VOD film review: The New Mutants
James R | On 09, Jan 2021
Director: Josh Boone
Cast: Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton
The New Mutants has been one of the most talked-about superhero movies of recent years, with a slew of rewrites and release delays leading to it only finally arriving on cinema screens last year. That curious reputation is fuelled by the movie’s unusually dark tone, which leans more towards a horror movie than a comic book blockbuster.
Our way into this darkness is Danielle Moonstar (Blu Hunt), a young woman whose reservation is destroyed, leaving her the only survivor. When she wakes up, she’s in a remote underground facility where Dr Reyes (Alice Braga) is convinced that Danielle has some kind of mutant powers. The facility is home to a number of other young mutants, including the wolfish Rahne (Maisie Williams), all-too-tangible Roberto (Henry Zaga), sword-wielding Illyana (Anya Taylor-Joy) and cannonball-impersonator Sam (Charlie Heaton).
Each one has their own fear, angst and trauma, and Josh Boone’s decision to delve into that recalls Josh Trank’s misunderstood Fantastic 4. But like that equally unusual entry into superhero cinema, this doesn’t know what to do with its own concept – where Trank’s uneven blockbuster had an origins template to keep it mostly on track, The New Mutants falls back on horror cliches. Unfortunately, those cliches aren’t particularly scary, and – whether due to cuts to trim the runtime to a brisk 94 minutes or an underwritten script – there’s no depth to these characters to keep us engaged. Maisie Williams is buried under her character’s thick Scottish accent, while Anya Taylor-Joy’s Russian fighter feels so superficial that unaddressed racist insults are as close to nuance as her character gets.
There are some interesting flourishes involving Illyana’s sword and a rather large bear, but it all ends up somewhere between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and M Night Shyamalan’s Glass – but with none of either film’s logic or coherent mythology. A relationship between Danielle and Rahne is a commendable step forward for the superhero genre on screen, but the rest feels like a missed jump into something about which even the people making it couldn’t make their minds up. For a curio that was so talked-about, it’s a somewhat heroic feat that the end result should be so forgettable.