If you follow the movie news world, you’ll know “New Mutants” has had a rather troubled production and release history. Initially set for a release in 2017, the film has been hit with a variety of faults from poor early screenings, studio interference with the Director, and Fox Studios even being bought by Disney (the process starting late 2017). That filled many comic book movie fans like myself with an inevitable sense of dread for what was to come. So after a variety of hiccups and sitting on the shelf for years, how exactly is “New Mutants?" Well that answer is unfortunately a bland “it’s… fine." When the credits rolled on my first movie theater experience since March I asked myself, “This is what caused all the controversy?”
Before I go any further, let me explain the plot of the last film of the late 20th Century Fox film (now titled 20th Century Studios). The film follows five mutants who include Maisie Williams (“Game of Thrones”), Anya Taylor-Joy ("Split," "Glass," "The Witch”), Charlie Heaton (“Stranger Things”), Henry Zaga and newcomer Blu Hunt who are healed in a secret facility under what they believe to be good intentions. What they discover is that their “doctor” played by Alice Braga (“I am Legend”) and her superiors has much more sinister purposes for them then simply joining The X-Men (as she claims). Being a fan of these characters from my younger comic reading days, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t excited even after the numerous delays. It pains me to say that what we get is too basic for its own good, especially in today’s superhero film culture.
Here’s what I will say that I really took away from as the overarching positive of my “New Mutants” watch— the cast is great. All of these young actors have a nice chemistry with one another and portray these characters exactly as I imagined them on the page. I especially want to highlight Taylor-Joy as “Illyana Rasputin” who steals every moment she’s on screen as a funny, tough and damaged mutant. When director Josh Boone (“Fault in Our Stars”) lets them interact and talk, they portray a true vulnerability. They are kids who are scared of this place, their “gifts” as Braga’s character keeps saying, and why they’re there in the first place. The real problems for me start when the plots twists and turns really take effect.
If you had or still have interest in "New Mutants," then you know the type of movie you expect going in. Where the blame comes is on Boone as the director, or possibly even Fox/Disney in not giving the audience any time to get invested. With the film clocking in at a meek 94 minutes, by the time we really gain investment for these characters, the big climatic CGI finale is almost over. In selling it as a horror movie, those moments work only sparingly (only two sequences gave me genuine chills) and take away from this cast interactions which are its best aspect. Depending on what Disney/Marvel wants to do with this franchise, I would be okay with this cast returning. I would just hope that if that happens, they have a better studio behind them. The cast does what they can to elevate a bad script, but at the end of the day that just doesn’t mean much.