After an extremely bumpy origin story, appears with THE NEW MUTANTS The long-awaited “X-Men” spin-off is still in USA cinemas, but its bad omens are not completely confirmed. We reveal more about this in our review.
OT: X-Men: New Mutants (USA 2020)
Rahne Sinclair (Maisie Williams), Illyana Rasputin (Anya Taylor-Joy), Sam Guthrie (Charlie Heaton) and Roberto da Costa (Henry Zaga) are four young mutants held in an isolated hospital for psychiatric monitoring. Dr. Cecilia Reyes (Alice Braga) believes that the teenagers are a danger to themselves and society. That’s why she always keeps a close eye on them while she tries to teach them to better control their mutant powers. When another mutant, Danielle “Dani” Moonstar (Blu Hunt), is brought in, mysterious appearances occur. Suddenly the hospital’s patients begin to suffer from strange hallucinations and flashbacks. The situation spirals further out of control until the New Mutants are forced to overcome their mutual distrust. Only together and with concentrated superpowers do they have a chance of survival…
Calling the origin story of “The New Mutants” difficult doesn’t even begin to describe it given the constant back and forth that the makers faced during the production phase. From the beginning, the project to direct an “X-Men” spin-off in the horror genre was not a good star. Not only did the funding studio 20th Century Fox (now 20th Century Studios), under whose supervision the rather brutal “Wolverine” conclusion “Logan” was created, not really know what to do with this idea after switching to the Disney company. After all, the Marvel films from the Mouse House are all much more family-friendly. In addition, there were reshoots beforehand, later the escape from “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” and, last but not least, the Corona crisis, so that the six (!) start date postponements of “The New Mutants” eventually became a running joke in the film-loving Internet community developed. However, this is finally running out of steam, because the film really exists. And contrary to the bad omens, it is not only surprisingly solid, but also reveals its weaknesses in completely different places than one would expect with such a bumpy creation.
Illyana Rasputin (Anya Taylor-Joy) has been locked up in the clinic for a long time.
In view of this production rollercoaster ride, it is almost a miracle that one of the main points of criticism that would be expected does not apply at all in the case of “The New Mutants”: the film surprisingly feels like it is all of a piece. There is no trace of any subsequent adjustments to adjust the rating – PG13 instead of R rating – or reshoots. Still, you get the feeling, director Josh Boone (“Destiny is a lousy traitor”) Beforehand, he wasn’t quite sure whether he should go all out or stick with a more youth-oriented horror. This is how it happens that the camera (Peter Deming, “The Cabin in the Woods”) sometimes fades away from violent scenes and shows very little blood overall (which is admittedly also due to the fact that hardly any has to be spilled), but then focuses on it again, for example on the hideous faces of the demons, which are reminiscent of the monsters from “Pan’s Labyrinth”. In contrast to most FSK-12 blockbusters, it never seems as if the makers simply didn’t dare to present more violence, but simply adapted to the content so as not to show more of it than necessary. In other words: You don’t feast on blood and brutality, but use it when it’s necessary. And in view of the story, which is told in a very reduced manner, in which the focus is never on the horror inserts, but rather on the scenario itself, this approach works unexpectedly well.
“In view of the production rollercoaster ride, it is almost a miracle that one of the main points of criticism that would be expected in the case of “The New Mutants” does not apply at all: the film surprisingly feels like it was all of a piece.”
Unlike the majority of current superhero films, “The New Mutants” is not an effects spectacle for a long time, but rather something like an unofficial successor to M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass”. It’s also about superheroes who are trapped in a psychiatric institution so that the outside world doesn’t know about their otherworldly powers. There is a lot of talking, both from the protagonists and from Dr. Cecilia Reyes raised many questions, the answers to which gradually put together the puzzle that is called film reality. The screenwriting team of Josh Boone and Knate Lee explores who can do what and why (“The Stand: The Last Stand”) but only superficially. Although it provides enough information to stir up interest in a possible sequel (the “New Mutants” saga was originally designed as a trilogy), in the case of the figure drawing it is not enough. While it’s fun to gradually discover the powers of each superhero, Boone holds back so much on his characters’ backgrounds that it’s hard to root for them instead of just being curious to see what other mutant tricks the gang is up to has in her quiver. So if there is actually a sequel, the script definitely needs more meat, which Anya Taylor-Joy is working on (“Split”)Charlie Heaton (“Shut in”)Maisie Williams (“Game of Thrones”) etc. can be processed. The young actors make every effort to believably despair of their powers, but with no background at all, their characters can quickly be reduced to stereotypes and whimsy. For example, when Anya Taylor-Joy’s Illyana communicates with a hand puppet or a cliched bitchfight ensues between her and newcomer Danielle, which has long been seen more convincingly in every high school film.
Rahne (Maisie Williams), Sam (Charlie Heaton) and Roberto (Henry Zaga) try to help Danielle (Blu Hunt).
As good as “The New Mutants” is for Josh Boone to rely for a long time on the calm, menacing interaction of the characters and the threatening, impenetrable institution setting, it hurts the film that the director and his team give in towards the end. They sacrifice the ominous atmosphere for the hysterical effect spectacle – and that doesn’t even look particularly good. The visions of their deepest fears that occasionally haunt the main characters, manifested in crude horror figures, look much better by then; and they also sound better. In the original version, the “Smiling Face” monster was lent his voice by none other than shock rocker Marilyn Manson. The huge commotion in which the mutants have to flee into different fantasy worlds, burst into flames or hunt down oversized CGI creatures may somewhere meet the expectations of a modern superhero film. But “The New Mutants” also loses out on the fact that it stands out from this monotony of blockbusters – by not presenting itself as one, which it does in the first hour, which is very successful in terms of production. It is rarely possible to determine more precisely which adjustments the makers should have made in order to deliver a significantly better film overall.
“In the finale, the makers sacrifice the ominous atmosphere for the hysterical effect spectacle – and that doesn’t even look particularly good.”
Whether “The New Mutants” will receive a sequel is currently unclear. Of course, this depends primarily on how the film performs at the box office. And even by Corona standards, things look bleak on this front. However, if the story of the new generation of mutants were not continued, this would once again diminish the impression of “The New Mutants”. The film is so clearly designed to be the start of a series that the open ending simply doesn’t satisfy. And since the connections to the “X-Men” universe play no role whatsoever – in USA the Marvel mutants were even removed from the title – it is difficult to classify the film into the previous X-Men universe. Time will tell how significant this weak point is.
Conclusion: As difficult as the production history of “The New Mutants” is, the result is surprisingly solid. However, the superhero film, which is pleasantly creepy for a young adult audience, could be much better if the makers hadn’t relied on an overly generic and more bad-looking spectacle finale.
“The New Mutants” can be seen in USA cinemas nationwide from September 10th.