Review: Long Awaited The New Mutants

Jonathan Moore ’22 / Emertainment Monthly Co-President

The New Mutants had a long and difficult road to the big screen. Filmed while Fox still had ownership of the X-Men franchise under Marvel, it ended up being the final feature filmed by Fox. Disney quickly began its acquisition of the company after filming. Initially set for an April 2018 release after a well-received August 2017 teaser showcasing the psychological horror burst online, delays quickly followed. After the April 2018 release was postponed, The New Mutants was set for February 2019.

During this period, reports of reshoots and studio interference spread with questions emerging about the quality and tone of the film. However, these reshoots never occurred as Disney had finalized the acquisition of Fox and the associated rights and properties during this time. After a long period of audience speculation, The New Mutants was set for an April 2020 release with a new trailer and marketing campaign. However, when COVID-19 hit, it was delayed once again leading to rumors of a shift to a direct to streaming/premium video on demand release. 

However, a final release date was set for August 28, 2020, three years after the first teaser. With the delay, the expectations were low and the reviews had been middle of the road and mixed. However, The New Mutants was enjoyable with its blend of coming of age, psychological horror and superhero action. It does not break major new ground but it does tread effectively. 

Photo courtesy of IMDb.

After a mysterious and violent attack/storm leads to the destruction of her home and family, Danielle Mooonstar (Blu Hunt), also referred to as Dani, awakens in a mysterious facility run by Dr. Cecilia Reyes (Alice Braga), who claims to care for Dani and her fellow patients as they learn to adjust to their powers. The other mutants all have reasons for being there with a mysterious tragedy haunting Sam (Charlie Heaton), a rich kid sent away by his parents, Roberto (Henry Zaga), a Scottish teen with mysterious powers, Rahne, (Maisie Williams) and a Russian who pushes against the program whenever possible, Illyana (Anya-Taylor Joy). Together, the mutants begin to experience strange visions and uncover dark secrets about Dr. Reyes’ true intentions. 

The New Mutants has become infamous online for its multiple production and release delays as well as potential reshoots. While many initial reviews were mixed to negative, The New Mutants’ expert blend of genres creates something everyone can enjoy.

It works mainly because of the characters and their development. Despite utilizing the current trend of an outsider coming into an established group to slowly reveal twists, it builds well and gradually makes the characters sympathetic and understandable for the most part, although some feuds seem forced. By letting scenes breathe with character interactions, the film grows connections and empathy for the teens and the relationships that build among them.

The highlight of the film is the relationship between Dani and Rahne of friendship that develops into something more. It builds well off of mutual care and acts as the emotional core of the film. Their scenes are quieter and heartfelt connections that are among the strongest in the movie. Roberto and Illyana’s dynamic is also fun even as it goes from being played for drama to comic relief by the end.

Anya Taylor-Joy and Henry Zaga in The New Mutants.. Photo courtesy of IMDb.

Sam’s backstory is also tragic as he attempts to outgrow his past. Because of the care given to the characters, the horror sequences are effective and while not extremely scary are creepy, threatening, and well directed. When the shift to action horror occurs, it is satisfying to see the mutants fight back and there are intriguing set pieces towards the third act. 

The runtime is shorter than most comic book movies so the pace does feel fast at times in exposition and reveals. The horror is occasionally jump scares and there are threads of other X-Men movies that are only hinted at. However, due to outside issues likely preventing these threads from being resolved, they can leave audiences a little unfulfilled even as they are cool in the moment.

The action is also quicker than others as its low budget does show itself. However, Boone navigates around those issues well creating a fun movie bolstered by his solid cast. Williams and Hunt have good chemistry as their relationship blossoms and Zaga and Heaton are fun as the two characters who are often together around the facility. Taylor-Joy continues a streak of strong performances and has some great bad ass moments.

The New Mutants may always be more known for its issues and placement as the final X-Men Fox release, but the actual movie itself is a pleasant surprise that was worth the wait.

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