2 out of 5 stars
For all of those who come from large families, it is not hard to think of times when you felt like you were forgotten. Nothing as serious as Kevin's ordeal in Home Alone, but most children can share moments when they felt like no one knew that they were there. This must be the feeling that director Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars) and cast of The New Mutants have experienced during the Disney/ Fox merger. Their production remained in development and editing purgatory for over two years before finally getting a quiet world-wide release.
Avid fans of the X-men will be familiar with this band of teens who are institutionalised as they try to discover and control their mutant abilities. Children who are isolated from society because of their abilities. A theme that is introduced throughout the two decades of this franchise with the most notable acknowledgement during Logan. Dr. Cecilia Reyes (Alice Braga) runs this institute under the watchful gaze of the Essex Corporation. A facility that serves as a rehabilitation centre and prison for all of its residents. Think of it as taking the concept of delinquent management to a new level by combining The Breakfast Club and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. An atmosphere that attempts to help the teens to be aware of their gifts while forcing them to come of age. This proving ground meant to either introduce them to the X-men or potentially something even more sinister.
There are only five patients in this facility for the supernatural. Beginning with Dani Moonstar (Blu Hunt), a young Cheyenne Native American who managed to escape the destruction of her reservation home. It is her survival that makes her a target for Essex which leads to her inclusion in this unique support group. She is joined at the medical centre by Sam Guthrie (Charlie Heaton), Illyana Rasputin (Anya Taylor-Joy), Bobby da Costa (Henry Zaga) and Rahne Sinclair (Maisie Williams). Each of these young people have their individual secrets, powers and struggles which each has to learn how to harness or release. While going through this therapy, the teens must learn to trust one another and determine if Doctor Reyes is meant to help, hurt or merely study them. As they learn to manage their abilities, the five of them try to work through their hormonal tensions as they explore their sexuality and identity. This all comes to a head when Dani begins to discover her mutant skills. A revelation that impacts the group, forcing them to fight their biggest battle. Besides trying to escape the facility, they must fight and learn how to confront their inner demons.
Rarely do films survive the production issues that this project has endured over the past few years. It is a miracle that The New Mutants was even given a theatrical release, but Fox Studios has finally released this movie on the general populace. Like the characters of the film who are trying to determine their own identity, Booth’s film seems to be confused with its own self-awareness. A screenplay that seems to be stuck somewhere between horror, superhero, coming-of-age and teen drama. It is this identity crisis that never seems to find any clear resolution and causes more confusion than entertainment.
Every component of the story manages to sample from other films and lacks any true ingenuity in the realm of superhero films or teen dramas. There is a dash of every John Hughes film partnered with an element of Glass, an underpinning of the X-men’s Logan with the leftover villains from Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children thrown in for good measure. Even though it was meant to be Marvel’s take on the horror genre, there is little suspense or gore to make it a candidate within the cinematic classification. If there was an element that could differentiate this film as groundbreaking, it could be the lesbian affair between Dani and Rahne. Yet, this teenaged sexual awakening moment was already introduced into the Marvel world in Deadpool 2. Between the editing and production struggles this project seems to have gone through, the main issue is originality.
The New Mutants fails to live up to its name. There is very little that is considered new to celebrate in this story. All you can do is feel bad for the team who have been working for the last few years to bring this film to theatres. Making it the latest victim of the COVID pandemic and the Disney/Fox merger.
Reel Dialogue: Is there anything wrong with being different?
An attribute of the X-men franchise has always been to embrace those who are different in society. Is being ‘weird’ or a mutant meant to be celebrated? Based on many of the letters in the New Testament of the Bible, being distinctive in nature or character from others is orchestrated by God. Not only should it be celebrated, but it can help people within society to work together more effectively. Within the community of God or it could be said, the body of Christ, we are challenged to know our peculiarities and how these skills work in the bigger picture of society.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them - Romans 12:6