At long last after six months I was FINALLY able to return to my local theater and experience a movie the way it was intended, on the big screen. The first film I chose to see: the long-delayed “The New Mutants”. First developed in 2014 and shot in 2017 for a 2018 release, “The New Mutants” has had an infamously delayed product having been temporarily shelved after 20th Century Fox was purchased by Disney. It finally saw the light of day this weekend effectively serving as the final “X-Men” film from the Fox brand before Disney plans to reboot the franchise for its Marvel Cinematic Universe. Directed by Josh Boone who also wrote the screenplay with Knate Lee, “The New Mutants” focuses on a group of young mutants being kept in a hospital where they are overseen by a single doctor who helps them hone their abilities mixing elements of the superhero and horror genres together. Some are calling it the worst “X-Men” movie of them all so far, but I beg to differ. I actually found some redeemable, watchable qualities in this otherwise generic film.
“The New Mutants” stars Blu Hunt, Anya Taylor-Joy, Maisie Williams, Charlie Heaton, and Henry Zaga as a group of young mutants who are all kept at a mysterious isolated hospital operated by a single doctor, played by Alice Braga, who claims to want to help them control their special gifts. Much of the film revolves around Blu Hunt’s Dani Moonstar who is the newest addition to the group and has yet to understand her powers. The mutants soon begin to experience strange happenings at the hospital as they are forced to come face to face with their worst nightmares and fears which puts a relatively unique horror twist on the superhero genre. While there have been horror elements worked in to superhero movies in the past, namely the “Blade” trilogy, “The New Mutants” is the first to feel like a fine melding of PG-13 horror with the traditional superhero aesthetic which, for me, was a nice touch. The way horror is worked into the plot, it’s clear that this isn’t a full on fright fest, but it allows the strange happenings and the frankly obvious origin of these occurrences to feel more real in the context of the world. A lot of times superhero movies rely on extension of disbelief a little too much but in this film you can actually feel the dread and hopelessness of these young mutants as they struggle to accept who they are and find their identities while being forced against their will to also face their inner demons at the same time. It’s a rather raw and humanizing approach to a superhero movie that I feel has gotten lost in the more fan-friendly superhero movies of today, especially the “X-Men” series where mutant powers have been used as an allegory for puberty and prejudice.
I also enjoyed many of the performances and some of the nice touches that were added to the picture to make it feel with the times, especially since it revolves around teenagers. Anya Taylor-Joy for me is the highlight of the film. Every time I see her in a movie she elevates it to a whole new level and her role as Magik is no different as she portrays the spunky rebel who takes pride in being the strongest mutant of the bunch. Maisie Williams and Blu Hunt are also pretty engaging and serve as the heart and soul of the film. Hunt’s Dani Moonstar and William’s Rahne Sinclair have a telepathic connection in the comics and in the film director and writer Josh Boone takes this further giving them a romantic connection as well. It’s actually kind of sweet and makes sense as an extension of their comic book origins which makes the relationship feel less like a pandering add-on. Hunt and Williams make for a believable couple as their bond forms naturally, with Hunt as the new girl and Williams as the relative outcast trying to make her feel at home. It also fits into the theme of identity and self-acceptance that permeates the film. The two male mutants, Sunspot played by Henry Zaga and Cannonball played by Charlie Heaton, take a backseat to the female leads but they’re also given fair emotional depth making this possibly the most completely defined and relatable TEAM in the Fox’s “X-Men” universe in my personal opinion.