The New Mutants

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

The New Mutants
dir Josh Boone
scr Josh Boone, Knate Lee
prd Simon Kinberg, Lauren Shuler Donner, Karen Rosenfelt
with Blu Hunt, Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Alice Braga, Charlie Heaton, Henry Zaga, Adam Beach, Thomas Kee, Colbi Gannett, Happy Anderson, Dustin Ceithamer, Marilyn Manson
release US 28.Aug.20,
UK 29.Aug.20
20/US Marvel 1h38

hunt williams braga
See also:
Apocalypse (2016) Dark Phoenix (2019)

Is it streaming?

heaton, taylor-joy, zaga, hunt and williams
There's a clever idea here, combining teen-angst drama with horror on the fringe of the X-Men universe. But the film is relentlessly superficial, never dipping beneath the surface of its pungent issues, which leaves the characters feeling like underdeveloped types rather than living, breathing young people. But the cast is strong enough to hold the interest, and there are some sharp surprises along the way.
After her Native American community is destroyed, lone survivor Dani (Hunt) wakes up in a hospital that feels more like a prison. Dr Reyes (Braga) believes Dani has a mutation that gives her special abilities she hasn't identified yet. And the other four teens here are also in a sort of limbo: friendly Rahne (Williams), mean girl Illyana (Taylor-Joy), awkward Sam (Heaton) and arrogant hunk Roberto (Zaga). As each deals with his or her dark personal nightmares, Reyes begins to suspect that Dani is inflicting dangerous delusions on the other kids.
Filmmaker Boone builds an unsettling, mopey tone that echoes the youthful inner turmoil. It's intriguing that the superpowers are initially so elusive, even though it's flatly obvious that, for example, Rahne can transform into a wolf. The boys are dealing with something fiery. And Illyana's gift is more complex, hinting that a movie about her might be more exciting than this one. Instead, we get surly glares during group therapy, posturing for status and agonising about past events. There are also some solid scares.

Each actor provides a spark of energy. At the centre, Hunt is likeable and a bit bland, but has a such strong inner resolve that the script's contrivance to make her dither in the effects-heavy finale feels strangely false. Williams is wide-eyed and open-handed as Rahne, in contrast to Taylor-Joy's conniving Illyana, but both skilfully reveal cracks in their characters' facades. The engaging Heaton and Zaga make the most of very little material, while Braga is effectively creepy as the one-note doctor.

The main theme is pronounced unnecessarily by Reyes: "Did you know baby rattle snakes are more dangerous that adult ones?" Her shady corporation never comes into focus, a door perhaps left open for a potential sequel (although the film's troubled release amid Disney's dismantling of Fox pretty much rules that out). The problem is that nothing about this film ever resolves itself, as story arcs and relationships remain under-defined and characters never become people for whom we can feel sympathy. But it's still a cool idea.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 29.Aug.20

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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall