Most of the A-list superheroes took Comic-Con@Home off this year, though at least youth was served at the virtual version of the annual geek extravaganza.
In a streamed panel, “The New Mutants” writer/director Josh Boone and his cast discussed the Marvel horror-thriller’s comic-book characters as well as the same-sex romance at the heart of the film, which is sticking (as of now) to its theatrical release date of Aug. 28.
The superhero movie has had its share of delays over the past two years, enough that fans started calling the film “cursed,” said artist Bill Sienkiewicz, whose “Demon Bear Saga” story line in the 1980s “New Mutants” comic is the basis for the film. “I think in some respects the lockdown has ramped up the level of interest. People are really amped up for this.”
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“New Mutants” stars Maisie Williams (as Wolfsbane), Henry Zaga (Sunspot), Blu Hunt (Mirage), Charlie Heaton (Cannonball) and Anya Taylor-Joy (Magik) as misfit teenagers with superpowers who have to team up and fight their way out of a mysterious asylum. Oh yeah, and there’s a Demon Bear involved, too.
Originally intended to be a spinoff for Fox’s “X-Men” movie franchise, “New Mutants” has traveled a rough and complicated road since its initial release date of April 2018. It was first delayed to Feb. 22, 2019, to get out of the way of fellow mutant superhero film “Deadpool 2,” and then pushed again to Aug. 2 that year to give it a buffer from the X-Men movie “Dark Phoenix.” In the aftermath of Disney’s acquisition of Fox in 2019, “New Mutants” was moved to April 3, 2020, but then pulled off the calendar a month before due to COVID-19 before garnering its current theatrical date of Aug. 28.
As a Comic-Con surprise for fans, Boone premiered the opening scene of the film, which found Mirage, aka Dani Moonstar, running away from a dark animalistic force in a forest and then waking up handcuffed to a bed in a strange hospital.
A big horror fan, Hunt said the most terrifying thing about “New Mutants” for her was the “entire idea of trying to lead a movie that big when I had never done anything other than seven episodes of a CW show. Every day leaving set, I was scared and creeped out.”
Williams is jumping from the fantasy world of “Game of Thrones” to a superhero landscape, though werewolf Rahne Sinclair is shy and reserved compared to young warrior Arya Stark. “I’ve always seen myself as more (Rahne). She’s very uncomfortable in her own skin and she wants to speak up and say what she feels but she’s constantly treading lightly,” Williams said.
“When I play Arya, I always have to command the room and be really brave and strong, and that’s really exhausting and I don’t really feel like that.”
The relationship between Dani and Rahne is the “really lovely love story” at the core of “New Mutants,” Williams adds. “It was really wonderful to be able to see a relationship like this in the typically masculine world of superheroes. It was nice to see these two fragile women who protect each other and bring light out in each other.”
Hunt said that she and Williams locked lips during their screen test. “You can’t imagine how nervous I (was): ‘I have to go kiss Maisie Williams?!’ I’m showing up to the studio lot, sweating. It was very nerve-wracking.”
Added Boone: “It was not COVID times.”
The director, who also did the young-adult movie “The Fault in Our Stars,” recalled that he had a stack of “New Mutants” comics in his apartment as he started out in his filmmaking career. “I said, ‘One day, maybe!’ That did end up working out, though nobody’s seen it yet. But they will eventually.”