Plain, Simple Tom reviews . . . “The New Mutants” (2020)

Following a mysterious catastrophic event which led to the destruction of her home and the deaths of her family and neighbours, young Dani Moonstar (Blu Hunt) wakes up to find herself in a strange hospital under the care of Dr. Reyes (Alice Braga), who informs her that she is in a facility for young mutants and that she is required to be evaluated so that she can eventually move on to another facility, run by Reyes’ unknown superior. After getting to know several other troubled young mutants in the facility, Dani soon comes to realise that something strange is afoot and the “new mutants” must work together to discover the truth and to confront and defeat the unknown demons that appear to be stalking them.

After infamously being delayed many times, originally scheduled for a 2018 release but then constantly delayed due to the need for reshoots and the Covid-19 pandemic among other reasons, The New Mutants, a film that has been the butt of many a joke on social media, with many refusing to believe that it would ever actually see the light of day, has finally been released in cinemas and I think it’s fair to say that expectations have been low. Even before its release, this film seems to have been saddled with some pretty negative reception, possibly because the last few X-Men films haven’t exactly been stellar pieces of filmmaking, but having now seen it, I can reveal that for me, The New Mutants isn’t a bad film, indeed it’s one that never bored me and kept me interested to see where it was all heading, but at the same time, it’s also nothing particularly memorable and can’t surpass most of the other entries in the flailing franchise.

As the shortest film in the X-Men film series, The New Mutants doesn’t exactly outstay its welcome and, as I say, I was never bored and the film presents us with an interesting enough “mystery” to be solved and although the “answer” eventually turns out to be fairly obvious, with all the accompanying twists and turns that we’ve come to expect from a film like this, it’s still worthwhile to watch it all unfold and there’s enough in the film to keep us all engaged throughout. But on the other hand, it’s still not the most original nor the most exciting storyline that you’ll see in a comic book movie; seeing as how this was intended to be the first of a trilogy, this film appears to be quite content to keep things small and to focus primarily on introducing these new characters, rather than giving us an expansive action extravaganza, but, possibly as a result of all the reshoots, the characters aren’t given the proper development that they deserve, their abilities don’t amaze, and additionally, the film is hampered by its PG-13 rating, not able to fully embrace the horror tone that it originally intended and the main scares appear derivative of those found in something like 2017’s It: Chapter One, given its focus on the manifestation of the protagonists’ biggest fears. The film, as well as going for a horror theme, also attempts to give us some lighthearted, John Hughes-type scenes of bonding and camaraderie but these particular scenes come across as forced and ineffective, even though the intentions behind them are honourable.

The film has a relatively small cast and they all perform their roles well, with no bad performances to be found (apart from Adam Beach, who comes across as wooden and emotionless); in something of a leading role, Blu Hunt is decent as she shows plenty of the genuine uncertainty and fear, and then later bravery and courage, that’s required of her character and alongside her, both Maisie Williams and Charlie Heaton do well as the “good guys” of the group, managing to be appropriately likeable and supportive, while Henry Zaga is believably cocky, though secretly insecure, as Roberto, but above all others, Anya Taylor-Joy shines brightest as the MVP of the piece; as the unpredictable and dangerous Illyana, she effectively exudes confidence, power and sex appeal while also convincing us of her character’s insecurities and fear, clearly battling demons from her childhood and being one of those characters whose tough exterior hides an all too apparent vulnerability within. Taylor-Joy accomplishes all of this with an admirable and natural acting talent and her character, and her performance, is the film’s strongest asset.

On a technical level, it’s all okay but the whole thing looks a little too drab – with grey apparently being the primary colour and the one that you’ll remember after the credits have rolled – and many of the special effects are alright but a few also look a little ropey.

And there’s no post-credits scene.

Well I just can’t wait to see what these new characters will get up to in future films and . . . oh.

Not terrible, yet also nothing special, The New Mutants has a decent story and setting, as well as a standout performance from Anya Taylor-Joy, but it doesn’t bring anything new to the franchise and will be forgotten about before too long.

★ ★ ★

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