It seems strange to think that the X-Men film franchise, which began over twenty years ago, has finally come to a close. What with the Disney/20th Century Fox merger, and the rights reverting to Marvel and the MCU, it seemed like The New Mutants, a film that has languished in release hell for over two years, would never be released. But finally, under the inauspicious autumn days of 2020, this strange bastard child of the two warring companies has been unceremoniously let loose, being neither one franchise nor the other.
The film follows Native American teenager Dani Moonstar (Blu Hunt), the sole survivor of a strange tornado-based disaster, who wakes up in an asylum-like facility for dangerous young Mutants. Under the watchful care of Dr. Reyes (Alice Braga), Dani and the several other disparate teens joke, bond, bully and lark around, each trying to understand their own powers and uncovering the secrets that brought them to the facility.
Having pulled together a cast of solid young talent gathered from popular film and television, Boone makes a valiant effort to draw them together in an enjoyable way. Whether it’s Sam (Charlie Heaton) and Roberto’s (Henry Zaga) competitive vying, the blossoming romance between Rahne (Maisie Williams) and Dani, or Anya Taylor-Joy‘s constantly acerbic Illyana, there’s always something going on. The trouble is that, it all feels rather dull and played out, despite the genuine talent of everyone involved. None of this is helped by the rather excessive and inconsistent use of accents all round; Joy’s Russian vowel chewing is decidedly unlikely at times, as is Williams’ softer attempt at Highland Scottish.
The trouble is that apart from feeling incredibly familiar at times, tonally the film is all over the place. Scenes jump from silly fun as the cast dance and run around the place, like the kids in The Breakfast Club, to Dream Warriors-like sequences where dreams come alive and harm them. Neither of which is wholly surprising as Boone has openly cited that the film was inspired heavily by both others, as well as One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. Much of these issues are clearly in part from a troubled production where it seems the film was in a tug of war between being conceived as an honestly dark horror film, and a YA teen fantasy drama. The resultant mixture ends up failing to deliver on both. It’s likely that younger fans will get more out of this, particularly if they’ve never seen the films from which The New Mutants pilfers so unashamedly. But for others, this is an unremarkable film, that bores more often than it surprises, and is the sad death knell of a long-running franchise.
Showing at cinemas now