The New Mutants review: A long wait for a decidedly mediocre film

Photo: Charlie Heaton, Anya Taylor-Joy, Blu Hunt, Henry Zaga and Maisie Williams in "The New Mutants" © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Photo: Charlie Heaton, Anya Taylor-Joy, Blu Hunt, Henry Zaga and Maisie Williams in "The New Mutants" © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation /

After being delayed four times, we weren’t sure what to expect from The New Mutants, but what we got was a decidedly mediocre teen superhero film full of half-baked ideas.

Nearly two and a half years after its initial release date, the last 20th Century Fox X-Men film, The New Mutants has finally hit theaters — and we can’t say that it was worth the wait. While it certainly wasn’t the trainwreck we were expecting given just how many delays it incurred (COVID-related or otherwise), neither the characters nor the plot are developed or interesting enough to really get The New Mutants off the ground.

Starring Blu Hunt as Dani Moonstar, The New Mutants follows the story of a young woman who wakes up in a halfway house/hospital after her entire reservation is decimated. Although at first Dani trusts in the facility’s caretaker, Dr. Reyes (Alice Braga), she realizes with the help of her fellow mutants Rahne (Maisie Williams), Illyana (Anya Taylor-Joy), Sam (Charlie Heaton), and Roberto (Henry Zaga) that the so-called “hospital” exists for a much more sinister purpose.

Right off the bat, the film has two things going for it: its source material and its cast. The New Mutants is, of course, based on the Marvel Comics X-Men title of the same name, which features a bounty of characters (and arcs) for the film to chose from. However, what becomes immediately clear is that, although the film did chose a couple of really great characters (Magik and Wolfsbane are the two most recognizable), it doesn’t fully explore or pay off any of them in a meaningful way.

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Blu Hunt’s Dani Moonstar is the main character, but we spend the majority of the film unsure of her powers — and when they’re finally revealed, we’ve reached the third act and she doesn’t use her abilities in the satisfying way as we would’ve hoped. Her arc, on the whole, is also very underdeveloped. She spends most of the film being shown around the facility, looking confused, and having exposition dumped at her (and that’s when she isn’t on the receiving end of racist comments from Illyana that are never acknowledged or rebuked by the film).

Keep in mind, that’s the treatment the lead gets. The rest of the cast doesn’t fare much better. Anya Taylor-Joy’s Illyana (aka Magik) has by far the most interesting power set and backstory, she’s relegated to the bitchy mean girl of the group, and most of her dialogue comes in cringy one-liners that even Taylor-Joy with her Russian accent can’t save. Her character gets a lot more bearable in the back half of the film, but when we see her in action, it’s less of a satisfying payoff and more of a tantalizing tease as to what we could’ve had all along, had this been a better movie.

Maisie Williams (who most will know as Arya Stark from Game of Thrones) as Rahne/Wolfsbane is our favorite mutant of the bunch — an Irish lesbian who is the first to treat Dani with any sort of respect. Her dialogue is also entirely predictable, but the sincerity of her character makes her much more palatable than Illyana.

As for the guys — Sam and Roberto — they receive the least development of the group (which is really saying something considering the lack of growth all around) despite the fact that both Heaton (with his laughable southern accent) and Zaga give commendable performances. Rounding out the bunch is Braga as Dr. Reyes who is, you guessed it, a one-note villain who could’ve been explored far deeper than she was in the film.

When it comes to the filmmaking, The New Mutants is remarkably lackluster. There isn’t any real directorial presence that we can see, and other than Buffy the Vampire Slayer playing in the background of a few scenes, the film has very little personality to it, which is a shame, because we would assume that a group of edgy outcast mutants would be the perfect group to take some creative risks on.

The aspect of the film that stuck with us the most was Magik’s backstory and the villains that it generated, because (spoiler alert) Dani’s power is to manifest and bring to life everyone’s greatest fears. Magik’s greatest fear is the “smiling men” (voiced by Marilyn Manson), a group of gangly, terrifying creatures with messed up faces that, funnily enough, bear a striking resemblance to “The Gentleman,” the villains from “Hush”, the episode of Buffy playing on the TV in the mutants’ lounge.

After the obligatory third-act fight versus a giant glowing monster, the film putters to an anticlimactic end and doesn’t leave us even remotely excited for the possibility of another installment. It’s tragic that a film with so much potential ended up being such a waste, despite the fact that it had a cast more than capable of carrying a franchise, The New Mutants suffers from a crippling case of poor writing that makes it nothing more than a missed opportunity.

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Have you seen The New Mutants? What’s your favorite X-Men film? Sound off in the comments below.