A new era of X-Men movies is upon us, and if the first trailer for The New Mutants is any indication, it’s going to be scary as hell. The film will focus on five teenage mutants who are locked in some kind of government-run asylum as they come to grips with just how powerful they are.
Director Josh Boone promised he would deliver the first real superhero horror movie, and it looks like he’s done just that. Instead of relying on the usually overblown action sequences and CGI-laden set pieces that we’re accustomed to seeing in our comic book fare, Boone looks to have crafted a creepy chamber piece in the spirit of The Shining.
Audiences are used to being fed their superhero stories in a specific way, so this is a bold move on behalf of Fox. But it also makes perfect sense. The reaction to Logan — which was more Mad Max than Wolverine — was euphoric, and seems to have convinced Fox that audiences are ready to embrace very different kinds of superhero movies.
It’s also fitting that the studio is willing to experiment with films that feature lesser-known mutants. Audiences won’t necessarily flock to see a film about relatively unknown entities like Wolfsbane, Magik, Cannonball and Sunspot, but if the film is marketed as X-Men’s take on a horror movie — which is very popular these days — suddenly there’s added incentive.
It was only a matter of time before Fox retooled its most popular franchise. Thanks to the success of the X-Men franchise’s earliest films, Fox had a near monopoly on the genre before Marvel and DC launched their superhero movie assembly lines. But while its competitors built their audiences by unleashing their stacked rosters of iconic crime fighters, audience enthusiasm for the X-Men films waned significantly, especially for characters not named Wolverine.
While Fox still intends to keep the main narrative thread of the universe going, despite the lukewarm reception to X-Men: Apocalypse, its focus now seems to be on developing the franchise’s supporting characters.
Just today, the studio announced that it’s finally moving forward with the long-gestating Gambit movie, with Channing Tatum attached to star as the Cajun mutant. It’s unclear whether or not the film — which will be directed by Pirates of The Caribbean helmer Gore Verbinski — will be connected to the X-Men cinematic universe at large, but at this point who can keep track anymore?
With shows like Legion and The Gifted building their separate worlds on television, and the Deadpool and X-Force movies occupying their own space on the big screen, the hope of maintaining a single unified X-Men universe fell by the wayside a long time ago. Fox deserves some credit for not trying to beat Marvel at its own game. If you can’t jump as high or run as fast as LeBron James, how do you win against him? Simple: you develop a three-point shot.
The New Mutants is Fox’s three-pointer: a creative moonshot whose trailer already has the internet abuzz. If it fails, it could be spectacular. But if it succeeds, it could breathe new life into a superhero franchise that lost its super powers a long time ago.