(Warning - Potential SPOILERS for X-Men: Apocalypse and beyond lie below...)
With all of the attention being paid to the likes of Suicide Squad, Deadpool and Captain America: Civil War, it's perhaps not too surprising that one of the most intriguing superhero movie announcements of recent years has so far received a largely subdued response - after all, they're far more widely known properties, and are currently filming.
The film in question, though - The New Mutants, set to be directed by The Fault in Our Stars' Josh Boone - is, for fans of the comics on which it's named, just as exciting a prospect. After all, a lot of us never thought we'd get to see a movie based on the adventures of the X-Men's junior team, and the (comparatively) C-List heroes that filled the New Mutants' ranks.
And y'know what? Maybe we will.
But we might just also be set to see something a little more...unexpected.
The New Mutants Might Not Be Quite What it Seems
Y'see, we've all assumed that The New Mutants will - as it did in the comics - take as its leading cast the youthful students of Charles Xavier (and later Magneto) shown in the image just above. After all, those are the New Mutants, right? As far as the Marvel canon goes, there's really no other team the movie could focus on - with fan-favorite characters like Cannonball, Sunspot, Mirage and Wolfsbane in particular seeming virtually certain to appear.
What, Though, if the Title Is a Trick?
Specifically, what if The New Mutants isn't actually set to be about the characters we know and love from the '80s comic book at all - but instead about an entirely different team?
What if the movie isn't really The New Mutants at all - but instead something more along the lines of X-Men: The New Mutants.
What if, in other words:
The New Mutants are Really...The Young X-Men
In particular, the numerous new youthful X-Men we're set to see introduced in next year's X-Men: Apocalypse.
After all, we're about to see a whole lot of young heroes introduced in the movie, with teenage versions of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, Jubilee, Angel and Nightcrawler joining the already established Havok, Beast, Mystique, Quicksilver, Professor X and Magneto, and the new (but older) Psylocke, along with, most likely, Gambit and Wolverine.
Now, a lot of fans (and, notably, many critics) thought that there were too many Avengers in Age of Ultron - and that movie only featured nine heroes. X-Men Apocalypse is - as things stand - set to feature at least fifteen. Which is...probably to properly fit into the plot.
It seems entirely possible, then, that:
X-Men: Apocalypse Could Be Designed to Set Up a New Team of Mutants
Specifically, The New Mutants - but not as we've seen them before.
Instead, X-Men: Apocalypse could bring the loose trilogy of modern X-Movies centered around Magneto, Professor X, Mystique and Beast to an end - with the latter two character's actors already having revealed that they're likely to depart the franchise, either way - while simultaneously setting up a new X-Series: one focused on The New Mutants.
A team that would likely be made up of the youthful Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, Angel (or, perhaps, Archangel), Jubilee, Quicksilver and Nightcrawler.
Even the series' Screenwriter and Producer Simon Kinberg's comments when Josh Boone was announced to direct the spin-off might, in actual fact, support the idea:
“We’re so excited to explore this new part of the X-Men universe, and so excited to do it with Josh, who is uniquely suited to tell this story about young characters.”
New part of the X-Men universe - check. Josh Boone - check. Young characters - check.
Any mention of the specific mutants involved? Not so much...
But...How Would That Work?
Well, in one key sense, it would actually solve a few major problems that would otherwise seem to be heading Fox's way. It would, for one thing, avoid the dilemma of having two separate teams of youthful heroes, divided only by the arbitrary naming of their groups - as well as removing the need to arbitrarily introduce a whole bunch of (relatively) obscure heroes in The New Mutants.
Meanwhile, it would also provide a logical role for the rest of the X-Men cast, with the remaining heroes having a natural place within the teaching structure that the existence of a youthful team would suggest.
Professor X, after all, was the one who originally founded the New Mutants, and after he died in the comics - which may well happen in X-Men: Apocalypse, too - the role was (controversially) taken over by Magneto, at the professor's request. Now, if we assume that Havok is unlikely to have a major role in the series in the future, and take Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult at their word when they say they're leaving their respective roles as Mystique and Beast, then that just leaves Psylocke.
Who, notably, made her first appearance in US Marvel comics (she had appeared much earlier in Marvel UK's Captain Britain) in...The New Mutants Annual #2. Psylocke, then, would seem an obvious choice to act as an additional - Mystique-replacing - bad-ass adult character to act as a mentor/friend to the young mutants...as she briefly did in the comics.
Add in the likely massive changes to the series' status quo with the arrival of Apocalypse - we can safely assume that Magneto and Mystique'll end up fighting alongside the X-Men, and that their world will be irrevocably altered at some point - and a segue into a New Mutants style team (led by Magneto), with solo movies for the likes of Deadpool, Gambit and Wolverine running alongside it, might just make a whole lot of sense.
But...Will it Happen?
Now, full disclosure: I'd be ridiculously happy to see as many X-Men-related movies on the big screen as is humanly possible, and especially The New Mutants in their original form (who doesn't love Cannonball?) - so if we do actually get to see the original comic book New Mutants get their own movie alongside the existing X-Films, I'll be first in line to watch it.
That being said, though, it might just be more likely that Fox'll take a chance in messing with the traditional comic book canon than brave the alternative risk of introducing an entirely new - and not at all well-known - set of heroes in their own solo movie. After all, though they'd be completely altering the make-up of the New Mutants team that we know from the comics, the new team would actually fit surprisingly well into the cinematic world the company has already created.
Ultimately, though - it's still just a theory, and one I'd be more than happy to see proven horribly, horribly wrong.
But I sure am looking forward to seeing how it all turns out, no matter the end result...