Review: 'The New Mutants' (2020) Dir. Josh Boone
Updated: Nov 18, 2020
After going through development hell, the 13th (unlucky for some?) and final pre-Disney 'X-Men' film strays from the main narrative to offer a glimpse at some lesser known new mutants...
A collection of young mutants who are unstable in their emotions and their powers, are housed together in a treatment hospital to further understand their abilities under the watching hand of Dr. Cecilia Reyes (Braga).
Rahne Sinclair (Williams), Illyana Rasputin (Taylor-Joy), Samuel Guthrie (Heaton), Danielle Moonstar (Hunt) and Roberto da Costa (Zaga) find it hard to understand and accept one-another, but a steady friendship soon evolves between the group.
But nightmares soon come to the surface from their past and they have no choice but to fight for their own survival in a dark, dangerous world that proves nothing is as it seems, and being a mutant is far more than just being a hero...
A cross between 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest', 'The Shining' and 'X-Men First Class', but without the character study or engaging relationships, this final chapter and subsequent spin-off from the 'X-Men' franchise doesn't tease any of the mutants we know and love such as your Wolverines, your Magnetos or Jean Greys. No, this is as the title suggests - new mutants, which means they are even younger than those we found in 'First Class'. This also means it's a study on teenage angst, frustration, fear, sexual identity and isolation all wrapped up in the skin of what it means to be a mutant with super-human powers and abilities.
Our collection of youngsters are isolated from the outside world, not in Xavier's school, but in a similar grand estate overseen by locked doors, CCTV cameras and forcefields acting as a cage to the hospital grounds they inhabit. It comes over more as rehab than anything else, and they are all presented as instable and not able to be trusted with their powers. They are dangerous to themselves and others around them; the outcasts who conform to a host of traits; the confident one, the introvert, the quiet one, the damaged one, the newbie.
For such a huge estate, there are only five of these new mutants on show, so it feels very expansive for a very small scale collection of youngsters with large scale production.
While Anya Taylor-Joy hams up her Russian mutant Illyana to infuriating standards that doesn't come across as anything but unwatchable, it's Blu Hunt as Dani and Maisie Williams as Rahne who share the best of the on-screen chemistry, feeling as if their characters have come fully from the comics to explore them on the silver screen. Alice Braga is a welcome addition as their adult mentor, coming across initially as a blend between the logical mind of Xavier and investigative mind of MacTaggert who has the youngsters in the palm of her hand.
But the fresh faces are as forgetful as they come and never emerge as anything but rather plain and boring, wallowing in their depressive upbringing with no real glimmer of any superhero aspirations. It feels like a world plagued by darkness. Even the darker moments of the 'X-Men' franchise still bubbled with energy and hope - this just feels (and looks) bleak, trying to make the superhero genre as dark and dangerous as possible. Even the attempts to segway into horror don't work, with basic efforts in jump-scares, mood lighting, and sub-par CGI for the creatures and action sequences that are minimal at best.
This does everything it can be to front itself as an X-Men / superhero film but to try and inject as much psychological horror as possible NOT to be an X-Men / superhero film. It's a very misjudged narrative with very misjudged and empty characters.
By the time the rather short run-time reaches it's climax, bringing in the voice(?) talent of Marilyn Manson as some psychedelic supervillains known as The Smiley Men, you just want the story to wrap up and get to the predictable ending where a heroic future awaits that we will never discover.
At the credits, you are just left longing for the X-Men of days gone by and their exciting adventures, wondering what this introduction of empty characters has done to actually benefit a franchise that should have ended with 'Dark Phoenix' before the MCU transition.
'The New Mutants' is a co-production between 20th Century Studios, Marvel Entertainment, Genre Films and Sunswept Entertainment