In Cinemas

The New Mutants review – feeble teen drama ends the X-Men era with a whimper

Josh Boone's unintentionally hilarious superhero horror has pre-ordained as an inevitable flop, and it's easy to see why

The ­X-Men franchise is no stranger to ignominious endings. First, Brett Ratner’s universally-loathed Last Stand brought a sour close to the original trilogy. Then, after Apocalypse ended the Bryan Singer era with a nonsensical plot and perhaps the worst ever use of Oscar Isaac, Dark Phoenix bid farewell to the mainline X-Men story and was met with scathing reviews and box office failure. Now comes The New Mutants, the series' last Fox-made entry, and one that proudly continues the X-Men tradition of ending with a whimper, not a bang.

Infamously delayed, to the point that an entirely different studio is actually releasing it, The New Mutants has been pre-ordained as a flop, launched now in cinemas basically to get it over and done with. Within minutes of the opening titles, you can see why. Abysmal acting and some unintentionally hilarious editing set an awkward tone almost immediately, one that the rest of the film never really escapes.

It’s unfortunate as, on paper, this take on the mutant world looks to have some refreshing ideas. Taking place entirely within an eerily empty mutant asylum – housing five super-powered teens and one sinister doctor – it’s a lot smaller and more self-contained than most of its genre stablemates. It also, without trumpeting its progressive credentials, does more for representation than a lot of its peers, with a Native American lead and a central lesbian romance that isn’t relegated to just a single moment that's easily censorable abroad.

This lead is Dani Moonstar (Blu Hunt), who finds herself trapped in a hospital surrounded by forcefields following a violent catastrophe on her family’s reservation. Under the guidance of obvious wrong’un Doctor Reyes (Alive Braga), Dani undertakes group therapy with other youngsters with powers Reyes and her shadowy bosses are keen to harness. Dani’s abilities are unclear to begin with, but clearly very dangerous, making her right at home. Rich Brazilian playboy Roberto (Henry Zaga) can burst into flames, Scottish Catholic Rahne (Maisie Williams) is a werewolf, all-American mine worker Sam (Charlie Heaton) is a human missile, and Russian psycho Ilya (Anya Taylor-Joy) can essentially manifest a lightsaber at will.

Their therapy sessions are a mess of distracting accents – Taylor-Joy and Heaton striking particularly false notes – and first draft “generic teen drama” dialogue. Writer-director Josh Boone’s script is lifeless and the cast are uniformly bland, unable to add any depth to their characters, with Hunt sadly way out of her depth as the film’s apparent emotional anchor.

The New Mutants is ostensibly a teen horror film, but is far more concerned with the teen aspect than actually delivering scares, keeping the horror contained to a very select set of scenes. Some of these moments are actually relatively effective, the mutants facing off against nightmares from their past that become more and more tangible as the plot progresses, and you really wish there were more of them.

Of course, a big CG fight scene is the obligatory finale, the mutants teaming up against a giant demon bear in a semi-coherent burst of action and explosions, and this is about as good as the action in your standard MCU entry. But The New Mutants lacks all the spark of the MCU character work, and is only accidentally funny instead of trying to tell any jokes. The New Mutants was originally meant to launch a trilogy, but the latter two films were scrapped instantly once Disney took over. On this evidence? Good riddance.

The New Mutants is now in UK cinemas everywhere.

Where to watch

More Reviews...

The Great Buster: A Celebration review – icon of silent film is still the pinnacle

Peter Bogdanovich’s documentary on Buster Keaton is a decent portrait of an early cinema hero – but you’ll learn more from Keaton’s own, uproarious work

76 Days review – eerie look at the start of the pandemic

This brave chronicle of four Wuhan hospitals battling the first cases of COVID-19 makes for bleak but essential viewing

Time review – two decades of love intercut by an unjust America

This deeply moving documentary maps the failings of the prison-industrial complex through one woman’s journey to reunite with her husband

Monsoon review – quiet and contemplative journey to Vietnam

Henry Golding stars as a man returning to his country of birth in this thoughtful, entrancing travelogue from filmmaker Hong Khaou


Best Films to Watch in London and Stream This Week

From cinema releases to streaming gems, including a family-friendly spin on Sherlock Holmes and Ethan Hawke as an infamous "mad" scientist

In Five Films: Ethan Hawke

Extremely prolific, always interesting, we rundown five essential performances to coincide with the release of his latest film Tesla

Every Bong Joon-ho Film, Ranked

With Memories of Murder and Barking Dogs Never Bite both on re-release in the UK, we take a deep dive into Bong's films so far...

In Five Films: Keanu Reeves

To mark the release of Bill & Ted Face the Music, we look back at Keanu Reeves’ singular stardom in five key performances