PG Score: 7/10
The New Mutants has been in production purgatory for years. Originally slated for a release date all the way back in April 2018, the title now likely contains more irony than the filmmakers would care to admit. Reshoots, scheduling conflicts, and a global pandemic were among the many obstacles blocking it from seeing the light of day. Despite everything going wrong time and time again, the final product has miraculously found its way to the big screen. It’s hard to justify saying anything delayed this long was worth the wait, but The New Mutants comes close to making a case.
The plot focuses on five adolescent mutants, who are being held captive by the mysterious Dr. Reyes (Alice Braga) in a clandestine facility, as they fight to escape. The group of teenagers is comprised of Rahne Sinclair aka Wolfsbane (Maisie Williams), Illyana Rasputin aka Magik (Anya Taylor-Joy), Sam Guthrie aka Cannonball (Charlie Heaton), Danielle Moonstar (Blu Hunt), and Roberto da Costa aka Sunspot (Henry Zaga). Each character possesses wildly different powers and temperaments. Their conflicting personalities pose problems right away, but it’s clear they’ll need to work together in order to break free.
Director Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars), who also co-wrote the script, blends multiple genres very effectively here for the most part. It does have a haunted house-type horror feel to it for much of the 98 minute runtime. This element is surprisingly well-done and doesn’t rely on jump scare tactics, which is refreshing. There’s a hefty dose of teenage drama sprinkled in to complement the darker portions. Petty quarrels between the more stubborn members account for the majority of the weaker dramatic pieces. The fleshed-out monologues that dig into some of the characters’ backstories are the highlights in this department. There is quite a bit of buildup, so the real action doesn’t hit until closer to the climax. The visual effects are impressive not only in regard to the characters’ powers but also showcase the main baddie’s ferocious form.
The New Mutants is very much a stand-alone film when it comes to the X-Men universe. Aside from a few references to familiar characters and places and the mutant abilities themselves, there’s not much here connecting the film to others. It would’ve been easy and understandable to borrow ingredients from previous entries in the same universe and pepper the script with all sorts of existing lore, so the fact that Boone chose to do the opposite is admirable. He deserves credit for crafting a concoction that is very much its own formula and the film is better for it.
The movie tackles a variety of heavier themes rather skillfully for the most part. The PG-13 rating requires the more adult elements to be approached with a certain level of finesse and Josh Boone manages to do just that. For example, extreme levels of abuse are heavily implied and the way this is addressed is both tactful and impactful. The traumatic pasts of each character serve not only as powerful origin stories but also play a major role in the group’s journey for freedom.
The film does have several issues. For one, the writing is occasionally boring with some of the interactions coming across as dull and not adding anything substantial in terms of plot or character development. Secondly, there really needed to be more action. The few sequences that are present are exciting, but they’re few and far between. Lastly, the character development is lacking. Some characters are given a more detailed backstory and more growth than others, which leads to a somewhat unbalanced feel. While these drawbacks don’t prevent the film from being good, they definitely restrict it from entering the realm of great.
The New Mutants is a textbook example of overcoming overwhelming odds. The fact that this one hit the big screen at all is a feat in itself. While not free of negatives, the positives do tip the scale in favor of a recommendation to visit the theater. Please hurry...before these mutants get any older.