Oh boy, I thought this day would never come. I thought I would never be able to watch and review The New Mutants. But I have watched the movie, and after years – yes years(!!) – of waiting for its big screen debut, I can finally discuss it.
For those unfamiliar with this picture or why this review has been a long time coming, The New Mutants is an X-Men spin-off movie which should have been in cinemas back in 2018. Directed by Josh Boone, The New Mutants was shot in 2017 for 20th Century Fox (long before this blog existed) and has been sat on a shelf gathering dust ever since.
For various reasons (which you can read about here), the movie’s release date was pushed back from February 2018 to February 2019, then to August 2019, and then to April 2020. And then, mere weeks from its debut in April, COVID-19 caused the film’s release to be delayed once more, and it was pushed back to August 2020.
Over the past two-to-three years, The New Mutants has been the subject of countless online and offline discussions; has watched the movie series that spawned it come to an end; and has also changed hands from Fox to Disney. At one point, it looked like the film was going to be released direct-to-streaming, but no, Disney pressed ahead with a theatrical release, and FINALLY the film is out for all to see.
So, after all this time, after all the countless stories and rumours about the quality of the movie, and after all back-and-forth over the release dates, is The New Mutants any good?
No. No it is not.
In late 2019, days before the theatrical release of X-Men: Dark Phoenix, Fox/Disney marketed Dark Phoenix as the final chapter in the long-running X-Men movie series. This seemed like an odd move at the time, as The New Mutants was still awaiting its day in the sun.
Instantly two things came to mind: a.) Fox/Disney were considering shelving The New Mutants indefinitely, cutting the series off at Dark Phoenix, or b.) Fox/Disney knew they had a turkey on their hands and wanted it to go away quietly.
Of course, it couldn’t go anywhere, too many people wanted to see it (regardless of the quality) and it simply had to come out. But it is my duty to inform you that it is a turkey. An undercooked, rather bland, turkey.
As with the majority of X-Men stories, The New Mutants centres around a group of mismatched loners, who are getting to grips with their super powers. During the course of the movie, they find themselves in the midst of a dire situation, and band together as a team.
Same old, same old, right? Not so. While this movie is linked to the X-Men movie series, it is very different to what has come before. While the previous X-Men movies have been largely super hero fare, The New Mutants is a horror movie – which is a new direction for the series.
I commend The New Mutants for attempting something new. However, the horror angle simply doesn’t work, and despite shades of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3, and a couple of creepy characters, this is a poor horror at best.
It isn’t scary, there is no originality, and everything feels predictable. All the usual horror tropes are here, such as the dim lighting, and the sinister villain(s), but there is nothing really horrific going on – and this is a big problem.
If The New Mutants had dived head first into horror, I might have been able to be a bit more complimentary about what I just watched, however, the fairly lacklustre approach made it feel rather disappointing. And it is this lacklustre approach which is carried throughout the movie.
The special effects are very hit-and-miss, the characterisation is paper thin, and the story itself is far too weak to cover its 94-minute running time. I can’t say I was bored watching The New Mutants, but I also can’t say I was gripped at any point either. Had the projector suddenly burst into flames, or had the screen fallen down, I can’t say I would have been that bothered.
At every stage of this picture I found it difficult to get involved, and not even the odd X-Men reference could raise any real interest. These references – which were sparse at best – were clearly thrown in just to convince general audiences this is/was part of a wider universe, but this felt like an afterthought and nothing more.
OK, so I appreciate this movie was originally designed to be part of the ongoing X-Men movie series, and those plans changed during the demise of 20th Century Fox, but even so, this film still does not feel good enough to sit alongside the other pictures in this series. Regardless of any backstage changes between studios, The New Mutants feels like a television pilot and nothing more.
As a huge X-Men fan, and someone who has followed the X-Men movie series all the way back to the start, I remember the first time that Fox/Marvel attempted to get the X-Men on screen and that was via the misjudged television movie, Generation X (1996). For me, The New Mutants feels like Fox/Marvel have come full circle and have ended back in a similar place.
No, I am not saying that The New Mutants is of the same poor quality as Generation X, but it certainly isn’t up there with X-Men (2000), X-Men 2 (2003), X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) or Logan (2017). The X-Men movie series has produced some first-rate entertainment, but The New Mutants isn’t it.
On a more positive note, there is some good LGBTQ+ representation in the movie, so big thumbs up for that, and the character of Illyana Rasputin, as played by Anya-Taylor Joy, is very cool. But besides this, I am struggling for anything else to say that puts this in a positive light.
The New Mutants isn’t awful, but it just isn’t very good either. If you’re a fan of the comics I would wager you will get something out of it, but general audiences will find it all very uninspiring and forgettable.
Despite suggestions that a sequel will follow, and a few loose ends concerning the ‘sinister’ villain that is hinted at in the movie, don’t expect another New Mutants movie anytime soon. The Fox X-Men movie universe is over, and this film’s release is merely a perfunctory addendum, and one that should have been dealt with long ago.
When the X-Men movie series returns, expect it to be a reboot with a whole new cast and as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There may be a few holdovers from the Fox-era (Ryan Reynolds etc), but don’t expect anything from The New Mutants, this is a one-time only gig.
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