For a while, it seemed like this film was never going to come out. After being filmed back in 2017, it has subsequently had FIVE different release dates, facing several different setbacks along the way, including, but not limited to, a studio takeover, and a global pandemic.
Considering that this was filmed at the same time as Deadpool 2 and Dark Phoenix, it has taken a lifetime in Hollywood time to finally see the light of day, you’d be forgiven for forgetting this film even existed, and it had ‘Disney+ release’ written all over it following its several delays, general apathy towards the release, and the impending introduction of the X-Men to the MCU.
But, having said that, this film does present a chance to wash away some of the bad taste left from the appalling Dark Phoenix last year, and perhaps give the FOX X-Men series a much better send-off. In theory, anyway.
The New Mutants follows a group of young mutants being held in a hospital to learn to ‘control’ their abilities. It soon transpires, however, that there may be more to their situation than first thought.
To be honest, I feel a bit sorry for The New Mutants. None of it is the fault of the film, it’s just a case of some truly terrible timing.
Being moved so many times might give the impression that the studio might not have had much faith in the property, it was originally moved to not compete with Deadpool 2 or Dark Phoenix, and if your studio doesn’t think you can compete with Dark Phoenix, then you probably have a problem.
If that weren’t enough, it was entering post-production just as the Disney-Fox sale was being finalised, leaving the production in limbo between both studios; reshoots were ordered, then they were cancelled, then the pandemic came and the final cut was deemed satisfactory.
‘Satisfactory’ is probably the right word for it too, while the film is fairly inoffensive, it doesn’t push any boundaries or make any steps forward either, it’s a fairly drab production, with even the horror aspects feeling nothing more than dressing on a thoroughly uninteresting meal.
It’s better than Dark Phoenix, that’s for certain, but then again, so is unanaesthetised dental surgery, it doesn’t mean it qualifies as a ‘good’ film, everything about it is very bland, the characters are picked from the stock character handbook, the story is pieced together from bits of other films, there are bits of Logan in here in the ‘hospitalised young mutants’ aspect harking back to X-23, and all of the horror set-pieces are pretty much copy and pasted from a thousand other horror films. There isn’t many jump scares though which is a plus.
It’s also a very predictable film, every twist and turn should be seen coming from a mile away, there is an attempt to make some of the mutants’ abilities a mystery, which is interesting, but once again, the payoffs are bland and predictable, with the mutant powers being nothing more than we’ve seen before with other characters, apart from the main protagonist Dany’s (Blu Hunt) power, which is very vague and unexplored, to say the least.
Speaking of Dany’s power; this is the part of the film that uses the most visual effects in the film, the quality of which fluctuates wildly throughout. I wouldn’t like to assume that this is a by-product of the studio change, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was. The nadir of this comes, disappointingly, with what must be seen as the final ‘baddie’ of the plot, something very difficult to talk about without massive spoilers, but suffice to say that it looks instantly outdated, and is a massive disappointment of a final confrontation.
That being said, there are attempts to break new ground with the horror aspects, we haven’t really seen a horror superhero film before, so this is new ground, it’s just a shame that the set pieces are familiar re-treads of well-worn horror tropes, the kind of which the general horror audience have become desensitised to. It feels like this is where the most innovation was used, but it just didn’t go far enough to differentiate itself from similar films.
That isn’t to say they’re all bad; no matter how much we’re used to set pieces, there are still effective ways to use them, and there are a few such instances in this film in which they are used well, but it isn’t often enough to set the production apart, it feels like a comic book film with a few horror elements, rather than a true superhero horror film.
As I said before, the characters are all fairly generic too, all scarred and traumatised by various events that tend to affect most troubled youths in films. There’s a fairly dark shift in tone when it comes to these backstories too, which would have felt more jarring if it hadn’t been for the darker tone overall, but it is still noticeable when you go from teen mutants making jokes to abusive childhoods from one scene to the next.
The actors involved do their best with the material though. I’m quite fond of Maisie Williams as an actor, although I haven’t seen much of her in films, sadly, and she’s good here; her chemistry with Blu Hunt’s Dany is the beating heart that carries the film and makes it worth carrying on watching until the end. Similarly, Anna Taylor-Joy and Henry Zaga give good accounts of themselves as Illyana Rasputin and Roberto de Costa, respectively.
Overall, then, this isn’t the swansong of the X-Men series that we wanted; it feels more like the start of a new story. One which might not get a follow-up due to the properties change of ownership, which is a shame, as the film leaves itself wide open to further instalments that might have expanded the good ideas from this starting point. Not the worst X-Men film by any means, but one that won’t be very memorable, either.