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