Let’s talk about The New Mutants.
It is quite a miracle in the year where barely any films have come out due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the film which always got delayed is finally out. It is easy to believe that the story behind The New Mutants is far more interesting than the film itself. So let’s tell it as it gets my word count up.
Set in the X-Men universe, The New Mutants was meant to be a new franchise in that whole expanded universe. It was filmed in 2017 and was meant to be released in 2018. It was then delayed because of the delay of Deadpool 2 and the need for some reshoots, something which is fairly normal. Then it kept getting delayed and delayed and delayed. Reshoots were planned but there were reports which said they didn’t happen. It was getting comparisons to Fantastic Four, which is like your restaurant being compared to Little Chef. It can’t be good for anyone. Then Disney bought Fox. With this meaning an end to the X-Men Universe and the likelihood they’ll be incorporated into the MCU at some point, this seemed to end The New Mutants as a franchise. It then got delayed again as not to clash with Disney’s own films and was set for release in March as speculation grew about if it would be retroactively included in the MCU. It got delayed again because of Covid but now, in August after years of waiting, we finally have the film.
Because of all of this, you do go into the film with no expectations. After all, if this film has been on the shelf for so long and no one has really pushed it to be released, it can’t be great, can it? Well yes, it can’t be because it isn’t great. There are a lot of problems in this film which really drag it down and it does feel like it needed some more polish at one point. Maybe those reshoots, which never actually happened, could have helped it out.
So what is all about then? Danielle Moonstar’s entire reservation is killed in a mysterious tornado and is transferred to a hospital designed to help mutants like her control her powers. She meets four other mutants who have also had traumatic pasts but they all start to have horrific nightmares that threaten to kill them all.
Let’s talk about where this is good as there is some stuff to like in this. Firstly, it finds quite a nice niche in the superhero genre by being as close to a horror film as you can get and still have an acceptable age rating. It has this creepy tone throughout and has a nice ongoing mystery with its main character and what her mutant powers actually are. Plus there is the fantastic setting of the hospital itself. I say hospital but this isn’t a clinical NHS effort. This is more like an asylum and while it’s not the most original setting for a creepy horror type movie, it is still a great setting for something like this. Knowing an institution can be set up in a place like this is an instant tell to the audience that not all is right and raises suspicions enough to keep you on edge about what really is going on. It’s also worth mentioning the horror set pieces are well done as well and are definitely scarier than some straight-up horror films I’ve seen recently. Well I suppose a bunny rabbit that only wants to give you cuddles would be scarier than Fantasy Island, so that isn’t saying much admittedly.
The problem comes within the continuity of the characters. This film apparently hasn’t had massive reshoots or rewrites but it has all the symptoms of a film that has been patched together from lots of different visions. That all comes to play with the characters and some of the early scenes in terms of tone. The characterisation is so inconsistent from scene to scene it wouldn’t surprise me if there were some scenes that were meant to be filmed to ease the transition. Danielle starts the film in trauma from the loss of everyone she knows to being on the edge of the clock tower and about to jump to being flirty in the next scene. Then she’s right back to being in trauma. It’s incredibly jarring and it does indicate some of the problems that were in the production. This happens a few times in the movie from Roberto being an asshole in the first couple of scenes to instantly becoming a decent bloke and Illyana changing her opinions on the other characters just as quickly.
There are other problems as well. The film for around ten minutes turns into a teen movie and because it doesn’t really do anything with that tiny section of the movie for the rest of it, it feels like an aberration rather than an attempt to bond the characters or give it a more interesting style. Many of the characters have accents that are not the actors' own and you can definitely tell. Rather than enhancing the character of them, it simply becomes distracting and takes away from any immersion. Then when the movie settles down and moves into its finale, all the interesting horror set pieces and creepiness is completely dismissed for a big CGI finale which doesn’t feel like it belongs with the rest of the movie. It feels like that this is still a superhero movie in a superhero world so despite the fact the movie is more The Others than Superman, it still has to end with a lot of CGI and not something more suitable.
I’m glad The New Mutants was eventually released. This isn’t a boring studio movie, it’s obviously got a lot of passion and ideas in it which probably needed the polish of those reshoots that it would never get due to so many issues. Honestly, the book on the eventual release of this movie would be an instant-read for me. It’s great for everyone involved that it eventually saw the inside of a cinema. But while I’d love to recommend something that is trying to be original in what is such a massive genre nowadays, I just can’t with this one. The writing is all over the place and because of this, the characters are too inconsistent to ever get to grips with. There are things to like such as the tone and the love story between Danielle and Maisie Wiliams’ Rahne is very sweet but it’s not enough to make it worth the trip.