Wikipedia Description: “The New Mutants is a 2020 American horror film in the superhero genre, based on the Marvel Comics team of the same name and distributed by 20th Century Studios.

It is the thirteenth and final installment in the X-Men film series. In the film, a group of young mutants held in a secret facility fight to save themselves.”

Why I took it off the list

Because, after like 3 years of delays, I finally could! The New Mutants is a ‘One That Got Away‘ if ever there was one because it got away from everybody for so long.

Originally filmed in 2017 and set to be released a year later, it just kept getting bumped back because of Disney’s takeover of 20th Century Fox, who were originally set to release it.

I’ve had it on my list pretty much since it was first announced and didn’t even have a poster on IMDB, as the promise of a horror-infused superhero film set in a claustrophobic hospital sounded fantastic to me.

I continued to follow it through its- as it turned out- tumultuous path to finally being released in cinemas in late September, and saw it as soon as I could.

Expectations

I had lowered them quite a lot after the masses of release delays, to be honest.

Conflicting rumors of reshoots to either bump up the horror content or Disney-fy it (which apparently never happened) abounded and it seemed like The New Mutants may end up being a victim of the Fox-Disney merger that would never see the light of day.

Luckily, it finally did, and I was still curious to see how The New Mutants turned out despite the less-than-glowing reviews it got when it finally came out.

Nonetheless, the story of a bunch of superpowered outcasts trying to fight their way out of a sinister facility still continued to intrigue me, so I went into it with reasonable, if lowered expectations.

Spoilers? Mild spoilers for those who don’t want to know anything about the film, so BEWARE!

Review of The New Mutants

With the announcement of the plot and the cast (and who they would be playing) of The New Mutants, it seemed the promise of a refreshingly out-of-the-box superhero flick was assured.

An adaptation of the X-Men spinoff comic, it would pit 5 young insecure mutants with developing superpowers against an oppressive facility with seemingly sinister supernatural properties, and draw heavily in influence from both classic horror movies like Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) and teen flicks like The Breakfast Club (1985)

The fact that The New Mutants even halfway lives up to that promise is largely down to the young cast of vividly drawn characters, particularly the trio of girls in the eponymous mutant group.

Most attention-grabbing is Anya Taylor Joy as Illanya Rasputin (awesome name!), a Russian teenager whose surly attitude and frequent sarcastic putdowns clearly come from some deep seated-trauma, which Taylor-Joy makes clear through an expert balance of vulnerability and bluster.

The biggest surprise for me was Maisie Williams’s performance as Rahne Sinclair, a Scottish mutant who had the misfortune of being born into a small community overseen by a religious zealot, and who at firsts presents as a mousy, good-hearted soul determined to cure her ‘affliction’.

As a Scotsman, I can confidently say that her accent was actually pretty good, and I totally believed her as an emotionally damaged soul who gradually begins to come out of her shell. That’s largely thanks to her budding romance with Danielle Moonstar, a new arrival in the facility who’s just suffered a traumatic incident that may be linked to her mysterious mutant abilities.

Blu Hunt also strikes a sympathetic note as Dani, although she could be given more to do later in the film. And, even though the X-Men films have always come across as a bit of a metaphor (however subtle) for minorities finding their place in a wider world, it’s also pretty fantastic that her and Rahne’s romance gets as much care and tender treatment as it does in this kind of film.

Fantastically Atmospheric Setting

The biggest part of what makes The New Mutants stand out from the glut of superhero epics churned out in the past few years is its impressively contained setting, and Boone and his production designers and editors should be commended for creating a claustrophobic and ominous vibe (at least for the first 2 thirds) within the oppressive facility.

Much of the credit for this has to go to the location where they shot much of the film, the effortlessly sinister Medfield State Hospital, in Massachusetts, a real-life former asylum where Scorsese also shot his fantastic Shutter Island (2010).

Feels like Something is Missing

The first point in the film where I felt The New Mutants might not live up to my expectations was during the scene pictured above, in which Rahne sees a vision of something scary from her past while in the shower, which had a surprisingly tame payoff, the implications of which were never really explored later in the film in a satisfying way.

As the film progressed, I started to feel this way after all of the nightmare visions each of The New Mutants had: every member of the group pretty much has one apiece, and instead of greatly filling in their backstory, they, in most cases merely provide a glimmer and end up raising more questions than they answer.

Some of those answers come later in the film through dialogue, but this really feels like a case where the filmmakers should have remembered the show-and-not-tell rule a little bit more.

By providing so little of these moments they also deprive the audience of much of the horror that was promised by the initial premise and trailers for The New Mutants. There are a couple of freaky moments, most notably involving unnerving Slender Man clones with terrifying elasticity, but on the whole, the horror elements feel underwhelming.

The big ‘twist’ of the film will also come as little surprise to anyone who is even remotely familiar with this particular group of mutants, and it also comes surprisingly quickly, leading to a final act that, while impressive in a bombastic way, disappointingly sidelines some of the characters in favor of CGI spectacle.

Though Is Ultimately Quite Satisfying

Saying all of that, I did really enjoy The New Mutants overall. The arcs of the oppressed youngsters trying to come to terms with themselves and then overcoming their fears is satisfying, even if it is thinly sketched for most of them.

The scenes where the group as a whole share screen time and debate their similarities and differences in a superpowered Breakfast Club-like scenario are fun and satisfying, especially a scene where they bond over taking shots on an old lie detector test in an abandoned attic room.

And (Spoiler!!) I can say that the sight of Anya Taylor-Joy fighting a massive demonic bear inside a psychedelic limbo world alongside her pet baby dragon was quite a sight, and it’s probably worth watching The New Mutants just for that spectacle alone.

Final Score: 6/10

Worth Checking Out?

Yes, despite its rather lacking execution in some parts, there’s still a lot to love in The New Mutants, especially the cast and some of the claustrophobic setpieces.

Still, I had wanted a little bit more from it, and can only hope that a Director’s Cut with scenes adding more insight to the characters (and a little bit more horror) will someday, somehow, see the light of day.

The New Mutants (2020)

Directed by: Josh Boone

Written by: Josh Boone, Knate Lee

Cast: Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Blu Hunt, Charlie Heaton

Check out my next review for the verdict on, a recently released horror film in the run-up to Halloween.

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