Film review: The New Mutants

Rahne (Maisie Williams), Illyana (Anya Taylor-Joy), Sam (Charlie Heaton) and Roberto (Henry Zaga) are four young mutants being held at a remote medical facility under the strict supervision of Dr Reyes (Alice Braga). When newcomer Dani (Blu Hunt) joins the group with an unknown mutation, disturbing memories from their past become reality as they work together to escape captivity.

It is 2019, and 20th Century Fox is gone. Its X-Men series has been prematurely finished. Disney now holds the reigns of the newly named ‘20th Century Studios’. Consolidations are made, jobs are lost and Fox’s catalogue is locked up in Disney’s infamous ‘vault’. The mighty House of Mouse, for better or worse, now finally has all of Marvel’s properties under one roof, ready to be used in the next stage of its massively successful Marvel Cinematic Universe.

But just before all of this happened, a small and eccentric experiment called The New Mutants was completed at Fox. It was filmed in 2017, intended to be the first in a trilogy that would eventually connect to the wider X-Men universe. Fox apparently weren’t too impressed with what they saw. They ordered its director, Josh Boone, to reshoot big portions of the movie. Boone refused. The young cast had aged quickly since, meaning that continuity would become a mess. Cue the first round of delays, Fox pushing The New Mutants release date back. Then the Disney merger happened, leading to another delay. Then, as if there wasn’t enough upheaval, the world is thrust into a pandemic. The New Mutants is delayed yet again.

What should Disney do with the runt it adopted? Many expected it to release quietly on Disney+, ready to fade into obscurity as the studio prepares to reboot the property. Now, though, more people than ever are staying home. Many of them have fresh subscriptions to Disney+, looking for something new to watch. After three years of delays, production disputes and quality concerns, scrappy little survivor The New Mutants is buried in a different, stranger way: in cinemas, where fewer will want to go out and see it. And after years of fan intrigue, speculation and uncertainty, it is 2020 and The New Mutants has finally been released. Miraculously, it is apparently Boone’s supposedly worrying original cut – none of the reshoots happened after all.

It’s a story that was always going to take the lion’s share of interest in The New Mutants, a remarkably messy tale of Hollywood floundering. As many would have expected a long time ago, The New Mutants, ultimately, isn’t very good. It doesn’t fully commit to its tropes, flailing haphazardly between being a Breakfast Club-style young adult tale, to a horror-hospital feature, to a conventional superhero spectacle. It’s better than 2015’s disastrous (but fascinatingly so) Fantastic Four, but it feels very reminiscent of it in this way. Quite often, The New Mutants is also unintentionally hilarious, becoming downright ridiculous in its final act but retaining a sense of seriousness that only generates dumb laughs. In that regard it shares DNA with 2019’s Dark Phoenix, which matched shoddy filmmaking with a po-faced solemnity that only served to make its scenes awkwardly comical. The New Mutants makes sort-of bold, kind of adorable attempts to evolve the series that once was, but can’t do much more than a few hints of intrigue amongst the accidental chuckles it creates.

It’s ultimately a shame, not because the mess of a release has generated a hype it never would live up to, but because the concept itself is so good. I have always loved the themes and ideas the X-Men series embraced, and Deadpool (2015) and Logan (2017) proved that, between the odd dud, Fox was willing to take a stab at different tones, genres and concepts. Even though it shares more with the poorer entries in the franchise, The New Mutants’ idea of matching house-of-horrors with superhero teens is instantly captivating, and is right at home with Fox’s braver attempts. The film simply doesn’t live up to this premise, squeezing far too many elements in a short runtime that means little feels explored or developed. This is especially odd as it’s a very small movie (which again is refreshing for the superhero genre) with only six core characters throughout. The actors do the best they can, Maisie Williams in particular is great, and the characters are likeable enough that I would have enjoyed seeing more of their adventures. The New Mutants also embraces a gay relationship at the core of its story between two of its leads, something else that contributes to its uniqueness and willingness to change the norm. After the empty LGBTQ+ background stunts Disney pulled in Beauty and the Beast (2017), Avengers: Endgame (2019) and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019), I can’t say I have confidence that the X-Men’s new owners would have done the same, had they produced it.

After years of waiting, the final entry in a series that jump-started the superhero boom is best recommended to pre-teens, ones who are just discovering movies that are slightly scarier than normal. I can definitely see it becoming a bit of a cult favourite amongst that particular crowd, thanks to its likeable leads and rebellious themes. To anyone else, The New Mutants unfortunately falls flat. Whenever it aims for scares it creates laughs, and everything in-between is not as gripping as it should be. You were messy, you were ambitious, and you will be missed, Fox’s X-Men.

 

 

 

 

Author: Tom, Chelsea store

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