TL;DR – A perfectly okay film but a bit of a missed opportunity.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
After thirteen films, and running for twenty years, the current X-Men franchise has drawn to a close. Today we review the last movie in the series The New Mutants, though it was never planned or designed to be a swan song it is what it has become. Well, let’s dive into a film that swerves into the horror of what it would be like to wake up one day with powers.
So to set the scene, we open in on a reservation in America when Danielle “Dani” Moonstar (Blu Hunt) is woken up by her father William (Adam Beach) and told to run. All around them, some outside force is destroying the reservation with snow and flames everywhere. William asks Dani to hide in a tree and goes back to help only to be killed, Dani runs form the oncoming storm and crashes down the side of the hill, hitting her head. When she wakes up, she is handcuffed to a medical gurney in what looks like an old hospital. Over the speaker Dr Cecilia Reyes (Alice Braga) askes her to calm down and lets her know she is safe, but that she was the only survivor of her reservation, everyone she knows is dead.
Before we get into the weeds of this film, I did want to take a moment to contextualise it because it has ended up in a place it was never meant to be in. This was never planned to be the final X-Men film. Indeed at least six different films were being worked on before Disney bought out 20th Century Fox. Given the problems this film had in development, the lacklustre response to Dark Phoenix, the desire to bring everything back under the MCU, and just the usual way Hollywood works, I do understand why they brought everything to a close. However, all of that said, it is unfair to this movie because it was not designed to be an endpoint. This film was meant to be the starting point for something more, and it shows. Because it is an end but design to be a beginning, it creates an odd disconnect for the film that it can’t escape.
Where The New Mutants works are in the small moments when it allows itself to breathe when we get the characters interacting as people, while everyone is off-putting at the start, they come into their own throughout the film. We have Rahne Sinclair (Maisie Williams) who can transform into a wolf, Illyana Rasputin (Anya Taylor-Joy) who can change her arm into a sword, Samuel “Sam” Guthrie (Charlie Heaton) who can cannonball himself into the air, and Roberto “Bobby” da Costa (Henry Zaga) who burns. All of them had experienced significant trauma in their pasts that had shaped their lives. They work together, fight, and live their lives under the promise of something more but the reality of being in a cage. It is a group that I would like to see more off, but I don’t think that will happen. The world building is here in the design of the hospital that they all live in. It is both futuristic in its technology yet decorated in a pastiche of 1970s and 1990s all in a building that was built in the 1800s. This gives the hospital a feeling of being out of place and time, an odd feeling much like the facility in A Cure for Wellness.
The scenario itself is also interesting because it has that layer of plausibility. It feels utterly realistic that for mutant whose powers came to life during or preceding a significant trauma that they could be a danger to themselves and others. So it would make sense that you would want to make a safe space where they can work through their issues. It also makes sense that someone could co-opt this entire process for their own sinister reasons. This creates a level of tension, even before people’s nightmares become real.
However, while the setup and characters were all good, the execution just misses the mark. To begin with, while the characters are interesting, we don’t really get to know them outside of their past traumatic event. This leaves everything just a superficial level that the film can’ escape. They try to add depth via Buffy the Vampire clips on the old tv, but it does not work as well. One of the opportunities of having a smaller cast in one location is that it gives you that space to add the depth. As well as this, the scenario does start to falter when you begin to think about it. For example, there is no way there would be just a single person running a facility like this, even one as powerful as Reyes.
The special effects are a bit of a mixed bag with some like Illyana’s sword and portal powers visually quite impressive, with good details like the marks on the walls where it phased into it. However, there were moments like with Demon Bear where it hit this weird, uncanny valley feeling when you see it front on. In this case, it was because while the fur and nose were all there, there was not that same level of detail in the eyes. Tone-wise it felt like they were charting a mostly safe path while still wanting to dip their toes in the horror genre. It probably would have been better to pick one lane and commit to it than trying to walk a middle path. Also, I am pretty sure they used footage from Logan at one point in a different context which was off-putting, and the continued links back to what Apocalypse hinted will fell jarring given they will never be followed through.
In the end, do we recommend The New Mutants? Well, look, sure. It is a perfectly okay film, and if you are a fan of the mutants, there might be some fun moments seeing them brought to the big screen. But if you are looking for a final chapter, this is not the film for you.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The New Mutants
Directed by – Josh Boone
Screenplay by – Josh Boone & Knate Lee
Based on – New Mutants by Chris Claremont & Bob McLeod
Music by – Mark Snow
Cinematography by – Peter Deming
Edited by –Matthew Rundell, Robb Sullivan & Andrew Buckland
Production/Distribution Companies – 20th Century Studios, Marvel Entertainment & Genre Films
Starring – Blu Hunt, Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Henry Zaga & Alice Braga with Adam Beach, Thomas Kee, Happy Anderson, Dustin Ceithamer & Marilyn Manson
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: 14A; Germany: 16; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 15; United States: PG-13