"New Mutants," the final, no-kidding X-Men movie by Twentieth Century Fox, finally made it to the theaters after three years of delays. What a long, strange trip it's been.
That trip really began back in 1982, when Marvel Comics launched its third major X-Men team. For this new venture, dubbed "The New Mutants," Marvel went back to the original well. "We felt that the series needed a school, and The X-Men were too old for that," writer Chris Claremont said in Les Daniels' history of Marvel. "So we got Xavier some students and it's evolved from there."
The first New Mutants story launched in graphic novel form in 1982 by Claremont and artist Bob McLeod. That was followed by "New Mutants" No. 1 in 1983, by the same creators, starring the same group: Cannonball, Karma, Psyche, Sunspot and Wolfsbane. "New Mutants" being an X-Men book, it didn't take long for things to get weird. But it got super-weird when Bill Sienkiewicz took on the art chores. An experimental and often abstract artist, Sienkiewicz combined photorealism, collage and painting and other techniques that exploded off the page. And he arrived just in time, in "New Mutants" No. 18, the first issue of what would be dubbed "The Demon Bear Saga."
This story line became famous as much for its imagination and execution as for, well, a bunch of teenage mutant superheroes fighting a bear. The Bear, however, wasn't physical. It had been haunting Psyche's dreams, before manifesting as a spirit form that mauled her physically and psychically. The other New Mutants took her to a hospital, where all of them were trapped by the Bear.
The "New Mutants" movie takes place in that haunted hospital. Yep, the Demon Bear Saga is the basis for the movie. The film was greenlit around 2014, with director Josh Boone ("The Fault in Our Stars") attached. By 2017 it was finished, with a release date of April 13, 2018. In early 2018, the movie was pushed to Feb. 22, 2019. According to CinemaBlend, this was for two reasons: One, to have reshoots to emphasize horror elements ("IT" had done well) and to give it some breathing room from "Deadpool 2," scheduled for summer 2018.
Which happened again, when "X-Men: Dark Phoenix" got too close. "New Mutants" got bumped to Aug. 2, 2019. But now discussions were serious about Disney buying Fox, which threw in another monkey wrench. The reshoots weren't finished, and word was Disney wasn't impressed. So a new date was set: April 3, 2020.
Which was right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Who could have known? "New Mutants" got bumped again, to Aug. 28, and by this time almost no one took the date seriously. But it happened. "New Mutants" premiered at whatever theaters were open on Aug. 28 for a $7 million opening weekend and "mixed" reviews.
Which is a sad finish to the "New Mutants" saga. It had a great premise (a teen-horror superhero movie)! A great inspiration (the legendary "Demon Bear Saga")! And a probable future. According to ScreenRant, Boone had planned a New Mutants trilogy.
Unless "New Mutants" shows some unexpected legs, we'll have to wait for these characters to be introduced in Marvel Cinematic Universe films, get developed and spin off into their own films. By then, the stars of "New Mutants" will probably have teenagers of their own.