Director Josh Boone
Screenplay Josh Boone, Knate Lee
Starring Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Alice Braga, Blu Hunt, Henry Zaga, Adam Beach
A long time ago around 2014, when this film was conceived, written and first filmed, it felt like Marvel’s X-Men had a future. They were planning the last Wolverine film as a tremendous success, the X-Men First Class hadn’t released the first of its crappy final two films. By the time The New Mutants completed for a 2018 release, a lot about the cinematic world, outside of Logan, sucked. Suddenly, this film, birthed as a potential new trilogy, had entered the land of the lost.
Reshoots were rumored, but impossible, due to the advancing age of a few of the actors. The film was pushed back, forgotten, then pushed back again. Why? Basically because they knew nothing in this slight reimagining of the X-Men Universe clearly lacked the creative touch to win new fans to the franchise. In trying to make it a scarier, more grounded film, they managed to make it less scary and totally inert. It’s not a bad film. It’s just not a particularly good one either.
The story, Dani Moonstar (Hunt) arrives at a hospital after a tornado rips through her Cherokee Nation town, killing her father. She is told by the Dr. in charge, Cecilia Reyes (Braga) that she, like the others in the convalescent home, has mutant abilities. This is news to her, as she never knew this before. Sure, the tornado that hit her town and killed her dad seemed a little suspicious, but she is unconvinced that she is special.
After wrestling with some big issues, she is befriended by Rahne Sinclair, who is a werewolf from Scotland. Sinclair breaks it down for Dani and they become close. Meanwhile, each of the patents begin to experience haunting visions related to their past.
Reyes, working for the Essex corporation, has other things in mind than she tells her patients. Of course she does. When she hears from the corporation that she needs to ramp things up a bit, things start going haywiire.
For the most part, this is a pretty bland film. The concepts are actually intriguing, but the paths taken with each of the characters don’t really resonate as planned. Nothing really feels that dangerous, even when the walls come crashing.
For a film with so few characters, one wishes they had the chance to know at least a couple of them better. Even the main character, Dani, feels underwritten. As a result, none of the quality actors in this film perform their best. Even a couple hours after the show, I have a hard time remembering more than a three things about any character.
Still, the movie had potential, especially with that dream sequence that segues into the hospital in Logan. It’s clear what they were going for, and it sure would have been nice to see if they could have gotten there.
The problem by now for most X-Men films is that the film format does not allow for much in the way of exploration of character. The original films had Professor X, Logan, Magneto and Mystique. They only gave a line or two of exposition to every other character. It’s impossible to explore more in one film, given the formula that Singer adopted. They hadn’t conceived the Feige method of exploring characters in individual films then combining for a group one later. And it’s a shame.
One of my friends and a former writer for this blog, Matt, had been disappointed in the X-Men for years. When he expressed his reservations about how badly they’d messed the series up to that point, I could not quite believe it. He’s gone a few years now, and in his passing, I see the wisdom of his words. It shouldn’t have been this hard.
In a true measure of the effect of Covid 19, this film has been thrown to the wolves of the current cinematic wasteland. This film is literally nowhere right now, but it is on almost half of the screens of the theaters that are open. Most theaters in densely populated areas are closed, though.
As the film fades from memory, The New Mutants will be remembered as not much more than a footnote for a franchise that flew atop of the cinematic world for a brief time.
(**1/2 out of *****)