At the heart of New Mutants is the budding love story between Dani Moonstar (Blu Hunt) and Rahne Sinclair (Maisie Williams). As the two young mutants begin to realize their mutual attraction, they sneak out of the hospital one night to share their thoughts, fears, and a kiss elsewhere on the grounds where they’re ostensible prisoners. The trailers for New Mutants all showed a mysterious graveyard on the hospital grounds, one that adds to the ominous feel of the hospital and the film’s horror movie vibes. It’s in that graveyard where the movie’s biggest X-Men reference happens.
The graves are simple, unadorned, and eerily marked only with numbers rather than names, indicating just how disposable the world sees mutant children. Rahne and Dani lay down in front of one of those graves to watch the rain, and as they do, we can clearly see that this one is marked “137,” a number which holds special significance for fans of the original Marvel Comics X-Men.
Released in 1980, The Uncanny X-Men #137 was the end of the famed “Dark Phoenix Saga” and featured the death of Jean Grey. It’s certainly the most famous death in X-Men history, and one of the most celebrated single issues of all time. While New Mutants clearly isn’t implying that Dani and Rahne are actually lying atop Jean Grey’s grave (the movie Jean went out in fiery cosmic fashion at the end of Dark Phoenix), it’s unlikely the filmmakers chose this number by accident.
Instead, maybe this is meant as a subtle commentary on the state of the X-Men franchise. Like other riskier efforts such as Logan or Deadpool, New Mutants was always intended to just be somewhat tangentially related to the rest of Fox’s films, and it’s likely that the writing was on the wall for the state of the series by the time these scenes were being filmed. Two of this film’s leads sharing a quiet moment atop the grave of a far more bombastic, franchise-minded entry feels appropriate, especially given how these movies (mostly) tried to forge their own path over two decades.