“The New Mutants,” a movie spun out of the “X-Men” franchise that has followed a long-delayed, tortured path the screen, is going to remain an unknown quantity right up until it finally hits theaters. As a holdover from Disney’s Fox acquisition, it’s fair to say the film is arriving without the customary fanfare — or advance reviews.
Featuring a cast that includes “Game of Thrones'” Maisie Williams and Charlie Heaton (“Stranger Things”) as young mutants held in a secret facility, the horror-tinged movie won’t be screened in advance for critics as it lands in theaters Friday.
Studios are more likely to hold a movie back to avoid what they anticipate will be negative coverage. As Indiewire reported, some press outlets have sought to explain to readers why they won’t be reviewing “New Mutants,” citing Disney’s failure to provide at-home screener links or in-person options.
Still, very little about “New Mutants” — which actually completed production in 2017 — has been traditional, beginning with the multiple delays of its release.
Originally scheduled for an April 2018 debut, the film was postponed to February 2019, then August of last year. When Disney acquired the studio that produced it, 21st Century Fox, “New Mutants” was delayed yet again, to April, before coronavirus closed theaters.
Speculation ran rampant that Disney might dump the project onto its streaming service, Disney+, as a means of cutting its losses while catering to comic-book fans. Instead, “New Mutants” will make its debut in theaters as that market lurches back to life in the US and theaters remain closed in some major cities. (Disney did opt for a streaming release in the US of “Mulan,” but by charging a premium to access the film, which premieres Sept. 4.)
In July, the “New Mutants” cast and director Josh Boone participated in a Comic-Con@Home panel that sought to stoke excitement for the movie, while joking about how long it has sat idly — with the Aug. 28 date followed by the words “Fingers crossed” on screen.
“Everybody’s been waiting so long,” Boone said, adding in regard to the label that the project is “cursed” that he wouldn’t be surprised if it was announced an asteroid is about to hit Earth before the scheduled opening.
Even before the pandemic, Disney experienced a number of box-office disappointments with movies it inherited in the Fox acquisition, including the X-Men film “Dark Phoenix,” a remake of “The Call of the Wild” and the action-comedy “Stuber.”
The bigger picture for “New Mutants” is that its release essentially closes the books on a strange era in which one of Marvel’s signature properties, X-Men, belonged to another studio, Fox. That’s because Marvel sold off of those rights decades ago when the company faced financial troubles, a fate that also befell Spider-Man, which is housed under Sony’s movie division but now produced with Marvel’s cooperation.
The expectation is that with X-Men back in the Marvel/Disney fold, the studio will reintegrate the franchise into what’s known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Given that broader context, “New Mutants” appears to fall into the category of an unwanted stepchild, one Disney appears relieved to shed. The only good news for those looking forward to the movie — or even merely curious about it — is that if they don’t venture out to theaters, it should be streaming into homes soon enough.
“The New Mutants” premieres Aug. 28 in theaters in the US.