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MOVIES: The New Mutants - Review

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The New Mutants is a film that feels like it can’t fully work out what it wants to be. Does it want to be a fully-fledged horror movie set in a creepy hospital? Or does it want to be a much more linear superhero movie that doesn’t take risks with the formula and play everything safe? It switches between the two genres like it belongs in a different era – feeling more at home with the pre-MCU blockbusters of the early 2000s than the genre's current contemporaries (with the possible exception of Venom), but in terms of quality it's more akin to Daredevil than Spider-Man 2. It presents itself as a breath of fresh air but in reality is anything but, and whilst The New Mutants does feature a diverse cast, led by a Native American protagonist Danielle Moonstar, who is the centre of a praise-worthy LGBT relationship as the film's core romance, a lot of goodwill is undone by the fact that The New Mutants seemingly revels in its clich├ęd racist insults hurled at the lead character at every opportunity it gets, making misplaced character choices that feel hamfisted, pretty much shoe-horning everyone into stereotypes where you can tell the characters weren’t given much thought beyond the country of their origin.

Every character across the board – sans one or two exceptions - is bland in The New Mutants, as varied in quality as the actors’ attempts at their accents which are incredibly inconsistent. Charlie Heaton, fresh from Stranger Things, doesn’t quite have the same success that Joe Keery did in Spree (where he almost carries an otherwise underwhelming movie by himself), not helped by the fact that his character is about as a Kentucky stereotype as they come – he left school to go and work in the mines - and wouldn’t look at out of place as a background extra on Justified. Maisie Williams' Scottish accent is infamously bad despite a good performance, and whilst there are some interesting ideas explored with her character in turn, nothing fully comes together.

The plot, sort of like The Breakfast Club meets Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (the best Nightmare on Elm Street sequel) feels like wasted potential. Focusing on a group of mutants locked inside a hospital trying to work out their powers and escape from their evil overseer by learning to overcome their fears and master their powers is a good idea, but every story beat is telegraphed before it happens, there are no surprises and there is little in the way of excitement or unpredictability meaning that the film is often a chore to watch. When we finally get to see Anya Taylor-Joy’s otherwise-good Magik use her powers, it feels so uninspiring that The New Mutants feels more interested in making you pay more attention to Buffy the Vampire Slayer on television in the background (Sarah Michelle Gellar could be listed as a supporting actor it appears so much, often used to signal changes in the film's different acts) than it does developing characters on its own. What’s more is that the dialogue is consistently awful throughout and rarely reaches beyond mediocrity at best, with groan-worthy lines like “’s magic” / “so am I” (not a spoiler, it’s in the trailer), leaning more towards unintentionally hilarious than anything else.

The film could have been so much more interesting and even with its turbulent behind the scenes production it’s a surprise to see The New Mutants at last on the big screen - I was in disbelief that it was actually released even after I bought my ticket to a safe, socially distanced screening. It just doesn’t leave much of an impression especially given the fact that it took this long to come out, wasting the potential that came with the chemistry between the cast where any moments of genuine authenticity don’t feel real at all. Blu Hunt (who like her character is of Native American origin), a CW veteran having appeared in The Originals, is a standout in the lead role making the most of her emotionally-charged storyline, but apart from that Taylor-Joy is the only other notable cast member purely because of how much screen time she’s given and the fact that her powers are a little more different than the others whose all largely feel like a standard copy-and-paste from what has been done before (how many times have we seen a character with powers that might as well just be the Human Torch?), with her unflinching character echoing Villanelle in Killing Eve, but above all, even her character isn’t immune from questionable character-based decisions that the script makes, leaving the end result feeling more like Fox’s X-Men franchise going out with a whimper rather than a bang.

The New Mutants feels as messy as the X-Men cinematic universe does, with frequently poor editing throughout leading to the film feeling increasingly incomprehensible throughout, and the whole thing as a result lacks any kind of depth or emotional value at all, with villains so forgettable they don’t feel threatening in the slightest, and there's a good chance that you'll forget a large portion of The New Mutants by the time you've got home from the cinema if you decide to see it on the big screen. What’s more is that none of the jump-scares or horror elements are handled well and lack the thrills of what it uses for inspiration, meaning that The New Mutants never emerges as anything more than a cheap thrill with nothing to say, therefore robbing the film of any kind of identity or heart and soul, rendering it hopelessly generic and forgettable in what it tries to achieve, with the amount of exposition present in the film's script meaning that it resembles a big-screen network television pilot more than anything else, and not the good kind of television pilot - the kind that would have had its resulting episodes aired out of order and then cancelled midway through its first season on Fox.

Furthermore, to add insult to injury, the lack of care for The New Mutants is shown in its credits, where the name of co-creator Bob McLeod (who started the comic with X-Men mainstay Chris Claremont in the '80s), wasn't even spelled correctly, leaving everything resembling just a pure mess of Frankenstein's monster-type proportions all around both in front of and behind the camera, establishing it as one of the worst entries in the X-Men franchise yet, which given the fact this is the same franchise that counts X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men: Apocalypse and X-Men: Dark Phoenix among its number, is quite an accomplishment.

You can watch the trailer for New Mutants here.

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