherited the project in earnest last year ,but there is still that uncertainty of marketers being puzzled over how a dark-fantasy film featuring depictions of madness and a Native American massacre would fit into the Mouse House’s family-friendly corporate i.e. family friendly image. At first, a release distribution plan via either Hulu or Disney+ was considered, while Mutants’ third theatrical delay pushed the movie to an April 3, 2020, rollout, which was scrapped by the onset of COVID-19. Call it, Murphy's Law or just cursed!
But in May, Disney signaled its current intent to release the film theatrically on August 28. Logistically speaking, it would be best to release it on their streaming platform as with Mulan (for a supplementary $29.99 rental) next month. Today as of this writing would be the true testament of how this long-delayed movie will fare during the troubled movie industry and the not so favorable sentiments of this the film’s premise. So, there you have it. Making a film, isn't as easy as one would think and what happened behind the scenes of the New Mutants, is a microcosm example of setbacks and final decisions that impact the success or failure of a movie.
The New Mutants is now playing at select theaters.