The last film in Fox’s X-Men franchise before the series is to be rebooted in Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), “New Mutants” is a spin-off that attempts to add horror and teen elements to the comic book genre. While watching, I found that this film clearly had good intentions to do that, but ultimately just ended up dull.
The premise is that after hiding from a tornado hitting her reservation, young Cheyenne Native American Dani Moonstar, played by Blu Hunt, wakes up in an unnamed hospital run by Dr. Cecilia Reyes, played by Alice Braga. Dani is told that while she’s been confirmed as a mutant, they don’t yet know what her powers are and she, like the other mutants there, is not able to leave until she can control them. This is all made stranger when the mutants all start having dark visions representing their pasts.
The concept seems solid enough. However, the execution really doesn’t go anywhere in my opinion.
It’s important to note that this film is primarily dialogue. There’s hardly any action except for the last 10-15 minutes. Director Josh Boone’s focus is more character-driven than simply fun, but it doesn’t work because there’s actually little chemistry between the characters. The actors do what they can with the performances, but don’t have much to work with.
There are really only two character dynamics. The first is between Dani and Rahne Sinclair, played by Maisie Williams, who has the ability to turn into a wolf. She’s the first one to let Dani in, and provides her with loads of character exposition. Their relationship is nice, but not interesting enough nor given enough depth to carry the movie.
The other dynamic is that the sardonic Illyana Rasputin , played by Anya Taylor-Joy, who has sorcery prowess is untrusting of Dani. She expresses this primarily through unnecessary semi-racist insults that I think are supposed to be funny (“Pocahontas”; “Sitting Bull”).
Other than that, there’s little interaction or banter.
As far as the horror elements, they do pick up in the second half. I won’t say the name of the antagonists to avoid spoilers, but I thought the masks they wore were cool and appropriately creepy.
However, they’re underwhelming without them and get finished off instantly, without any impact or threat.
I think the psychological horror in the flashbacks were done better. They seemed to have the most creativity of the film, especially in visuals and cinematography. While most of the film just consists of close-ups and two-shots, there was at least more variation in these.
Rahne’s flashback about how she was tortured through her religious background has a dark atmosphere, and there’s a nice callback when it haunts her later on. Sam Guthrie’s, play by Charlie Heaton, recollection of a mine coming down has colors that leap off the screen.
That doesn’t mean they were good, they were just more interesting than everything else.
Being aware that “New Mutants” ran into delays after Disney’s acquisition of Fox, I can at least give the movie credit for staying somewhat coherent.
As a whole, this film did nothing for me. Would I have liked it more if I read the comics? Probably not. Besides a couple of scenes, it just seems like it wants to get itself over with. “New Mutants” is 94 minutes long and feels like it.
I don’t want to blame relatively new director Josh Boone for its failure, as I’m assuming there was some studio interference when production resumed. However, I definitely do not recommend this. If you’re brave and interested enough to venture into the theater, you might have a great experience. Just don’t expect much.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of The Torch.