Before we begin this review, let’s flashback to April 2018. A much simpler time. A time before a global pandemic. A time in which the most of our worries was if we liked The Last Jedi or not. Ahh…good times. April 13th of that year was the original release date of the latest X-Men flick, The New Mutants. After years of delays, the end of the series, and it’s parent company of Fox being sold to Disney, The New Mutants finally releases in theaters. Was this film a victim of circumstances, or is it a truly a nightmare on screen?
“All of you are dangerous. That’s why you’re here.”
The New Mutants is written and directed by Josh Boone of The Fault in Our Stars fame. Boone refers to the film as The Breakfast Club meets A Nightmare on Elm Street 3. A mismatch that reflects the tone of this film perfectly. Furthermore, the film stars Blu Hunt (The Originals) as Danielle Moonstar, a mutant whose powers are just beginning to manifest. After a storm devastates her home, leaving her the only survivor, Moonstar is sent to a facility for mutant youths.
At the secret facility, she meets fellow mutants Rahne (Maisie Williams), Illyana (Anya Taylor-Joy), Sam (Charlie Heaton), and Roberto (Henry Zaga). Here, the youths are monitored by Dr. Reyes (Alice Braga), who mentors the teenagers with their mutant abilities. At first an outcast, Moonstar begins a budding relationship with Rahne, and a rivalry with Illyana. Each teen soon begins seeing visions of their greatest fears, and how their powers are perhaps more of a curse than a gift.
“This isn’t a hospital. It’s a cage.”
The New Mutants is not a bad film. On the other hand, I would be hard pressed to call this a good film either. As stated before, the mismatch of tones creates a very uneven through-line in the film. Character backstories are either rushed, or at times glossed over. With only 6 characters in the main cast we should be able to spend more time with each character, and truly understand their motivations. Instead, characters jump back and forth from being mean and spiteful, to thoughtful and caring.
Much of this film feels out of order. Certain scenes happen out of order, leading to jarring cuts from one scene to the next. In the second half of the film we are shown the group hanging out and having a good time in one scene. The next we see them at each others throats and acting like the previous scene never happened. This leads me to believe that in the near 3 year gap of this film sitting on the shelf the film was cut to pieces in editing. It even feels like what would be a big boss battle in the third act had the big boss removed. (If rumors are true, Jon Hamm was cast as the big bad, only to be removed in post-production.)
On a positive note, all of the actors in the film are great with the material. Each are committed, and feel like they exist in this world. The real stand out is Anya Taylor-Joy. Unfortunately her character is not always dynamic, but Taylor-Joy gives the role her all. A clearer backstory with her character could have made her one of the most interesting in the X-Men universe.
“It’s magic! So am I.”
In the marketing of the film it was often described as a superhero horror film. Is it that? Short answer, no. But, the film has major horror influences. One of which being The Dream Warriors vibe I mentioned earlier. This influence further leads me to believe that the main antagonist of the film was either cut out in post, or reworked out of the shooting script. The New Mutants also features some Slenderman looking creatures they call the Smiling Man. This is a fun character to introduce, although we don’t get enough time to understand why he is exactly in the movie.
The last note I will make could be considered a spoiler, so be fair warned. At the center of this film is a gay romance between Moonstar and Rahne. This is the first of which that is front and center for a major superhero film. I never feels rushed, or thrown in to be PC. It is very organic and is nothing but charming. I chalk that up to Boone’s history in the teen romance genre, as it is one of the best aspects of the film.
Whether a victim of circumstance, or a lack of faith from the studio, The New Mutants will go down as middle of the road superhero film. What makes the film stand apart from others is the horror vibes and the great cast. Unfortunately, the film does fulfill in execution, and leaves audiences unsatisfied. The film could be considered an end of an era for the X-Men franchise, instead of a new beginning. All in all, The New Mutants is already old news.