Much has already been written about the challenging journey to get The New Mutants in front of an audience. To summarise: (takes deep breath) it was announced in 2015, filmed in 2017, delayed for reshoots in 2018, delayed again to avoid other 20th Century Fox titles at the box office, delayed again following the Disney acquisition of Fox in 2019, delayed yet again to be re-edited without the reshoots because the young cast all looked older now, and was then booted off the release slate in 2020 by the COVID pandemic.
It finally arrived in cinemas in August last year, when hardly anyone was going to the cinema, but is now available on demand and on blu-ray, which should hopefully allow it to find some sort of audience. All of this begs the question, was it worth the wait? Well, no, not really. It’s by no means a disaster in the mold of 2015’s Fantastic Four (another Marvel title produced under the Fox banner), but it bears all the hallmarks of a film which endured a similar, difficult birth.
Dani (Blu Hunt) is a Native American girl whose reservation has been destroyed by a tornado, killing everyone apart from her. She wakes up in a gothic, near-deserted hospital, where she is told by Doctor Reyes (Alice Braga) that she is a mutant. Her abilities must have kept her alive, and she will be looked after at this hospital until they learn what her mutation is, and Dani learns to control it. So it’s essentially like Xavier’s School, only much creepier.
Dani isn’t the only new mutant at the hospital. There’s Rahne (Maisie Williams), Illyana (Anya Taylor-Joy), Sam (Charlie Heaton), and Bobby (Henry Zaga) to keep her company, all of whom possess strange and unusual powers. They believe they are being trained to be X-Men, but when they all begin to experience horrifying visions from their past, events take a much more sinister turn.
Director and co-writer Josh Boone leans heavily into the horror element of The New Mutants, which gives it a unique feel, when considered alongside the rest of the X-Men franchise. There’s a contradictory feeling about the film however, as it seems to be geared towards a younger audience, whilst at the same time ramping up the violence and veering off in some thematically very dark directions. It’s not quite at the level of Logan, but it certainly goes to places the main franchise would never have dared.
Not all of these places are good however. The tonal mish-mash of spunky YA mystery combined with super-dark gothic-horror about abused teenagers takes the film, and the viewer, on a very weird journey, and on more than one occasion is unintentionally hilarious. Hello Maisie Williams mid-transformation looking like Teen Wolf.
Anya Taylor-Joy is the pick of the cast, vamping it up as a Russian sorceress whose only friend is her hand puppet Lockheed. The rest of the young cast make little impact, though this is largely due to the writing. For the first hour, The New Mutants feels more like the pilot to a miniseries than a film. With another couple of episodes, Boone and co-writer Knate Lee might have actually made us care about these characters. In a 94-minute film however, they just haven’t done enough.
It isn’t the complete dud we all feared and joked about as it was delayed time and time again, but it offers too few ticks in the plus column to label it as anything other than a misfire. It’s a scrappy, Frankenstein’s monster of a movie that unfortunately never fully comes to life. Following Apocalypse and Dark Phoenix, this really is a desperately sad end to the Fox iteration of the X-Men universe.
THE NEW MUTANTS is available on digital now, and on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD on 4th January 2021
Cast: Blu Hunt, Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Alica Braga, Charlie Heaton Director: Josh Boone Writer: Josh Boone & Knate Lee Released By: Walt Disney Certificate: 15 Duration: 94 mins Release Date: 4th January 2021