With the immense success of “The Fault in Our Stars” in 2014, writer/director Josh Boone began ascending the ladder in Hollywood and set his sights on making a film that combined his success in teen drama with the superhero genre. With help from writer Knate Lee, Boone created a script for a film adaptation of the popular comic book series “The New Mutants.”
Once word of the project got out in 2016, fans of the comic book series (which began in the 1980s) and Marvel nerds the world over rejoiced. With Boone’s knack for writing and directing teen drama, combined with the drama in a world of teenage mutants in the comic book series “The New Mutants,” it seemed all but certain that this project would result in a fantastic film.
The film was set to release in 2018 but was delayed by 20th Century Fox Studios, upsetting many fans. The film’s release date was moved up all the way to August of 2020 following Disney’s buyout of 20th Century Fox.
Why, one might wisely ask, would Disney choose to release a film–one that has received an immense amount of hype for nearly four years–during a pandemic when theaters cannot hold large audiences? Why would Disney choose to spend next to nothing on marketing for the film?
The unfortunate answer is that “The New Mutants” is a disappointment of a film whose conflicting genres and themes make it more awkward than awesome.
Blu Hunt stars as Danielle Moonstar, a young mutant who is uprooted from her home when unknown forces attack her on a Native American reservation. Moonstar is taken to a mysterious compound run by Dr. Reyes (Alice Braga).
Dr. Reyes appears to be equally a therapist and a prison warden as she attempts to guide Moonstar, Rahne Sinclair (Maisie Williams), Illyana Rasputin (Anya Taylor-Joy), Sam Guthrie (Charlie Heaton) and Roberto de Costa (Henry Zaga) to an acceptance of their dangerous mutant abilities and a greater ability to control them.
All of Dr. Reyes’ patients suffer from some form of immense trauma related to their powers, except Moonstar. She has no idea what her abilities are. However, as strange events occur in the compound and secrets are revealed, Moonstar begins to learn more about herself and her powers.
“The New Mutants,” though misguided and confused, does possess several laudable elements that make it worth watching for diehard fans of the comic series.
Much of the on-screen talent seems right at home in their roles, with Taylor-Joy (of “The Witch” fame) and Heaton (of “Stranger Things” fame) giving fantastic performances that strengthen the film immensely. These secondary characters are the strongest that the film’s script has to offer, and Heaton and Taylor-Joy embrace their roles, anchoring the film in a few moments of genuine emotion.
The location and set design for the film are also among its greatest aspects. Attempting to create a superhero film that takes place in essentially one location, and a creepy and effective location at that, is a novel addition to the genre; it generally worked in the film’s favor. Often we see superhero films occurring throughout the world and beyond, but this film placed superheroes in one spot, ideally forcing the audience to consider the characters non-superficially.
Though this idea was praiseworthy, its merits did not outweigh the film’s generic writing and an awkward blend of genres.
“The New Mutants” simultaneously attempts to be a horror film, a contained thriller, a superhero movie, a character piece, a teen romance and a mystery film. Creating a great film that is an amalgam of all of these genres is possible, but “The New Mutants” fails to properly synthesize them and instead feels like a film that doesn’t know what it wants to be.
To put it simply, the film over-extended its reach in trying to be so many things all at once, and it failed to be any of them. What remains is an awkward collage of themes and genres that are difficult to enjoy or invest in.
Though the film’s cinematography, direction, editing, score and overall acting are perfectly serviceable, the film’s lack of identity renders it a disappointing conclusion to years of anticipation and hope.