The New Mutants
Josh Boone's The New Mutants is an interesting mess of mutant drama, not quite leaning into the horror elements enough, oddly bouncing back-and-forth in tone and execution. It's one of those films that you admire for swinging for the fences, despite it striking out almost immediately and in disastrous fashion.
Josh Boone‘s long-delayed The New Mutants is finally seeing the light of day, releasing in a limited theatrical capacity among a post-COVID world. This movie represents old Fox before Disney bought them out, hot off of the heels of the highly-successful R-rated features Deadpool and Logan, ready to attempt something different for their popular mutant franchise. Unfortunately, The New Mutants squanders its never-ending hype, delivering a film that feels tonally inconsistent and lacking punch that was otherwise hinted at in the trailers.
Five young mutants are isolated and basically living in captivity, despite calling their new “home” a center for mutants to learn how to adapt to their newly-discovered powers before being released back into the world.
Dr. Reyes (Alice Braga) is the mysterious caretaker/only doctor that oversees their every move, which can already be a handful when you’re talking about a group of teens, but now made exponentially more dangerous adding their uncontrollable mutant powers to the mix.
Rahne (Maisie Williams), Illyana (Anya Taylor-Joy), Sam (Charlie Heaton) and Roberto (Henry Zaga) are the current residents, with Danielle (Blu Hunt) being the latest arrival and the perspective of the viewer.
The New Mutants follows these five young individuals as they grow into their powers and become friends, bonding over the unknown of what it truly means to be a mutant and bonding over the fact that they’ve all landed at this strange place in somewhat poorly explained fashion.
Are they prisoners? Are they being experimented on? Or is this really a home meant to unlock their true potential and to prime them for the real world that is still to come?
The New Mutants doesn’t exactly play on these questions too hard, establishing early on what kind of movie this actually is, including setting up convenient boundaries to keep the characters where they need to be at all times.
And that’s fine, because the film can allow for these young stars to get a chance to steal the show in their various roles, from the friendly quiet type, to the rebellious type, to the cocky and arrogant type and then the newcomer.
The New Mutants feels a lot like The Breakfast Club meets A Nightmare on Elm Street, only neither half is fully baked, leaving you with something that never comes to fruition.
This makes things frustrating, especially given the film’s long past, which includes countless release date pushes, talks of reshoots and altered cuts, before the film eventually landed in Disney’s lap after they acquired Fox.
So I can’t comment on the film’s shortcomings with complete confidence when it comes to blaming the source. I’m not sure if this is entirely director/writer Josh Boone‘s true vision or if the script suffered multiple passes through, thus rendering his (and co-writer Knat Lee‘s) names useless.
Or was this just a certifiable stinker from the very beginning, which made Fox hesitant in the first place?
I don’t know the conclusive answers to these questions. But what I can tell you is that The New Mutants feels like a giant mess of ideas and concepts that are never fleshed out past the point of, cool idea, let’s use it.
The mutants themselves seem to have complete control over their powers one minute, only to completely lose it the next, with no real explanation as to why. Also, there never seems to be much studying or rehabilitation going on, aside from newcomer Danielle and her mysteriously powerful mutant abilities that crank the danger levels up to 100.
That creepy scene when the walls are caving in with faces coming out (cough Elm Street) is absent or at least I don’t recall seeing it, which leads me to another point that I am trying to make — this movie oftentimes feels like a boring exercise of an origins story without any real focus on the origins.
Each character is given a very brief backstory that doesn’t really play into the film much at all, aside from the focus on fear. This again, is because of the newcomer that brings a strange presence into the recovery center that makes for some cool set pieces that don’t hold much weight or any real logic.
I liked the moments of horror that have that slow build up and sudden reveal, but I dislike when the tone just shifts completely into something much more light and less high stakes. It’s not that this can’t be done, but that it doesn’t make sense in a way that better serves the characters or the story.
Anya Taylor-Joy‘s Illyana is a fearless bad ass one second and then a wimpy punk the next and it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
None of the performances in this movie are all that memorable if I am being completely honest. Maisie Williams‘ Rahne is the least offensive, coming from what appears to be a place of sincerity as we wrestle with her characters exploration of young love and vulnerability.
The rest of the cast is watchable at best, with Taylor-Joy’s performance being the most confusing and just all-around annoying from almost every aspect, aside from maybe the final ten minutes.
I still applaud Boone for at least attempting to swing for the fences with this dark mutant origins tale that’s not worried about end of the world issues and instead trying to focus on a group of teens just trying to adjust to a serious life change and all of the baggage that accompanies such an event. I love that The New Mutants is bold in occasional strokes and weird, providing moments of true clarity for the characters, but then I hate how things shift gears on the drop of a dime, rendering everything that came before useless.
I wish we spent more consistent time learning about the characters as they are living at the compound and not so much jumbled footage of backstory that cuts so quickly to another scene without any real explanation of how we arrived at this moment in the first place.
The final act has some decent action that’s over-simplified by some questionable and forced CGI that makes the movie feel cheap and most importantly, lost.
If your idea of end-of-the-summer blockbuster is watching a bunch of teens battle a big CGI bear creature, then by all means invest in The New Mutants. But if you’re looking for something a little more….cohesive — stay far away from this one, because it’s a hot mess.
It’s still an ambitious mess that I will gladly take over a cookie-cutter Disney/Marvel attempt any day. And that’s coming from someone that loves the Marvel movies, but is totally okay with admitting that they lack a certain visual creativity.
The New Mutants tries oh so very hard to set itself apart from the rest of the bunch, but while doing so becomes just another casualty of Hollywood filmmaking, never quite certain what story it is trying to tell, unworried about its lacking story and instead focused on pumping up the action and CGI when things get a little hairy.
Who cares about complex characters and their emotions when there’s a giant bear with glowing red eyes?