I honestly felt like this would amount to a lot less.
The New Mutants was conceived about six years ago by Josh Boone and Knate Lee, hot off their work on The Fault in Our Stars, and it took all this damned time to make it to the screen. Originally envisioned as a horror movie, the reality was that a studio would never let a comic book based film become something based in another genre and they knew it. The film went through ass-loads of studio meddling and was scheduled for reshoots, but the final version features what is supposed to be the director’s original vision. Turns out it’s absolutely fine, despite being nothing special.
Dani Moonstar (Blu Hunt) is sent to an institution after the death of her entire Cheyenne reservation at the hands of unknown forces. She meets superpowered individuals Rahne Sinclair (Maisie Williams), Illyana Rasputin (Anya Taylor-Joy), Sam Guthrie (Charlie Heaton), and Bobby da Costa (Henry Zaga). They’re under the thumb of Dr. Cecilia Reyes (Alice Braga), a woman of sinister intent. While friendships and relationships bloom, Reyes receives orders to eliminate one of the super-people that cannot escape the institution due to the force field around the perimeter. It gets wild from here.
The horror aspects of the film are wildly toned down, obviously so against the action of the final setpiece. Don’t get me wrong, there are frightening moments in between the larger setpieces. It’s just that these don’t have any weight behind them, ugly for the sake of ugly and full of such openly composited graphics that your MacBook Pro is going to have an orgasm. It just looks quite unfortunate, despite the idea behind it being truly interesting.
And some of these characters are definitely interesting! By “some” I mean Anya Taylor-Joy’s Illyana Rasputin and Maisie Williams’s Rahne Sinclair. That’s it, those are the interesting characters. Thank goodness one of them is chewing the absolute hell out of the scenery.. Taylor-Joy is chopping off slices of ham worthy of a diner-style breakfast, her false Russian accent dripping with cheese and her performance everything from disturbingly horny to honestly damaged. Williams, on the other hand, is just being a teenager. That’s it, that’s all she’s bringing to the table. Have you ever wondered how difficult it is to be a LGTBQ+ teen? Welp, you’re not going to get the confusion or frustration here and that’s fairly welcome. Often these non-CIS romances are portrayed as frought, hidden, dangerous, and sexy in their secrecy. Nothing like that with Rahne, who wears her heart on her sleeve and doesn’t understand that previous generations would have expected her to feel closeted shame. I honestly enjoyed the character and I’m unhappy that we won’t be getting more of this series.
The film isn’t bad. Critical reception and Rotten Tomatoes scores look bad, but that’s mostly due to the three-year wait and the middling film we got as a result. What works, though, is a believable amount of hormonal, teenaged interaction and the utter sincerity of youth. I didn’t hate it, I didn’t love it. I just had a halfway decent time and I’m not pissed about having seen it. I’m especially not unhappy that I was lucky enough to see it in an empty movie theatre surrounded by a big ol’ bag of NONE OF YOU.
Stay safe out there.