Remember when we were all worried about “superhero fatigue” and whether or not the market could really withstand 6, 8, as many as 10 new comic book movies a year?
Funny thing about that: we never quite get as many comic book movies as we expect. Announced titles fall away in corporate re-shufflings (RIP, Amazing Spider-Man 3 and 4, Sinister Six, just about half of WB’s announced DC slate), others are strategically moved around on the calendar to heighten their chances of success (Black Panther, Captain Marvel), and yet others fall into the deep hole that is development hell (Gambit). Attrition is the name of the game, really. As a result, the following should come as little surprise: Fox just delayed two of its X-Men movies.
At the start of the year, we were on track to see Black Panther, New Mutants, Infinity War, Deadpool 2, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Venom, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, and Aquaman, not to mention the animated films Incredibles 2, Teen Titans Go to the Movies, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Holy oversaturation, Batman! That’s a lot of comic book cinema in one year. Someone’s bound to blink, right?
Turns out, that “someone” was Fox, which pushed New Mutants to February of next year, leaving the company with just Deadpool 2 and Dark Phoenix in 2018. But not anymore. According to ScreenRant, now Dark Phoenix has been pushed back as well. On top of that, New Mutants has actually been delayed a second time:
Fox officially announced new release date for a handful of films, including two of its X-Men movies. X-Men: Dark Phoenix moves from November 2, 2018 to February 14, 2019 – the week before the slot to which New Mutants had previously been pushed. As for The New Mutants, it moves from February 22, 2019 to August 19, 2019.
Dark Phoenix‘s move has it coming out a week after Sony’s Silver & Black, which will surely be delayed, and New Mutants, a mind fuck, teens-in-peril horror film which once seemed prime to capitalize on It‘s success, has now been delayed so much it’s actually due three weeks before It: Chapter 2.
There is no official explanation for the delays yet, but speculation points to both movies apparently testing poorly in preview screenings thus mandating costly, and in Dark Phoenix‘s case, special effects-heavy reshoots. New Mutants, for one, is already known to be adding 2 new characters from the comics through reshoots, and Collider now reports Fox intends to reshoot at least half of the film, with or without director Josh Boone. So, it’s not a fear of the competition or an overcrowded market but a desire to simply get things right motivating the change. And as always with stories like this we are now completely free to freak out and worry (e.g., the films must totally suck, it’s Fantastic Four all over again!, this totally proves Simon Kinberg is underqualified to direct Dark Phoenix, does this mean they’re making New Mutants more like the comics?, etc.) until the movies arrive and either do or do not prove us wrong.
But there is obviously an added layer of intrigue here. Disney’s deal to acquire 21st Century Fox, announced last December, seemingly gave the Fox film studio a firm kick in the butt to start behaving like there’s no tomorrow with its Marvel properties. Suddenly, Fox has Kitty Pryde, Silver Surfer, and Doctor Doom movies in development, an X-Force movie due to start shooting in October, a renewed interest in making Gambit actually happen, the lingering possibility of a Logan spin-off about X-23, and concrete plans to release three X-Men movies a year in both 2019 and 2020. With the Dark Phoenix and New Mutants delays, now they’re one just one film short of meeting that goal for 2019, and they have already planted their flag on 6/7/19 for an untitled Marvel film.
But, unless the Justice Department defeats the AT&T-Time Warner merger and then comes after Disney-Fox despite Trump’s affinity for the Murdochs, Disney’s deal is expected to be approved by the end of the year or by mid-2019. So, by the time New Mutants comes out Fox might be undergoing a talent purge/exodus and all X-Men properties might be killed as a precursor to an MCU reboot. Might that mean Fox is actually retooling Dark Phoenix and New Mutants to make them more standalone since neither is promised a sequel?
Unlikely. “They have to proceed as business as usual in case the merger doesn’t go through. It’s a unique position to be in,” is how an agent familiar with Fox’s Marvel movies put it to THR last month.
There’s also this likely coincidental, but possibly nice marketing bonus – Game of Thrones airs its final season next year, and Dark Phoenix and New Mutants each just happen to be fronted by Game of Thrones stars.
Whatever the reason, we are now quite suddenly left with just one X-Men movie this year. That’s ok. It’s not exactly like we’re lacking for comic book movie options right now. After Apocalypse, if they need more time to get one of these movies right they should definitely take it.
What do you think? Does this news make you nervous? After all, New Mutants has now been delayed 16 months from its original release date? Or do you mostly care that they do whatever it takes to make the best movie possible? Or are you more, “X-Men? Wow. They’re still making those movies? Why?” Let me know in the comments.