In the face of the global pandemic, Comic-Con International has put together what seems to be a near-overwhelming selection of panels and programming that anyone with an Internet connection can enjoy. Alas, the reality of the virtual con has been a strange, sometimes surreal selection of what feels like Zoom work meetings, with some not necessarily meeting their mark. The biggest miss so far, in my humble opinion, was the absolutely pointless Disney New Mutants panel, which was only announced on July 16 and presented absolutely nothing to make fans excited for the massively delayed movie. What it did offer though was the chance to potentially risk dying during a global pandemic; if fans tweeted a hashtag, they could win a “ten minute advance screening” of the final Fox X-Men movie.
That Pesky Release Date
First things first: it’s clear that Disney was aware fans wanted an update on the never-ending saga of when New Mutants would be released, if ever, so they immediately cut off any hope of a potential VOD/streaming drop. A scarily irreverent (and highly unlikely to come true) opening graphic informed us that the film was still aiming to be released on its latest theatrical set date: August 28th of this year, “fingers crossed.” That early announcement seconds into the panel headed off any potential excitement around what the 29 minute chat had to offer.
(Not so) X-Pert Promotion
As someone who is not very fond of the New Mutants casting — particularly the whitewashing of Cecilia Reyes and Sunspot, and with the exception of Anya Taylor-Joy as Magik, a genius maneuver that the rest of this film does not deserve — I was most excited that Ira Madison III was moderating the panel. Alas, the head honchos at Disney clearly had a plan for the chat and it mostly centered on promoting overly long hashtags and badly designed emojis as well as some fan art that the studio solicited — likely without pay — from X-fans. It was a drab way to start a panel especially, as the emojis seemed to be part of the Mouse House ploy to encourage fans that New Mutants is really like any other big blockbuster in any other year and will DEFINITELY be coming out in August, safety be damned.
What is the Point of Any of This?
While some fans were likely happy to see the cast of the movie together — despite the fact they may never see the movie — the panel was lacking substance, with barely any discussion about the film or the making of it. Plus, with a film like New Mutants, which has been delayed to the point of parody, not really referencing that and trying to just “promote the film” made for a lackluster experience. There were some cute moments where the cast shared anecdotes; at the same time, no one really questioned Henry Zaga saying he couldn’t drink water for a whole day to stay looking cut, for example, which seemed to suggest an unhealthy work environment for the young actors.
At this point, why are they still making the actors promote this? They made this film so long ago that Anya Taylor-Joy remembered it as one of the first roles she had where she played a strong, forceful character, a typecast that now defines her career. When this movie was made, Maisie Williams was still on Game of Thrones and people didn’t hate the show yet. It was a time when casting a Stranger Things actor was a huge draw. But all of these actors have moved on with their lives and careers and, according to the content of the panel, their own memories of the film. What is New Mutants about? We barely know. This panel did not enlighten audiences much, and I refuse to accept it’s an adaptation of the Demon Bear saga, when it’s set in a mental asylum and Cecilia Reyes is an evil Doctor. (Furthermore, and not to be pedantic, Reyes wasn’t invented until after that saga.)
An Auspicious Opening
We did get to see the film’s opening though, which didn’t bode well. According to the Disney press release I received moments after the panel ended, the big draw of the panel was supposed to be the opening clip of the movie that was shared. But the lack of response to the opening of a massive superhero movie on social media hinted that the clip wasn’t much of a draw at all. Despite my many issues with the casting of the film and the previously released content, I want a horror-steeped X-Men movie just as much as the next comics fan. But the clip that was shared suggested that all my worries are probably warranted.
Not only was it barely possible to see what was actually happening on the screen due to the CGI and post-production work, the movie opened with Dani Moonstar saying the phrase, “There’s an old Native American proverb…” In a corporate superhero movie, the lack of sensitivity around Dani’s heritage is something to be wary of; and according to Twitter users, the proverb that she referenced is a bastardized version of a real quote, suggesting that the film isn’t really concerned about sensitively portraying Dani and her heritage at all.
Are You Dying to See New Mutants (No, Literally, Will You Give Up Your Life?)
Out of all the strange choices that Disney made with this panel, the “surprise” announcement was an advance fan screening where “lucky” fans would be able to watch 10 minutes of the movie. Of course, seeing as there is currently a global pandemic, there was little to no information about when this might take place. But if fans were willing to use a hashtag and then risk their lives, they might have a chance to see more of the blurry mess they teased during the panel.
And in the end, it’s still unclear if New Mutants will ever come out.