The movie that started off the the surge of comic book films was Fox’s X-Men back in 2000, for it showed studios that they could make profitable, well-received, and mature films out of the properties. From there, Fox spawned two direct sequels, a three-film Wolverine series (Logan (2017) being the best live-action comic book film), two Deadpool films, and a four-film prequel/reboot series. The series was always a fresh comic book entry to the silver screen even with the many ups and downs in the franchise. Other than Logan and the Deadpool films, the past several films in the franchise have been very disappointing to downright horrendous. So, with the combination of its many delays and its purported low-budget, horror take on the genre, my excitement for this film has been on a rollercoaster. Unfortunately, the ending of the once-great Fox franchise is plagued by poor performances and a script muddled with cliches and poor dialogue.
The New Mutants follows five young mutants who are involuntarily placed in a secret facility while they learn more about themselves and their powers. Each teen must come to grips with their pasts and with each other in order to find the hidden truths behind their cage and come together to try and escape.
This movie is not quite as poor as X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) or X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019), but it is still pretty bad. The pacing is very quick, and it well passes the line of too-fast. Some conflicts between the characters grow in in scenes, and then the scenes that follow they act like nothing happened. Most emotional moments for our characters are briefly touched on, promising emotional development, but are then completely abandoned. The combination of these two things leaves a lot unresolved and little-to-no character development. Overall, the audience is left feeling nothing for any of the characters or their inner turmoils.
It is really hard to discern if my despise for these characters is due to the actors’ performances or the lines they were given to deliver. Every character is very cliched and one dimensional, and unfortunately the actors did little favors to improve them. The only performance that stood out to me as being decent was Maisie Williams as Rahne Sinclair (aka Wolfsbane) seeing as her character was the only one that had an emotional arc that felt natural and gave her something to actually portray. Anya Taylor-Joy as Illyana Rasputin (aka Magik) and Alice Braga as Dr. Reyes are decent enough, but their acting can go only so far to salvage their awful lines of dialogue. Charlie Heaton as Sam Guthrie (aka Cannonball) and Henry Zaga as Roberto de Costa (aka Sunspot) both play exasperated onenote cut-outs of cliched tropes, and their performances cannot even stand out from their terrible roles. By far the worst performance is from lead actress Blu Hunt as Danielle Moonstar (aka Mirage). Every line delivered from her is a burden upon the audience. Whenever she was interacting with other characters it felt like acting that one would watch from a 90’s Disney Channel Original Movie. If the movie restructured around any other character OR they just hired a better actress, maybe I would have more easily excused the acting from everyone else. Instead, where all the supporting characters felt 1.5 dimensional, the lead felt less than one.
If there is one bright point in this film it is the visual effects. The look of the Smiley Man nightmares and the powers in action looked great, and Demon Bear looked absolutely phenomenal. The transformation of Maisie Williams’ character from girl to wolf, and the inbetween look, was beautifully composited from what I could tell, and the final fight looked great, despite the clunkiness of the pacing of it, particularly when Magik’s powers are in use during the fight. However, flashy looks do not salvage a indisputable mess.
Being one of the first films out of the gate in a re-opened theater world, I was looking forward to watching this film, but now I am looking forward to forgetting about. It is a shame that the X-Men franchise flickered away with now three of the worst films in the franchise. If I appreciate this film at all, it is because it reminds me that there are great X-Men films that Fox had given us before the Disney merger. From the original X-Men trilogy, to Logan, to Deadpool, to First Class and Days of Future Past, there were so many cinematic masterpieces within this franchise. It is too bad that this is how it had to end.
The New Mutants is rated PG-13 for violent content, some disturbing/bloody images, some strong language, thematic elements and suggestive material.