“The New Mutants”: A Disappointing Finale

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JD Jones, Arts & Entertainment

Before the comic book movie boom that we’ve had today, the genre was just starting to gain traction in the late 1990s. In 2000, 20th Century Fox produced a major stepping stone to help make these movies a commodity. That movie, simply titled “X-Men”, was one of the hugest hits of the year, providing fun blockbuster action and updated versions of the themes from the comics. Following up with two sequels, a whole prequel/reboot series, and spin off movies featuring characters Wolverine and Deadpool, the franchise began to take a turn for the worse. This definitely happened around the time Disney was buying the Fox company. By that time, it felt like they were just rushing to get more movies in– movies that just didn’t feel necessary after the powerful closure of 2017’s “Logan”.

The last film given to us from Fox’s X-Men series was “The New Mutants”, which was released on August 28, 2020 (it was originally going to get released in April 2018, but got delayed for several reasons). Josh Boone directed this spinoff, which centers on five young mutants being held in a facility led by a doctor to help them cope with their abilities and train them for the outside world. As it goes on, they realize they are being held against their will, and must put aside their differences as well as overcome their traumatic pasts to escape with their lives. Allowing the franchise to move forward into a horror direction, “The New Mutants” left little to no impression critically or at the box office due to COVID. It was released a few weeks ago on HBO Max, so I figured I’d check it out, as I have been a fan of many of these movies. To be frank, I can see why this came and went like the wind.

“The New Mutants” just isn’t memorable in the slightest, and that’s a real shame considering the promise it has in its premise. A horror “X-Men” film sounds very cool, and would have allowed for more of an identity from an aesthetic and tone standpoint. Unfortunately, Boone doesn’t seize the opportunity to capitalize on this. The PG-13 rating is a severe limitation, and every scene that attempts to challenge the characters psychologically is lacking suspense. I couldn’t name any given moment where I was on the edge of my seat or scared about what was going to happen. Boone’s writing also factors into this for me, as the interactions between characters can at times feel inorganic and insufferable. It seems to be trying to echo 1985’s “The Breakfast Club” with it’s teen interactions, but it doesn’t even come close to the genius of that movie, and the overall plot just moves around with no specific focus at all.

The acting was also a mixed bag for me here. The performance that really stood out to me was Anya Taylor-Joy as Magik. Her prowess and screen presence far exceeds everyone else who worked on this movie, and her turn as a troubled, aggressive mutant works really well. I also found Maisie Williams, who plays Wolfsbane, and Charlie Heaton, who plays Cannonball, to be pretty good as well. They’re both very likable in their roles, so that has to count for something. The other members of the ensemble are more underwhelming. Henry Zaga’s Sunspot is a forgettable jock character, Alice Braga’s Dr. Reyes is a lackluster villain, but it’s Blu Hunt (in her film debut) who delivers the most disappointing performance. She plays Dani Moonstar, a Native American mutant who has the power to conjure up other people’s worst fears and use them against her enemies. Boone (quite obviously, I might add) makes her the heart and core of this story, but Hunt just doesn’t deliver. I don’t blame her entirely because the materials she has to work with are rather poor, but she’s just so uninteresting, and her line delivery just doesn’t fit in at certain points. Her inexperience was really evident, and it unfortunately affected the quality of this movie.

The only other area I can think of that “The New Mutants” succeeds in besides a few performances is with its special effects. While far from a genre best, they look really good considering the reshoots and delays. But even then, the usage of the teens’ powers is scant, and the third act doesn’t have any impact because the plot is so loosely assembled. Maybe it would’ve been better had we gotten what was intended for April 2018, because at times I found it hard to believe that this was the version that was intended all along. Apparently, Boone had already mapped out a trilogy, sought James McAvoy’s Professor X for a cameo, and looked to cast Jon Hamm and Antonio Banderas for other key characters. However, I don’t think we’ll get to see this, since all mutant characters will soon be joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Is it worth seeing “The New Mutants” to finish the Fox “X-Men” franchise? In my opinion, not really. A few performances and effects aside, it has almost nothing to offer, no matter how intriguing it sounds. It’s so detached from the rest of the series, and lacks any originality to make it worthwhile. Fox probably just should’ve stopped at “Logan”, and let this mutated disaster fall by the wayside.