THE NEW MUTANTS (3.5out of 5) Directed by Josh Boone; Screenplay by Josh Boone and Knate Lee; Starring Blu Hunt, Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Henry Zaga, and Alice Braga; Rated PG-13 for violent content, some disturbing/bloody images, some strong language, thematic elements and suggestive material; Running time 98 minutes; In wide release August 28, 2020.
It’s 2017. The New Mutants wraps up filming and fans eagerly anticipate what is described as the first X-Men horror movie. Its release date is set for April 13, 2018.
2018 rolls around, Deadpool 2 sets a release date of May 18, 2018, and Fox decides to delay the release of The New Mutants to February 22, 2019, as they do not want the two properties to overlap while in theaters.
Only a few months later, The New Mutants release is delayed once more to August 2, 2019, in order to let Dark Phoenix shine (narrator: it did not shine).
March 2019 arrives, another wrench is thrown into the mix as Disney’s purchase of Fox is finalized and fans are left wondering, “will Disney allow the release of a scary X-Men movie?” Surprisingly, it will! But in April of 2020. We start to think the movie is a figment of our imagination.
The new year has come. It’s early March 2020 and time creeps ever closer to the premiere of a movie that’s been in the works for five years. The film has been screened for the cast, director Josh Boone confirms they are done editing as well as burying the rumors that numerous reshoots were required.
Mid-March 2020. No explanation needed. Theaters close, and The New Mutants release date is postponed indefinitely.
The world shuts down for months. As the world slowly reopens and theaters announce they will be opening their doors with new safety measures in place, The New Mutants gets its final release date: August 28, 2020. I remain skeptical, as I have been very badly burned over the last two years.
Donning my MST3k face mask, I parked in the vastly empty theater parking lot and head inside. Plexiglass panels have been added to every station that requires human interaction, a sad display of Mulan t-shirts, and unsold Trolls World Tour merch sit on the shelves. Popcorn is still deliciously unmatched and soda cups are handed to you as signs hang all around, “NO FREE REFILLS.” Signs around the lobby indicate all the new safety measures the theater is taking–sanitizing between every showing, yadda yadda yadda. Ultimately, we had the row to ourselves and only eight people total were in the theater (two of whom forgot they WEREN’T AT HOME ANYMORE AND STILL TALKED LOUD AS HELL).
I was very curious to see what trailers would play before the movie, what movies would have the cojones to advertise themselves for wide release in this period of unpredictability? Tenet, Black Widow, and Greenland have the cojones, in case you were wondering.
But we’re here to talk about The New Mutants.
Where does this movie take place in the MCU timeline? What universe does this movie even inhabit? These questions are the questions that are ingrained in every MCU fan because we have been gifted this universe that ties every movie together. The New Mutants doesn’t need to define itself in any timeline. Boone has crafted a movie that is timeless, you can watch it whenever and without consideration of the outside universe as a whole. When protagonist Dani Moonstar awakens in a run-down hospital encased in an invisible dome, so are we the audience suddenly dropped into an unknown scenario.
After the devastating destruction of her reservation, sole survivor Dani finds herself handcuffed to a hospital bed, watched by cameras at every turn. She is consoled by Dr. Reyes (Alice Braga) and meets the other patients of this unusual program in a group therapy session.
The patients under Dr. Reyes care are known as new mutants (take a drink every time someone says “new mutants”), mutants whose powers have developed at puberty and, like baby cobras who don’t know how to control their venom, they are a potential danger to themselves and others. Dr. Reyes insists that completion of her program will allow these patients to go on from this facility to her supervisor’s facility, heavily hinted at to be Professor X’s School For Gifted Youngsters.
Three big mysteries loom: What is Dani’s power? Who is Dr. Reyes working for? What is this place?
Dani is not greeted warmly by all her fellow patients, particularly Illyana Rasputin (Anya Taylor-Joy) whose aggressive personality first reveals itself with this PG-13 film’s one allowed F-bomb. Roberto da Costa (Henry Zaga) is handsome and snarky and keeps his power a secret. Coal miner’s son Sam Guthrie (Charlie Heaton) is damaged and powerful, capable of going from 0 to 100 in the bat of an eye. Rahne Sinclair (Maisie Williams) can transform into a wolf, retains her wolfy senses in her human form, and is the most empathetic towards Dani. Illyana’s powers include snarkiness and teleportation, accompanied by her dragon puppet Lockheed. But Dani’s powers remain a mystery, which eventually puts these baby cobras in danger.
As I was expecting a horror-themed X-Men movie, I was pleasantly surprised at how dark The New Mutants managed to remain even with a restrictive PG-13 rating. It’s not hide-under-a-blanket scary, but has moments that’ll have you shake your head saying, “nope nuh-uh count me out.”
In reading other reviews, I feel The New Mutants is unfairly assessed next to its fellow X-movies. Unavoidable in this age of movie tie-ins, audiences and critics are keen to criticize based on how it connects to the MCU as a whole. The New Mutants stands on its own as an X-Men movie and deserves to be reviewed as such. Winks and hints to the greater universe acknowledge its ancestry without forcing lore on uninitiated viewers.
Had this been released in 2018 as intended, it would have been a great catapult for these teen actor’s careers. Williams would have been able to demonstrate her range outside Arya Stark and this would have been another step up in Taylor-Joy’s ascension as the next great actress of her generation. Heaton would have been able to break free from Stranger Things hype and Zaga was hot off of the first season of 13 Reasons Why, ready to move to film instead of television series. However, due to the constant delays, the studio has done these actors a disservice and hid their light under a bushel.
Ultimately, The New Mutants is a great addition to the X-franchise as a bottle episode. Perhaps I’m giving it so much love because I hadn’t been to a movie theater since March and I was just happy to get a fix. Maybe that is something the studio is banking on–theater-starved audiences desperate to see anything. But The New Mutants delivers. It brings action, humor, young love, and comic bookiness all wrapped in a spooky blanket.