Maisie Williams as Rahne Sinclair
Anya Taylor-Joy as Illyana Rasputin
Charlie Heaton as Samuel “Sam” Guthrie
Alice Braga as Cecilia Reyes
Blu Hunt as Danielle “Dani” Moonstar
Henry Zaga as Roberto “Bobby” da Costa
Adam Beach as William Lonestar
Co-Written and Directed by Josh Boone; Co-Written by Knate Lee
The New Mutants Review:
DISCLAIMER: ComingSoon.net does not endorse or condone attending screenings at indoor movie theaters/cinemas at this time due to risks of contracting COVID-19. I was not assigned to write this review by my fellow editors, nor did I visit my local indoor theater, but only chose to see this film as part of a drive-in experience, which I will happily endorse during this time of extra safety measure. There will also be spoilers near the latter half of this review so please proceed past that point at your own peril.
It’s been a long and harrowing road for Josh Boone to bring the world of Marvel’s The New Mutants to life on the big screen with his own unique vision for the team and despite it seeming pretty clear that this would be the end of the road for Fox’s X-Men franchise, there’s nothing in this unoriginal, unscary and disappointing retread of what’s come before to suggest they were ready for the end.
Rahne Sinclair (Williams), Illyana Rasputin (Taylor-Joy), Sam Guthrie (Heaton) and Roberto da Costa (Zaga) are four young mutants being held in an isolated hospital for psychiatric monitoring. Dr. Cecilia Reyes (Braga), believing the teenagers are a danger both to themselves and to society as a whole, keeps a close eye on them as she struggles to teach them how to rein in their mutant abilities. When newcomer Danielle “Dani” Moonstar (Hunt) joins the other patients in the facility, strange occurrences begin to take place. The hospital’s patients are plagued by hallucinations and flashbacks, and their new mutant abilities—and their friendships—will be tested as they battle to try to make it out alive.
While the opening of the film proves to be an interesting and chilling experience, the second audiences and Dani are put into the hospital and introduced to the rest of the titular group, Boone slams his foot down on the gas pedal in the worst possible way. Thinking a group session in which everyone discusses their powers and their pasts is not inherently a bad process, but its arrival in the film and speed at which it occurs is so rushed that we don’t even get to learn who these characters are as people or why we should care about them. The scene is the first major indicator of one of the film’s biggest problems that was consistently on display: corny and unoriginal writing.
Borrowing from the most basic formula of the horror genre, Boone and Lee have minimized the majority of the group to tropes that aren’t interesting to watch, Illyana being the queen bitch, Roberto being the rich boy jock, Sam being the damaged good boy and Dani the innocent soul still finding her footing in her new world, with Rahne being the only one with some decent layers to her. There are plenty of ways to make a character detestable or hard to connect to and set up a potential redemption later in the film, but the blatant racism that Illyana displays for the majority of the film is just so groan-worthy and disgusting it makes it hard to ever like her, even when she starts to get a grip on her insecurities, with insults thrown Dani’s way such as “Standing Rock” and “Pocahontas” just coming across horrendous.
Alongside some horrific dialogue throughout, the awful writing also extends to the plotting and character development itself, with the film feeling like one extended first act and never taking off in any interesting direction before shit finally hits the fan in the final 20-30 minutes of the film. The explanation to the “hauntings” around the hospital is plenty fine and does away with a simplistic comic book villain, but the problem is it tries to balance too many things at once with a moving teen drama, a haunted house/mental asylum attraction and paving the way for sequels.
Understandably, Boone and Lee had envisioned the film as the first in a trilogy and with the Disney-Fox merger occurring during post-production it put the film in a weird limbo, but given he had the opportunity for reshoots, he really should’ve taken them to make a scarier and more self-contained story. From the kids making explicit references to Professor X and the X-Men to the revelation that Dr. Reyes is actually working for the Essex Corporation, it’s clear the writers couldn’t decide whether they wanted this to stand on its own or rely on what’s come before.
The most egregious example came in the form of a vision Dani has while Reyes is conducting a test on the protagonist, giving her a sedative to allow her to open up and discover the root of her powers, but during this Dani has a flash of young children being tested and trained in a laboratory with armed soldiers surrounding them. If this sounds familiar to you, it’s because it was a major plot point of 2017’s Logan, but Boone takes it even further to hammer this home by using the exact same cell phone footage the titular hero watched in Dani’s vision. Not only is it confusing as to whether this is a flashback of Dani or Reyes or simply a vision of what’s to come, but given that New Mutants takes place long before the best film in X-Men franchise, it just further damages the already-broken timeline of the series.
This also taps into the problem of the fact there are so many setups in the film that will neither pay off nor do so in interesting fashion that it makes the preceding hour or so worthwhile. By the time these characters come to grips with their powers and the real “villain” is revealed, the film was just such an uncsary bore that there’s no longer any interest in seeing the rest of their story and a hope it would end sooner.
The two real positives this film has going for it are the performances of Heaton and Taylor-Joy and the relationship between Rahne and Dani. While Taylor-Joy’s character is horribly written and Heaton’s backstory is the most worn-out in the X-Men universe, she does perform it believably and with charisma to make audiences detest Illyana and Heaton does deliver an amiable enough performance to allow viewers to connect to him. In an age in which blockbusters think a brief kiss or longing looks between same-sexed characters are acceptable representations of LGBTQ relationships — looking at you, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker — Boone and Lee allow Rahne and Dani’s romantic connection to feel somewhat organic and real and give it plenty of screen time.
The road to release for The New Mutants was a long and tiresome one and though it doesn’t quiet feel the former to watch it, the latter is a valid feeling due to the film’s horrible and corny writing, countless plot threads left open at the end of a franchise, lack of scares or interesting conflict, becoming the third worst film in the X-Men franchise ahead of Origins: Wolverine and Dark Phoenix.