Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 34 minutes, Director – Josh Boone
When Danielle (Blu Hunt) is taken into a hospital for teenage mutants to come to terms with their abilities the other residents (Anya Taylor-Joy, Maisie Williams, Charlie Heaton, Henry Zaga) begin to experience their worst nightmares come to life.
Many years ago in an age before lockdown there was said to be a mysterious film. A bold, new, darker leaning that would explore new reaches of an already greatly explored universe. Yet, such a feature was never unveiled to the world. Delays and pushed back re-shoots befell The New Mutants and it seemed as if it would never see the light of day. But now, despite a long journey to the big screen it appears that the film has found a light at the end of the studio shelf, even as cinemas are still starting to reopen amidst a global pandemic.
One of the core reasons for the delay of Fox’s final addition to their X-Men universe was simply down to the response from test screenings. Many of the reactions came back stating that the film was purely “okay”, and so re-shoots, often rumoured to have never been scheduled due to the busy nature of the cast, were announced in the hope of improving the film and lifting it up a bit more. However, such plans never went ahead and the film by most accounts appears to remain in its original state. A finished product that is, as the test screenings came back, “okay”.
Advertised as being a more horror orientated film within the X-Men universe the film sees a group of teenagers residing within a hospital designed to help young mutants deal with their growing powers. There they learn to control their abilities with the help of the only member of staff, constantly referring to her unnamed superiors, Dr. Reyes (Alice Braga). However, as new patient Danielle (Blu Hunt) arrives things begin to change for the other gifted youngsters (Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy – plus dragon Lockheed, undeniably one of the best elements of the film – Henry Zaga, Charlie Heaton). Each one begins to witness their worst nightmare, terrifying events from their past that continue to scar them in the present day. Or, at least the characters seem to find such moments terrifying. Meanwhile the viewer is left in a state far from fear. The moments of horror are brief and few, seeming as if they’re building up to a jump scare and then walking off before the expected conclusion.
The film isn’t void of engagement, although some occasionally basic and clunky dialogue does stop a connection being formed with some of the characters, the performances themselves are for the most part perfectly fine – at a number of points, especially in the first two thirds of the film, you find yourself simply watching what’s happening and not really feeling much in response. However, that doesn’t stop the last 25 minutes; where the film properly gets going and reveals some fairly solid entertainment factor, from holding some interest. As the film becomes more action-orientated, and the world building properly comes in, leading on to the expansion of a universe and sequels that will probably now never arrive; mostly due to Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox and the rights of such mutant related properties now going to Marvel. And in some ways this is a shame because when the film properly introduces such elements it’s at peak engagement and continues to flow with more ease from there.
After almost two and a half years since its initial release date The New Mutants might not exactly have been worth the wait, but neither is it an entire letdown. While the majority of elements are fine enough and the film goes by with enough ease, a 94 minute run-time is to be commended, the better elements are left until the final stages of the film. The horror may not exactly stand out as anything effective, but there are still some interesting elements during the film, ideas that attract your attention, even if for short bursts before everything properly comes together. The focus on powers helps with this, and when they become useful and properly used, instead of appearing during more cliche moments, the film properly works and has something to actually hold on to. But, for the most part while the film struggles between horror and powers there’s still something to just about hold onto and find interest in. Throughout the film the teens are kept in the hospital grounds thanks to a strong invisible barrier put there by Dr. Reyes, a limited cast and restricted set aren’t exactly barriers for the film, but there certainly are some there. Leading to a feeling similar to that which arose roughly three years ago, a time when a YA film of this standard may have just about been considered somewhat out of date. A feeling that this is perfectly fine, if a bit dusty from being sat on the studio shelf for so long.
It’s been a long wait to see The New Mutants on the big screen, and most of it might be quickly forgettable. Yet, there are still some interesting points and moments over the course of it. Like the powers of the main characters it takes a while to properly reveal itself. It’s a fairly easy watch and at the end of the day exactly what you would expect from the description “okay”.