Movie review: The New Mutants, Marvel's teenage mutant superheroes
What happens when your X-Men movies start failing? Get new mutants…
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) rarely puts a super-suited boot wrong when it comes to big screen adaptions. Even the much-maligned The Incredible Hulk, was able to smash in some respects, but recent Marvel movies set outside of the MCU, have had a much less of a consistent hit ratio.
Deadpool and Wolverine swansong, Logan are spectacular films, genuinely up there with the very best superhero movies.
But in that same timeline, X-Men: Dark Phoenix and X-Men: Apocalypse were plagued with cringey dialogue, disappointing confrontations and plots with more snags than Wolverine’s cashmere sweater collection.
The flailing reboots made many Marvel fans angry. And you don’t wanna see Marvel fans angry. The Comic Con Q&A sessions get brutal.
The Josh Boone conceived and directed, The New Mutants was a deliberate attempt to take the X-Men Universe in a different direction, to breathe some fresh life into the franchise. It’s a reworking of a Marvel comic series of the same name, and focuses on the evolving relationships of a rag-tag band of teen mutants.
The film attempts to weave themes of horror and coming-of-age drama (and it’s worth noting the UAE release has endured a significant three minutes of censorship snip at pivotal moments of this drama), alongside more traditional redemptive and superhero arcs.
Sadly, the themes don’t ever truly deliver on their potential. It’s not particularly scary, other than in a career-peril kind of way, and whilst the character relationships are multi-dimensional and carefully built, they’re let down by patchy dialogue, contrived teenage angst and underdeveloped identities. Plus all of that comes, very noticeably, at the expense of on-screen action.
The movie begins with Dani Moonstar (played by motion picture debutant Blu Hunt), a young Cheyenne Native American fleeing from a brutal attack on her reservation. She survives the onslaught but is knocked unconscious and Moonstar awakes in the grey-washed halls of an assylum-esque facility.
Inside what eventually transpires to be some form of observation project, run by the firm-but-fair Dr Reyes (Alice Braga), Moonstar meets four fellow inmates who all possess special powers. Dani hasn’t figured out what hers is yet, but we’re given fairly strong clues that, whatever the mutant ability is, it’s a whopper.
And whilst we’re on the subject of powers, Dani’s teenage mutant superhero roommates, Rahne Sinclair (played by Maisie Williams), Illyana Rasputin (Anya Taylor-Joy), Sam Guthrie (Charlie Heaton) and Bobby da Costa (Henry Zaga), have got some pretty niche ones.
Rahne can turn into a wolf, super useful if you need to infiltrate a gang of huskies, less useful elsewhere — and feels a little bit like typecasting for a young Stark girl; Sam can fly, but struggles to land without incurring debilitating injuries; Brazillian playboy Bobby bursts into flames, like the human torch, but seemingly only when its highly inconvenient; and then there’s Illyana, who certainly has the most interesting and entertaining ability, she, along with her trusty stuffed dragon Lockheed, is able to dart into an imagined reality and conjure a flaming sword.
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Lights, camera, acXion
You have to get a considerable way through the film before any real action hits the screen. Which feels odd for a superhero movie, albeit a new mutant form of one.
When it does arrive, a section of it feel very reminiscent of the movie Sucker Punch. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Like Sucker Punch, the story is propelled by a collection of formidable females. And that is a good thing. More of that please.
We also genuinely enjoyed Maisie Williams’ performance, it lent credibility to the film’s aspirations of heart-string tugging. And look if there’s a New Mutants 2, and there’ll undoubtedly be at least plans for one, we’ll gladly give the franchise another chance. There’s genuine potential in them there characters.
Verdict: X just misses the mark. 2.75/5
Run time: 1hr 35mins, PG13, at cinemas across the UAE now, book your tickets at whatson.ae/cinema