This has been a movie I have NOT wanted to see 2017. The X-Men franchise has been in turmoil for a while but with Dark Phoenix I can say with surety the franchise doomed. If we leave Deadpool aside the only thing left to do is a reboot of the series. With a title like The New Mutants you would think that was the intention. Well, after watching this film it is hard to say what anyone’s plan was. Starring, at best, B-list actors as characters nobody has heard about is an ignominious start. The New Mutants is at its core not a terrible movie, it’s a summer popcorn flick that never manages to find its stride and engage the audience. A lot of other movie have been guilty of worse. Starring Maisie Williams and Blu Hunt this movie was originally meant to be released on 2018.
With Disney acquiring the X-men franchise and the extensive reshoots that followed meant this movie was forgotten by most. Now, amidst Covid-19 the Josh Boone directed movie is barely mentioned. So how does it fare? Well, the simplistic plot disappoints from the start. Dani was a young woman growing up in a Cheyenne village with her father before it was attacked by a monster. Dani wakes up in the hospital run by Dr. Reyes (played by Alice Braga) who ostensibly wants Dani to deal with her latent mutant powers. To the viewer it becomes clear that Dani herself might have something to do with the attack. And so starts an hour of back and forth that reminds me a little bit of both The Joker and Glass, but not as grandiose. I will divide this review into two sections: the good and the bad. So let’s start with the bad.
The good and the bad of The New Mutants
Right from the start the viewer is left in the dark on what is going on. After Dani arrives at the gothic looking hospital the viewer is far too long left wondering what is going on. Odd shots give it a creepy atmosphere, including one in which we see Maisie Williams’s character crawling through a vent. The story meanders for about 40 minutes on Dani’s own involvement on the attack as well the hallucinations suffered by those at the hospital. When the viewer finally pieces together that the Dark Bear processing her is the culprit the payoff is minimal. Instead we move to final act in which Dr. Reyes attempts to kill Dani on orders of the hospital’s benefactors, the Essex Corporation. Now all attempts at horror abandoned for a rather plain action sequence in which the Dani’s fellow inmates attempt to save her.
The viewer is nonetheless pleased that this sequence has finally began, because the first part of the movie was repetitive. The story no doubt wanted to slowly make the viewer aware of Dani’s procession, but as I did not connect the dots until half-way through this development is completely wasted on me. Sadly the poor special effects also start to strain the viewer. The fact that the Essex Corporation does not have a backup plan when Dani and her inmates turn the tables on Dr. Reyes also felt weird. Surely, there would be more than just one staff member at the hospital? Then there is the mutant character Magik, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, her bullying extends to such a degree that I was severely disappointed in the turn-around during the second half.
Some of the good parts
And for the good. I enjoyed the low-key approach to The New Mutants. Not unlike Deadpool in that regards. The movie starts off interesting enough, the semi-abandoned hospital make for a creepy environment. The brief spells off horror work well with the décor. The performances of Blu Hunt and Williams are also enjoyable, though their burgeoning felt shoehorned into the plot. I also enjoyed how Dani’s fellow inmates / prisoners rallied with her to defeat the machinations of Dr. Reyes. However, after that is done the movie starts to lag once again, with engagement with Dani’s Demon Bear lasting a bit too long. For those keeping score will see the section on the negatives is a lot longer than the positives. And that would be in line with my overall feel for the movie.
I liked the hour and a half it took to watch this movie, but it was also immediately forgotten.