The New Mutants (2020)
With the second set of X-Men movies winding down 20th Century Fox started looking at adapting other properties from the same universe. Unlike the original series which was grounded in an alternate reality in which Mutants were often treated with fear and as second-class citizens, The New Mutants series allowed more supernatural and alien invasion storylines. Thus, Josh Boone intended this to be his first movie in the new trilogy, simply titled The New Mutants, to embrace horror and supernatural elements as well as present a number of popular characters from the comic books.
The problem with this became two-fold. One was Disney's acquisition of 20th Century Fox and their desire to kill the X-Men franchise ahead of possible integration into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thus, until Deadpool 3 was officially confirmed for release, that meant that The New Mutants was going to be the last gasp. No new trilogy, no overarching story, just one and done, and scheduled to come out just as the summer blockbuster season ramped up in April 2018. Second, test screenings showed that, as a horror film, it was not scary enough, so reshoots were scheduled. After two years, a pandemic and additional delays on releasing the film, all references to other X-Men movies were removed, major characters were cut and the movie itself had a quarter of its footage removed. It was unceremoniously dumped into theaters in August 2020.
Dani Moonstar (Blu Hunt) is a resident on a Cheyenne reservation who wakes up in a strange, isolated facility after her home is destroyed by a tornado and her father killed. The facility is run by Dr. Reyes (Alice Braga), although she gives no clue who her superiors are. Dani's fellow inmates are fellow Mutants Rahne (Maisie Williams), Illyana (Anya Taylor-Joy), Sam (Charlie Heaton) and Roberto (Henrique Zaga). All of them it turns out had uncomfortable awakenings to their powers, and Dani has yet to find out what hers is.
As she settles in and starts becoming close to Rahne, Dani begins to become suspicious of why they are there. Meanwhile, all the other mutants begin seeing visions, often of their greatest fears, and those visions quickly turn out to be quite dangerous. Reyes is concerned that Dani might be at the center of them.
The New Mutants is thankfully short. The reshoots that were supposed to amp up the scares never happened, and obviously the effects were left half-finished as well. They are the worst in the series or spinoffs since X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Other than a relationship between Dani and Rahne not much is developed about any of the other Mutants, and the chemistry between most of the cast is absent. Anya Taylor-Joy is made to speak in a horrible Russian accent that it took me time to realize was Russian, when at first I thought it was a bad attempt at Brooklyn. I was afraid Maisie Williams was going to be forced into using an American accent, but instead she makes a valiant attempt at Scottish.
The movie itself plays like a big-budget television movie rather than a moderately budgeted feature film. It especially feels like something produced for the CW but then shunted over to SyFy. It is also obvious that much of what was cut out was not just extraneous references to other X-Men, but a good deal of development of the characters and explanation of why they were being kept where they were. Still, from what does survive, I can't really say the longer version would have been any good, with or without reshoots. It seems like Josh Boone, who directed and co-wrote the film with Knate Lee, really had no idea what his audience should be. By purposely trying to appeal to young adult audiences it seems like he alienated a good deal of the X-Men fans, as even though this was less than half the budget of some of the other movies in the series it failed to even make that back.
X-Men pretty much kicked off the modern superhero franchises and, along with Blade, helped establish a Marvel universe before one had even been considered. Between Dark Phoenix and The New Mutants it died an ignoble death, and it still confuses me that Disney didn't do what Warner Bros. recently did with Batgirl and just cancel the whole thing no matter how far they were into making the movies. It may not have been great, but X-Men: Apocalypse brought the second trilogy to a close, and it was no secret what Disney planned to do once it got its hands on Fox. Even without all the problems The New Mutants offers nothing new to the story, and just makes Disney's neglect look justified.
The New Mutants (2020)
Time: 94 minutes
Starring: Blu Hunt, Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Henrique Zaga, Alice Braga
Director: Josh Boone
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