• Angus McGregor

2020 Film Review: The New Mutants

Plot Synopsis: After a family tragedy, Danielle (Blu Hunt) finds herself in a facility designed to help protect and help mutants. As she becomes more familiar in her surroundings, weird things start to happen and the hospital isn't quite as it seemed.

The day many film fans thought would never come has finally arrived. Originally intended to be released in April 2018, The New Mutants scheduling has been out through the wringer, with Disney mergers and epidemics causing constant pushbacks. This led to the film becoming the butt of many jokes, mocking the films struggle and whether it will actually see the big screen. But fear not as the latest film within the X-Men universe has finally arrived, also having the privilege of being one of the first new releases to welcome audiences back to cinemas.

The film immediately thrusts you into the action with the introduction of Danielle (Blu Hunt) and the origin of how she ends up in the mysterious facility. The opening scene is very messy with incredibly shaky camerawork and a dark setting making it visually poor in the opening stages.

Following the usual stages of panic once Danielle wakes up alone in the ward, the film introduces the main cast, with Doctor Reyes (Alice Braga) appealing to Danielle that she has brought her here to help her. In terms of story, it is very generic regarding the hospital situation and patients who are unaware of the true intentions. What doesn’t help along with this is the incredibly generic way the characters are presented.

It’s very by the book with the characters summed up very blandly. Anya Taylor-Joy’s Illyana is very stern and harsh, with Henry Zaga’s Roberto seeming like a sexually frustrated teen. Maisie Williams’ Rhane and Charlie Heaton’s Sam are the designated “good guys”, with Williams the caretaker of the new recruit. The cast never really grow into having much of a personality in other aspects which in a group hero film is vital. You need a reason to cling onto these characters, especially as you’re being introduced to them for the very first time but the script really does these characters no favours.

One aspect of the group that succeeds is the bond between Danielle and Rhane, with their friendship blossoming very naturally. The two share decent chemistry with their scenes with one another seeming genuinely heartwarming. The film clearly looks to go for the experience draws them closer but there isn’t any moment to suspect they are a lot better suited at the end than they were through most of the film.

To go back to Anya Taylor-Joy’s character, it’s a strange mix when it comes to the bright actress. With Illyana being of clear Russian descent, the accent and mannerisms are very cartoonish, with the very deadpan delivery and piercing stares. The accent at times can be a little corny and inconsistent - sometimes similar issues appear within Maisie Williams' Irish tone - and the character comes off as overly goofy at times. However, as time passes, Taylor-Joy shines brightest, mainly due to how she is presented in action scenes.

If there is one character this film will leave you wanting to see more of it is Illyana, alongside her puppet dragon Lockheed. Illyana is a complete badass with ultra-cool powers, teleportation whilst also brandishing a wicked metal arm and glowing sword. She is presented as incredibly powerful and a total blast when she is involved in the action. The other characters suffer massively from this and the finale does so too as the less spectacular heroes are giving moments to try and shine but are entirely overshadowed by Taylor-Joy's character.

The main theme within the film is dealing with past trauma, something the X-Men series is no stranger to and for the most part, the film manages to do a good job regarding this. The use of more horror within the story does help make its message clear, even if some parts are told in very generic ways with very simple scares. What holds the film back massively is the complete lack of detail - which goes hand in hand with the lack of character development - regarding these issues they have faced. More often than not, there's a single scene and no real further delving into the psyches of these characters which leaves it to be fairly surface level. Due to this, there's a lot of moments that move very quickly, propelling you ahead once something only seemed to be beginning, perhaps an issue due to the rumoured reshoots/production changes.

The New Mutants is certainly a mixed bag, with many issues stemming from quite a weak and thin script. With all the films delays, it begs the question as to whether this was the intended finished article or not. Nonetheless, it's not a total travesty as it is a fairly easily and mildly entertaining 95-minute watch. With a more focussed look and a bit more luck on their side next time, this idea and these characters could be used to create a successful off branch of the X-Men, especially with the on-screen talent involved, although that opportunity probably isn't likely considering how this movie has been treated by its distributors.

Final Rating: 2.5/5

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