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The New Mutants (2020)

Josh Reviews The New Mutants

The New Mutants film, directed by Josh Boone and written by Mr. Boone and Knate Lee, was originally filmed back in 2017.  It was meant to be a spin-off of Fox’s X-Men film series, telling the story of a group of teenagers trapped in a hospital for young mutants whose powers are out of control.  But the film’s release date was rescheduled multiple times, and there were lots of rumors in the press about plans for reshoots to adjust the direction and tone of the film.  (To the best of my understanding, those reshoots never happened.)  Then the X-Men series flamed out (with the very bad Dark Phoenix film).  Then Disney bought Fox.  Then the pandemic happened.  The film was finally released to theaters last summer, at the end of August, 2020.  I certainly wasn’t going to a movie theater during a pandemic, but a few months back I caught up with the film on streaming.

I wish I could report that this was a misunderstood film whose release was bungled, but I’m afraid I found it as mediocre as I’d expected it to be.  At the same time, the film isn’t the catastrophe one might have expected for a major studio movie that was buried for several years.  Josh Boone & co. clearly had a very specific vision for this film: to take these superhero characters and put them into a horror movie setting.  While the X-Men movies tended to be large-scale big-budget spectacles, The New Mutants was designed to be a very small-scale story, with a small cast in a confined setting, set very much in a real-world environment (with no super-hero costumes to be found).  I can understand the appeal of those ideas.  And it’s not impossible that this could have worked.

But as executed, I found The New Mutants to be underwhelming.  It’s disappointing to see these great comic book characters brought to the screen in this small-scale, low-budget way.  I might have been happy with this interpretation twenty years ago.  But now, after twenty-plus amazing MCU movies, it bums me out to see great super-hero characters depicted in this manner.  It feels as if the filmmakers didn’t have faith in the original characters and concepts, and so they felt they had to strip away all the super-hero, comic-book trappings.  That’s a disappointment.

But it still could have worked, if the character dramas were compelling and interesting.  Unfortunately, while I loved the cast (more on this in a moment), I didn’t find too much to grab hold of in the film.  The characters felt thinly sketched to me.  I didn’t lock into any of their stories or arcs nearly as deeply as I’d hoped.… [continued]