Director: Josh Boone
Starring: Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Alice Braga, Blu Hunt, Henry Zaga
Run Time: 94 mins
It feels rather surreal that The New Mutants has actually been released in cinemas (more like unceremoniously dumped) in a pandemic no less, considering the endless delays this film has faced. The New Mutants was originally to release in April 2018, prior to Deadpool 2 and Dark Phoenix in the X-Men canon. This film kept getting delayed, first for additional reshoots, then as Fox was acquired by Disney and finally just because of bad luck due to the coronavirus pandemic. At one point, rumours started to spread that it would be released directly to streaming. As always, when a film faces delays to this extent and is then quietly released, the fact that the film is not very good springs into mind and the producers just want to wash their hands of it, a la Fantastic Four. Directed by Josh Boone, who found success with the teenage weepie The Fault In Our Stars, this film sees five teenage mutants find themselves in a secret hospital facility together. They are overseen by Doctor Reyes (Alice Braga), who is tasked with curing them and encouraging them to control their newfound powers. However, sinister events start to occur sending the hospital and the group into disarray.
The New Mutants is a far better film than it has any right to be or as the delays would suggest. The notion of Boone melding a comic-book film with the horror genre is an interesting decision and whilst the film isn’t particularly scary, there are some unsettling images of some of the team’s greatest fears. The smaller scale works wonders for the film, with Boone successfully establishing and developing its close-knit characters. By the time the film reaches the third act, all of the characters make compelling cases to really care for them. Unfortunately, The New Mutants commits the classic comic-film sin with its last 15 mins as it descends into a bit of a CGI-fest but it’s relatively short-lived. It does undo the sense of intrigue somewhat but it needs to integrate into the genre somehow, I suppose.
The performances across the board are strong. Maisie Williams and Anya Taylor-Joy are both great as Wolfsbane and Magik respectively. Rahne Sinclair (Wolfsbane) is a young and reserved Scottish mutant who can transform into a wolf and struggles with her mutant nature in its juxtaposition with her religion. The ever-versatile Anya Taylor-Joy plays Illyana Rasputin (Magik) who has sorcery powers and can teleport, who has a strong, bullish personality. Blu Hunt plays Danielle Moonstar, who is the main character of the film, which opens with her escaping a tornado, which she loses the entirety of her family in. Other than a short film, this is Blu Hunt’s feature film debut and she is excellent. The interplay between Moonstar and Wolfsbane and Magik is excellent, their relationships developing throughout the film. Charlie Heaton and Henry Zaga play the two males in the group, Cannonball and Sunspot, but they have less to do than the females but they are established well enough. Alice Braga is also compelling as Dr Reyes who is the mentor of the facility, whose true nature is revealed slowly through the film.
Technically, The New Mutants is up to scratch for its small budget. Peter Deming crafts some interesting images with his cinematography and the score by Mark Snow is fitting and subdued, but not particularly memorable. Despite the climax being flawed, the CGI in it is not bad and it’s certainly not unconvincing.
Josh Boone had plans to create a trilogy with this film and had included a post-credits stinger with Jon Hamm’s introduction as the villain Mister Sinister. That was then scrapped following the cataclysmic failure of X-Men: Apocalypse with a new scene with Antonio Banderas as Sunspot’s father which would also tease a second film. Unfortunately, no such thing exists in the final product and it’s a real shame as this is a different, but successful direction which the X-Men franchise could have gone in.
The X-Men will next be seen when they are integrated into the Marvel Cinematic Universe canon and it is a tall order to exceed the Fox canon, which has generally been pretty consistently solid. Despite the ambitions for The New Mutants to start a new series, this standalone film is a valiant effort in its final form and is worth watching for viewers of the series.