Marvel’s “The New Mutants” was intended to be released just before movie theaters shut down in an attempt to stop the spread of coronavirus. Marketed as a darker, more mature spin-off of Marvel’s “X-Men” series, the “New Mutants” was highly anticipated. With a crew of well-regarded Hollywood actors and young adult film director Josh Boone (“Stuck in Love,” “The Fault in our Stars”), the film’s lackluster final cut is more than a little disappointing. More than a little clumsy, the film’s immature attempts at character and plot development give it the energy of a movie meant to be released directly to television, rather than in a movie theater.
The only living member of her tribe after a tornado destroyed the reservation she and her father lived on, Danielle Moonstar (Blu Hunt) finds herself trapped in a hospital for mutants. Under the supervision of mysterious Dr. Cecilia Reyes, Danielle becomes acquainted with the four other patients — Scottish shape-shifter Rahne Sinclair (Maisie Williams), former miner Sam Guthrie (Charlie Heaton), tortured rich kid Roberto da Costa (Henry Zaga), and Russian mean girl Illyana Rasputin (Anya Taylor-Joy). Watched every waking — and sleeping — moment, the group discovers that the facility holds a few secrets of its own as they learn more about their own powers. Fighting to escape, the five teenagers will first have to band together and come to terms with their own pasts before they can finally be free.
Bringing horror and mystery into the notoriously formulaic superhero genre serves “The New Mutants” well, giving it an appropriate thrill and adrenaline that served the internal and external turmoil well. However, the lethargic script and lack of attention to detail made the job of the cast much more difficult, speeding through the character development, causing the emotional moments to fall flat and make caricatures of many of the characters. Nonetheless, the dark, mysterious energy of the film is not dead on arrival: The building, visceral terror that comes with Danielle’s discoveries of the true nature of the facility they are all held at works well with the coming-of-age angst that surrounds the characters. While it has some very strong moments and an even stronger cast, the clumsy beginning and been-there, done-that ending dilutes much of the charm the film had tried so hard to forge.
Small-scale and unique, “The New Mutants” has more than a few moments of brilliance. A fantastic cast that seems, at times, to be in battle against the generally sophomoric script, the characters appear initially bright though, as the film progresses, often become frustratingly underdeveloped. Throughout its many strengths and weaknesses, “The New Mutants” is disappointing not only in what it is now, but what it so easily could have been. With only a few minor tweaks in direction, script, and costume, the movie would have been made all the better.
Rose Dunton of Nampa is a former Idaho State University student. Proficient in Japanese, she is an avid film buff.