Current Issue #488

Film Review:
The New Mutants

The latest in the never-ending X-Men series (if only by association), this delayed and chopped-about teen superhero epic from ‘Marvel Entertainment’ is disappointingly weak, and even a cool young ‘un cast can’t save it.

Co-written and directed by Josh Boone (of the ‘YA’ outing The Fault In Our Stars and the underrated Stuck In Love.), it’s about as messy as last year’s similarly fiddled-with X-Men: Dark Phoenix, and has an even more troubled production history.

Initially lensed in 2017, it was then reshot to up the horror quotient after the success of Get Out and the first It (and then toned down when it got too supposedly frightening), and further hold-ups were due to Disney’s sale of Fox, the release of Dark Phoenix itself and, but of course, COVID-19.

The final result is something that’s sure to irk hardcore Marvel-philes and newbies alike, and even original New Mutants co-creator Bob McLeod has had a controversial swipe at the thing due to apparent ‘whitewashing’ and, extraordinarily, the misspelling of his name in the credits (!).

An abrupt and fiery opening sequence comes out of nowhere, and then traumatised Native American Danielle Moonstar (Blu Hunt) awakens in a hospital to be greeted by Dr. Reyes (Alice Braga), who informs her that her whole community is dead. Initially suicidal and then just plain sullen, Danielle mixes with the other youthful sorts at the place (a more lo-fi establishment than Professor Xavier’s mansion in the real X-Men pics), and they’re meant to be an exciting bunch. But yep, they’re not.

Rahne Sinclair (Game Of Thrones refugee Maisie Williams accentuating her Scottish accent) has a power kept offscreen for an awkwardly long time; Sam Guthrie (Charlie Heaton, one of the older guys from Stranger Things) can fly (or at least cannonball painfully around); and Roberto Da Costa (Brazilian actor Henry Zaga) can burn – and burn. The bitchy standout, though, is the Russian Illyana Rasputin, who’s played by Argentine-English-American Anya Taylor-Joy (she of The Witch and the second two entries in the Glass trilogy) and proves to be a Jean-Grey-wannabe who can teleport, sprout interdimensional armour and visit some freaky FX realm where wacky stuff happens.

These teenagers (?) don’t realise that they’re in an X-Men movie until about halfway through the cut-back running time, and until then they argue, agonise, get haunted by the disasters they’ve previously wrought, and indulge in some bi-curious passions. Dr. Reyes, meanwhile, teaches them meditation and mindfulness as ways to deal with their Mutant powers (that have naturally manifested during puberty, a period when we all go a little monstrous), but we know full well that she’s not to be trusted.

And, like every damn doctor in an X-Men movie, she and the organisation from whom she takes orders do the stupidest thing imaginable again: forcibly grab dangerous individuals who can’t control their amazing abilities, lock them up and abuse them. What the Hell did these idiots think was going to happen? Duh!

Flirting with ‘edginess’ (as when Rahne is tormented by a vision of a sort of zombie Catholic priest), Boone’s film is undone by the fact that these overage types really aren’t, for all of their shapeshifting, pyrokinesis and the like, particularly interesting, and turn out to be decidedly poor cousins to the older and wiser Wolverine, Mystique, Magneto, Rogue and the rest. Even the most wannabe-horrific creations here – demonic things with Watchmen-ish smiley masks that might have been summoned after a viewing of the classic Buffy The Vampire Slayer episode Hush – are more silly than scary. But, unlike Buffy’s ‘Gentlemen’, these oversize CG guys are weirdly dressed more like pimps.

But will there be a sequel? Yes, diehard Marvelheads who sit diligently until the very end of the final credits, waiting patiently for Nick Fury to turn up or something, will be peeved to discover there’s nothing and that the movie just stops.

But that’s a good thing, kids!!!

The New Mutants (M) is now screening everywhere.

DM Bradley

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