Movie Review: The New Mutants
History will remember that one Marvel movie received a theatrical release in 2020. Only trivia buffs will remember the specifics, though.
In August of 2020, almost exactly three years after filming ended, The New Mutants finally gained its long-anticipated theatrical release.
Was The New Mutants worth the wait? Well…
About The New Mutants
I feel like we’re talked ad nauseam about the side issues surrounding The New Mutants.
The studio achieved staggering success with Deadpool and Wolverine spinoffs, making them believe that they could tell X-Men stories of any kind.
Enter Josh Boone, the director of 2014’s surprise blockbuster, The Fault In Our Stars. He stood as the toast of Hollywood at the time.
Boone had produced a $12 million movie that earned more than $300 million worldwide. And he wanted to make a Marvel movie.
Fox executives happily agreed, and The New Mutants was born as a cinematic adaptation of the longstanding comic book.
Don’t let the name fool you. The New Mutants debuted in 1982. They’re as new as Duran Duran.
However, Fox executives immediately appreciated the way that this production could check off several boxes.
A good New Mutants adaptation could groom a new generation of movie-goers as X-Men fans.
These customers could also age up with the cast, a bunch of talented and mostly recognizable faces, stars on the rise.
Finally, some of these actors could replace more expensive celebrities in the current X-Men, as stars like Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult wanted out.
Fox could cut costs while adding another decade of life to the franchise.
On paper, the idea seemed brilliant. Then, a funny thing happened.
During conversations about the project, Boone expressed an interest in creating a superhero horror movie.
Fox executives at the time, ones whose competence we’ve since questioned, agreed with the idea, not understanding he was serious.
When The New Mutants entered principal photography, Boone filmed the movie he’d promised…which Fox executives didn’t want.
We’ve been at an impasse ever since.
The Characters of The New Mutants
As you know, Disney swallowed Fox last year. Afterward, the owners of Marvel Comics could release the film that Boone had made…and they liked it.
According to the director, the theatrical release is the one that he had always intended. So, we won’t get a #SnyderCut here.
I understand why everyone at Disney wanted to push The New Mutants, as it’s definitely unique.
The film tells the story of Danielle Moonstar (Blu Hunt), a Cheyenne teenager whose entire tribe dies overnight in a natural disaster.
Moonstar awakens at a medical facility, where Dr. Reyes (Alice Braga) relays the horrific details of the Cheyenne town’s demise.
Over the next few days, Moonstar interacts with the other patients at the hospital, all of whom possess special powers.
The idea here is that some nefarious corporation has assembled superpowered teens to test their abilities.
Reyes performs the tests and hosts therapy sessions wherein we learn about the characters. They are:
- Sam (Cannonball) – a Kentucky teen who caused a coal mining incident
- Bobby (Sunspot) – a wealthy Brazilian who nearly incinerated a loved one
- Illyana (Magik) – an angry woman who talks to her stuffed animal like it’s real
- Rahne (Wolfsbane) – a Scottish werewolf
Over time, you’d expect these lonely teenagers to develop friendships. It doesn’t happen as much as you’d think, though.
Most of the film’s conflict stems from personal interactions between the cast members, almost all of whom are New Mutants.
So, the drama gets dragged out over the film’s 85-minute run-time.
Some of the performances are dynamic, especially Taylor-Joy as Magic. Unfortunately, the guy playing Bobby is a charisma vacuum.
Is The New Mutants Good?
I’m going to skip to the chase here. Josh Boone loooves The Breakfast Club, and this film doubles as a horror movie take on the premise.
The scary parts are primarily psychological horror rather than physical danger, but it still gets intense at the end.
Beyond that, I waited for a cover of Don’t You (Forget About Me) by The Simple Minds because the homage felt headed in that direction.
The presence of Reyes confuses Marvel fans, though. Out of all the characters listed here, she’s the one who joined the X-Men first.
Her inclusion as a potential antagonist raised plenty of questions before the film’s release.
I’m pleased to report that the story works because it builds a mystery with a satisfying payoff.
For me, the love story falls a bit flat, though. The New Mutants features the first primary LGBTQ romance in a Marvel movie to date.
Danielle, the lead, falls for Rahne, the only person who is genuinely nice to her for most of the movie.
Unfortunately, there’s not much chemistry between the two actresses, and the idea feels inorganic. It’s no Carol or My Summer of Love.
The romance between Magik and Sunspot is even worse.
They’ve got nothing in common and don’t even pretend to like one another throughout the film.
However, the interpersonal dynamics still engrossed me enough that I wanted everyone to pull together in the end.
Without spoiling anything, I’ll add that some creative special effects and good ideas amped up the tension during the third act.
I actually cared who lived and who died, which means that I did get invested in the characters.
You should calibrate your expectations by understanding that this isn’t an MCU movie, though. It’s a decent outing from a Marvel fan and a solid cast.
The New Mutants is now available to own or rent on digital. It’s $19.99 for purchase.
I understand that some of you may not feel comfortable paying that much on a movie with such a shaky history and internet perception.
At the time of publication, holiday deals are revving up. You will probably find at least one free digital movie rental over the next few weeks.
By taking this approach, you can sample The New Mutants for free before deciding whether you want to own it.
I also suspect it’ll drop to $9.99 by the first quarter of 2021, as many digital titles do after a couple of months of digital release.
Personally, I purchased it and have no regrets. I had chronicled the production’s struggles since early 2018.
So, I lowered my expectations enough that I felt pleasantly surprised by the film’s quality.
Overall, the cast excels and shows enough promise that I remain hopeful they’ll get another crack at a New Mutants story.
This movie isn’t on a par with most Marvel Cinematic Universe titles – I’d rank it behind everything but Thor: The Dark World – but it’s still good.
Compared to recent standalone X-Men titles like Age of Apocalypse and Dark Phoenix, The New Mutants is clearly superior.
Alas, history won’t remember the situation that way.