The New Mutants has been moved to a 2020 release. Is Disney using the Fox film to fill a gap in their MCU schedule? When The Walt Disney Company acquired 21st Century Fox in a $71 billion deal, not only did they buy the rights to most of the remaining Marvel properties they did not own, they ended up with two completed Marvel films awaiting release. The first, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, will finally be released in theaters in June. Then there is The New Mutants.
The horror-action title, directed by Josh Boone and starring Maisie Williams and Anya Taylor-Joy, has been shuffled around the release calendar multiple times, long before it became Disney's responsibility. Filming finished in September 2017, with a planned April 2018 release. That was moved back to February 2019, then August 2019, and the much-discussed reshoots to give the film a darker tone never seemed to materialize. Eventually, Disney announced that the film would be released in April 2020 and that it would, contrary to rumor, receive a proper theatrical release.
Disney’s most current release schedule, which extends to Avatar 5 in 2027, combines its own titles with the ones it acquired from Fox (minus the projects it has cancelled for various reasons). For the most part, Disney’s own properties dominate the slate, from multiple as-yet-to-be-announced live-action projects to more Star Wars and Marvel titles. As of the writing of this post, there are two untitled Marvel movies scheduled for 2020 (May 1 and November 6, expected to be Black Widow and The Eternals respectively). Given the studio's more recent habit of releasing no fewer than three MCU titles a year, this feels like a step back, likely a result of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 being delayed.
Why Disney Is Still Releasing New Mutants
The New Mutants and Dark Phoenix pose a curious conundrum for Disney. They are established properties in a long-running movie franchise that directly contradicts their own Marvel series, yet they still have to release them in some form. While it may be an inconvenience for them, given the intricate nature of the MCU and how the studio are clearly waiting for the right time to integrate the X-Men and Fantastic Four into the franchise, these two movies can still serve their purpose. Should they be hits, then Disney still wins, and if they’re flops, then the studio can quietly retire the Fox Marvel franchise as planned with no complaints. But what does this mean for the much beleaguered The New Mutants, a film so ill-treated by Fox that not even its own stars know what’s happening with it?
The New Mutants was billed as the teen horror sibling to the X-Men movies, a darker but more adolescent oriented take on the genre that could be spun off into its own franchise of younger stars and more manageable budgets. It’s an intriguing option for the superhero genre, and one that’s gaining steam as the field gets more crowded and the scale all the more epic. It’s not an area Disney or the MCU has much interest or need to develop, and contrary to fan speculation, there's no chance this will be used as a soft entry point to the MCU's X-Men.
Of course, the real purpose of the film may be much simpler than that: It’s a cost-effective means to pad out the Marvel schedule. Disney didn’t pay to make the film, and by the looks of it, they’re not going to pay for any reshoots. All they have to do is market and distribute it, and even if they give it the full Disney treatment, that won’t put them out of pocket too much. And from the perspective of Marvel, releasing it in April 2020 essentially makes up for the lack of a third movie that year.
How New Mutants Fits Into Marvel's 2020 Plans
Marvel obviously has big plans for MCU Phase 4, following the record-breaking climax that was Avengers: Endgame, but they've been keeping details and public development quiet. We know there are sequels planned – Doctor Strange 2, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 – a Black Widow prequel, and new titles like Shang-Chi and The Eternals, but none of them have started shooting yet. This is all part of the push to make Endgame all the more clearly the end of the Infinity Saga.
While Guardians 3 was originally meant to be in production before James Gunn was fired and rehired, from the current position it would be extremely difficult and highly risky for Disney to try and get three of these projects off the ground in time for the coming year. And so The New Mutants helps to ease that load for them. Nobody expects the film to function in the same way as an MCU film – it’s doubtful the title will attract the same level of attention had it been part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – but given that Disney has to do something with it, having The New Mutants fill a Marvel hole in their schedule isn’t the worst idea.
Of course, they have scheduled it in-between their remake of Mulan and a month before the first MCU release of 2020, so it remains to be seen what Disney expect from the film.