By Christian DiMartino
The New Mutants has arrived. Yay.
Let me begin by explaining the unfortunate circumstances surrounding this film. The first trailer was released two years ago, when it was due for a theatrical release of April 2018. Supposedly the movie was such a hot mess that it needed re-shoots, so it was delayed to 2019. Then it was pushed back again due to the Disney/Fox merger. Then it was pushed back again. Then it was finally due to a release this past summer, but COVID-19 occurred, and thus, now it has been delivered unto us… in the emptiest summer in decades, without much in the way of buzz and hardly even any critical reception.
It seems as if someone, or God, did not want us to see this film.
Considering all of the bad joo-joo surrounding it, what surprised me is that The New Mutants, honestly, ain’t too bad. That isn’t to say it’s good, and there are certainly its fair share of flaws. However usually when a film is postponed as much as this one, the public expects a giant dumpster fire. There is no dumpster fire here… but a few more wrong moves and we might have been close.
The plot is interesting, but also somewhat thin. Much of the film revolves around a young girl named Danielle Moonstar (Blu Hunt), who recently lost her father and is taken to a rehabilitation center for mutants, led by a mysterious doctor (Alice Braga). Mrs. Moonstar, of Native American descent, is unaware of what her powers are, whilst her peers are. She befriends one named Rahne, who can turn into a dog or something (underdeveloped). Danielle and Rahn’s relationship blossoms into something else, which is a pretty unique touch for a film like this… but it is, again, underdeveloped.
As is Dani’s relationship with Illyana (Anya-Taylor Joy), who hates her from the get-go for underdeveloped reasons, and constantly spouts racist comments towards her that will make someone laugh (“Pocahontas” being one of them). Illyana has the ability to turn her arm to metal and wield a sword and stuff. Looming in the background is something… spooky. With the arrival of Dani arrives demons, or something, that are there for reasons yet to be determined.
Charlie Heaton of Stranger Things also stars as a mutant with a power that can do… something along the lines of The Human Torch. Joy, Williams and Heaton are the biggest named stars in this film. Besides that, they all share something in common here: rusty, unfortunate accents. Yes, these accents had my eyebrows raised pretty high and elicited a chuckle or two. Joy being Russian, Williams being Irish (I think), and Heaton being a redneck, each might give a fine performance… that is ultimately sunk by their goofy accents. They’re awful.
The film might be for some too, but not to me. What the film ultimately is is a missed opportunity. I’m more of an X-Men believer than most, and the film at hand actually has some pretty interesting ideas going for it and the intrigue of these ideas are interesting enough to keep the movie from being awful. The issue with The New Mutants though is that said ideas never fully take liftoff because said ideas aren’t quite developed enough for the film to be fully successful. My guess is, during those re-shoots and all of the time this film sat on the shelf, somewhere in the middle of it was a film that was probably hacked to death by studio interference.
To say I saw this coming went without saying. It’s mostly the runtime. The film is just about 90 minutes, which is enough to lay the ideas out there. But it isn’t enough time to let them blossom and work effectively. The idea of a comic book horror movie IS a good idea. Sure it comes across as goofy from time to time but at least it’s something different. The idea of a lesbian relationship within this universe IS an interesting idea, but neither character is developed enough and thus neither is the romance. The film held my attention but something feels missing from its story, because there ultimately isn’t enough of one. Not to mention, the film just never goes all the way. A good amount of language is said and creepy elements are at play, but this film would’ve benefited from an R-rating.
The highlight of this film is a guy named Henry Zaga, as a teenage mutant who gets really hot. Honey, you’re telling me. Like the rest of the characters, there’s not enough room for him to be fully dimensional. But boy, is this guy gorgeous. And he nearly gets naked too, which, like every other scene he’s in, had me leaned forward in my seat. Like the rest of the movie though, he too doesn’t quite go all the way.