[Update: What interesting timing... New Mutants characters revealed as casting begins!]
This week we got another major update for the X-Men movie universe with news that Gambit starring Channing Tatum would finally enter production this fall with director Doug Liman still attached to direct. With Gambit seemingly back on track, Deadpool 2 confirmed, and new release dates already set for unannounced X-Men movies, studio Twentieth Century Fox is quickly adjusting and planning out their key superhero tentpoles.
Much has changed over the last year for Fox's plans with rewrites and director-dropouts on Gambit, Hugh Jackman's announcement that he's only doing one more Wolverine movie, the success of Deadpool, and the failure of Fantastic Four. And as a result, new properties are being explored including that of a film based on the New Mutants.
New Mutants ran as an ongoing series throughout the '80s until it transformed into Rob Liefeld's (creator of Deadpool) mega popular X-Force in 1991, and a movie based on the property was namedropped by X-Men franchise producer Lauren Shuler Donner in 2009. Now that Fox is banking heavily on their Marvel licenses with comic book movie dominating Hollywood, last summer the studio officially announced the project with Josh Boone (The Fault In Our Stars) set to direct and co-writing the script with Knate Gwaltney (of Jackass fame).
Similar to the X-Force movie script that the studio commissioned from Jeff Wadlow (Kick-Ass 2) however, New Mutants never got a date. But where X-Force was seemingly made obsolete by Bryan Singer taking Apocalypse for his Days of Future Past followup (the central villain initially planned for that movie), New Mutants is still on track and makes more sense as a spinoff to come first anyway (more on that later). Speaking with IGN, X-Men franchise overseer and producer Simon Kinberg provided an update on the current status of New Mutants which still sits without a date.
“Josh Boone and his writing partner are working on the script. They're doing a really nice job of it, and it's a really cool one, because in many ways, like Deadpool was so different from the mainline X-Men movies, New Mutants… It’s maybe not as different as Deadpool, but it has its own unique, original voice to it."
"That's the fun for me, working in the X-Men universe, creating these sort of standalone movies that have a different vibe to them. And New Mutants has more of a YA [Young Adult] vibe to it.”
For fans of the films the bigger question might then be about which characters will be on the team's roster.
“There's a very deep bench. There's a long, long list of names, and I'll tell you some of the names on that list I don't even know. That's how deep it goes.”
“Traditionally, the New Mutants have some characters that cross over from the mainline X-Men movies. As we are going, I would say it's likely that you will see some familiar faces.”
It's a smart play for Fox and its creative teams to get to work on New Mutants right now since they're a little stuck within the confines of their own continuity. The core X-Men movies move from the '70s to the '80s with this summer's X-Men: Apocalypse but from what Kinberg told us on the set of that film last summer, all of the other features on the docket are set in the modern era after Days of Future Past altered the timeline.
This year's Deadpool, for instance, is set in the present day where mutants are well-known and where the X-Men exist as a functional team of superheroes - featuring veteran mutants like Colossus teaching new trainees. Gambit and presumably Wolverine 3 will also be set in the modern or near future era as well, something that gives New Mutants a prime opportunity to give the studio a modern-day team-up property as the mainline X-Men movies catch up.
X-Men of the Past, New X-Men of the New Present
And just like Kinberg says, that also allows the studio to get creative in bringing back familiar faces. Think about it this way - what if the original trilogy characters could come back again after returning for X-Men: Days of Future Past but serve as background characters and teachers for the next generation of "new mutants"? They've already established this reality in Deadpool where Negasonic Teenage Warhead is a trainee, and even rocks a New Mutants style of classic yellow uniform.
Fox can have their cake and eat it to, so to speak. They can keep their current roster of characters played by notable stars slowly catching up to the modern era in the '80s and '90s. And in their 2010s/2020s set stories can have the older versions of those same characters (who we all already know from nearly two decades of these movies) helping to introduce new characters.
So, for anyone guessing that New Mutants could be the direct followup to X-Men: Apocalypse, we don't believe so. Given the success of X-Men: Days of Future Past, and knowing the studio and director Bryan Singer were already planning its followup (X-Men: Apocalypse) before it even hit theaters, the "main" or "core" X-Men titles starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, and Nicholas Hoult will continue. It'd be crazy for them not to. That already seems to be the plan from an interview with Mel’s Studio boss Michel Trudel (the Montreal production facility where DOFP and Apocalypse both shot) where it was revealed they signed with Fox for another Bryan Singer production next year for a film coming in 2018. Of course, Fox already had an unannounced title dated for 2018 and has since added another in January which we suspect is for Deadpool 2.
Singer told us while we visited the set of Apocalypse that he has ideas for what's next (he and Kinberg must be involved, given what's already in development) and even teased the idea of the X-Men finally going cosmic.
How New Mutants Fits Perfectly
We already explained why New Mutants gives Fox the perfect out to bring back "familiar faces" as Kinberg puts it (more on that later) and how it allows for Singer to realize more X-Men movies in the past. However, it's also an essential piece of setting up the future and tying into the franchise's new poster boy: Deadpool.
As fans are well aware, the post-credits scene of Deadpool confirms something we already knew from chatting with the film's writers and director - that the time-travelling future son of Cyclops known as Cable is finally coming to the X-Men franchise. Cable got his big debut (under that codename) in New Mutants. He's the leader of its evolution into the X-Force comic series as well, and we know Fox and the people behind Deadpool are all very interested in X-Force.
The easy setup for the studio, should the producers follow the source material, would be to get New Mutants out in theaters sometime near Deadpool 2 and introduce Cable in one or the other. The followup to both of these would be X-Force - again playing with the idea of Fox having an X-Men team movie series in the past and modern-set X-Force/New Mutants team movies that all connect. And they can very easily connect given Cable's time-travel tech.
It also works because we've potentially already met some of the New Mutants characters...
Who Will Be In New Mutants?
Kinberg hasn't been shy over the years about sharing his personal favorite characters from the comics that he wants to see in the X-Men movie universe (like Psylocke who debuts in X-Men: Apocalypse this summer), and he tells IGN that he's a fan of Illyana Rasputin a.k.a. Magik, the sister of Colossus who's made a major comeback as a lead X-Men character in modern Marvel Comics.
Colossus of course was reintroduced successfully (and faithfully to the comics, Russian accent and all) in Deadpool so having his sister as a trainee among the X-Men with Negasonic is a logical inclusion. Better yet, other classic New Mutant characters like Sunspot and Warpath we've already met thanks to the future segments of X-Men: Days of Future Past. There's no reason they wouldn't be included to alongside Negasonic since there's now familiarity to them.
Throw in Cable, connect it to Deadpool, and bring back some original actors if possible at the X-Mansion and New Mutants can be a very bankable franchise that can help launch and support other spinoffs. It just needs a release date.
X-Men: Apocalypse opens in theaters May 27th, 2016, followed by Wolverine 3 on March 3rd, 2017, and unannounced X-Men films on October 6th, 2017 (possibly Gambit), January 12th, 2018 (possibly Deadpool 2), and July 13th, 2018. The New Mutants is also in development.
Colossus and Magik art by Daniel Mikah Govar.