Directed by: Josh Boone
Written by: Josh Boone and Knate Lee
Starring: Blu Hunt, Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Alice Braga, Henry Zaga and Adam Beach
The New Mutants is a film that was stuck in what they call in the business ‘development hell’ owing to the Disney take over of Fox in 2019. Director Josh Boone, whose previous credits include sick-lit adaptation The Fault in Our Stars (2014), originally finished filming in 2018. There was confusion over the direction of the film with Boone leaning more in the direction of YA and his employers wanting him to exploit the horror angle, reshoots were needed. The finished product is a mix of both, not satisfying either and is frankly an unholy mess of a film.
Supposedly set in the X-Men ‘universe’, The New Mutants focuses on the young mutant cohort. Set almost entirely in an old hospital building, this truly uninspired film was clearly supposed to be the first of a trilogy that wasn’t. We are introduced to Danielle Moonstar (Hunt) running away from her settlement (she is Cheyenne, Native American) as it is being destroyed by what looks like a conscious tornado. We get the old superhero trope as her father is killed in front of her eyes. She is rendered unconscious and wakes up in a hospital of sorts. Already residing in this facility are Rahne (Williams), Illyana (Taylor-Joy), Sam (Heaton) and Berto (Zaga). All four are coming to terms with their new found powers. Dr. Reyes (Braga) oversees operations in the hospital and keeps a close eye on the teenager’s unchecked mutations. The group are told that they are in the facility for the safety of themselves and others, to be released when they learn to properly control their powers. However, one suspects fairly early on that something more sinister is afoot.
It is very hard to say anything positive about this film. The aforementioned ‘development hell’ has left it completely tonally imbalanced. It will find it very difficult to find any specific audience except for the very easily satisfied cinema goer. Some parts of the film seem to be reaching the 10-12 year old market, however the IFCO has slapped a 15A certificate on the film. I can’t see older teenagers being drawn in by this material either. Whatever about the mixed up direction, the performances are also all over the place. Even the great young talent that is Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch (2015) doesn’t come out unscathed. The film boasts the first same-sex relationship in a comic book film. It is just a shame that Williams and Hunt have absolutely no chemistry. I would be very surprised to see Heaton and Zaga in anything of note in the future.
All characters in the film have interesting back stories that are criminally under-explored, presumably left for material for a sequel that now will never be. Rahne and Illyana’s pasts are particularly dark, but the film again pulls its punches. Hopefully Anya Taylor-Joy can put this film behind her, we will soon see her in Irish production We are the Young Men, Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho and Robert Eggers The Northman which has just begun filming in Northern Ireland this month.