A 20th Century Picture, Written by Josh Boone, Knate Lee, Directed by Josh Boone.
When this film was originally shot, Fox were still an individual movie studio and were riding high off their R-Rated X-Men spin-off films ‘Deadpool’ and ‘Logan’, so giving the green light to another spin-off, this time an approximation of the horror genre, seemed like a very natural next step that would likely be successful.
However, the film got caught up in the Disney/Fox takeover and was moved around the release dates for over two years, until it then ran head first into a global pandemic. It ended up being the sacrificial lamb that was thrown into cinemas as one of the first major films to open after the global lockdown. All of this had made director Josh Boone the subject of much sympathy in the last couple years, until the last few weeks when he started making racially insensitive remarks and in multiple different ways was shown up to have been very unprofessional when it came to the source material and the final film.
However, it is important to judge a film on its own merits and that’s what I’m going to do here. ‘The New Mutants’ is definitely disappointing and a damp squib to end 20 years of the X-Men universe on, but it is also watchable and not terrible (which I’m aware are not glowing reviews).
It has quite a generic and poorly written script, that is packed full of exposition and struggles to find a consistent tone. The film is stuck between being a YA drama, a straight up horror, and a standard superhero film, and in the end, it becomes neither and that’s a massive problem.
The cast do the best they can with the roles, but there isn’t much significant material to work with for many of them, and that’s a shame because we essentially only have 6 characters in one location for the entire movie, so we should’ve been able to connect to them more.
There are two things that I felt were definite positives here. The first is Anya Taylor-Joy as Illyana Rasputin, easily the best character in the film and it’s main stand out. She not only provides the film with its only engaging action scenes due to her dimension jumping powers and magic sword, but she is also the most compelling.
She has a dark backstory that is only hinted at here but there’s enough to work out what likely happened to her. She is erratic, moody, at times childish (in many ways she’s like a mutant Villanelle from Killing Eve), and she has some of the films funniest lines.
It was entirely unnecessary and deeply frustrating that she is made to say some racist comments at the start of the film that really dampens the character. But in general, Anya Taylor-Joy does a great job here and I wish we would get the chance to see her more in future films. The best moment of the film is when someone says “don’t do that, he’s magic” and Illyana (aka Magik) replies “so am I” before heading into battle.
The second positive from this film is the entirely natural same-sex relationship between Blu Hunt and Maisie Williams’ characters. It isn’t treated as anything different than it should be, just two young people with great attraction and affection for each other, expressing it in a natural way. It is really time for the major franchises to catch up when it comes to representation.
Overall, there are some promising elements here that were never properly put together, and it’s a shame we will likely never see these specific iterations of these characters again.
Rating = 3/5