The X-Men movies have certainly had their ups and downs over the years, but it looks like they’ll be getting a new start now that they’ll likely be pulled into the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Fox has been bought by Disney. The recent New Mutants is the last movie in the X-Men series to be produced by Fox before the merger. New Mutants focuses on a group of teen mutants trapped in a facility as their powers are studied for unknown reasons. Is that enough to fulfill the expectations of X-Men fans, or is it worth skipping to see what the MCU has in store for mutants? Let’s research further to find out.
The central group of characters are a lot of fun to spend the movie with. Their backstories are interesting and relatable, and the dynamic between all of them is entertaining. We see them argue, joke around, and grow together. The relationship between this core group feels real throughout the film. It overall feels like a dark, superpowered version of The Breakfast Club.
This is a comic book superhero film, so the superpowers are of course a large focus. One of the truly fun aspects of the movie is getting to experience the characters’ unique powers that we have yet to see in other superhero films. X-Men already features countless types of mutants, but New Mutants still showcases ones we’ve never seen in the live-action films, like Cannonball’s ability to launch himself at an uncontrollable jet speed, Dani’s ability to manifest people’s fears, or Sunspot’s combustion powers. It keeps the superhero subgenre refreshing despite there being so many superhero films out there.
New Mutants was originally advertised as a superhero horror movie, so there are definitely horror scenes and elements present. The film portrays the creepy factor pretty well, with the unsettling Smiley Men attacking, characters being forced to come face-to-face with their lost loved ones, the feeling of being trapped in an unknown place, and a demonic killer bear. It’s something the superhero subgenre doesn’t typically do (outside of Brightburn or the Trench scene in Aquaman), so it does find ways to stand out from other comic book movies while also providing some chills and frights.
The main romance between Dani and Rahne is charming, organic, and relatable. Their relationship and how it develops feels very real, and because of this, it’s something we fight for throughout the film’s dark story.
New Mutants has an explosive and riveting third act, making some of the slower moments worth it. Each character gets the spotlight to use their mutant powers, and the action picks up much more than in the rest of the movie, and the core group are met with their most dangerous threats yet. There are quite a few moments in this third act that are more than enough to get any audience member’s blood pumping.
The direction the filmmakers wanted to take New Mutants in clearly changed several times throughout the film. It was advertised to be a superhero horror movie, and there are certainly moments where that title fits. However, at other times, any inkling of horror is completely dropped for a superpowered teen drama similar to an X-Men Breakfast Club. Both would have been entertaining and unique ideas on their own, but both of those genres clash, causing the film to have an unfocused tone. If you’re getting into the horror aspect, you’re forced to wait while a teen drama takes place. If you came for the teen drama, you’re distracted by the scares and suspense. It’s evident they didn’t know what they wanted this movie to be.
The teen mutants are being held in a strange research facility run by the mysterious Dr. Reyes, who they don’t know if they can trust or not. She’s the only one in the entire facility other than the kids being held and researched. She proves herself to be extremely strong herself, but how or why would she be the only person running the place? There’s no guards for backup, there’s no other scientists to assist with the research, there aren’t even janitors or cafeteria workers. It’s all just her. This Essex Corporation seems like they would take extra security measures to ensure everything goes their way, so it’s odd that literally one person is responsible for taking care of and researching an entire group of powerful mutants.
It’s a lot of fun seeing the mutants use their powers. However, Magik’s abilities are confusing. When we see anyone else’s powers being used, it’s clear as to what they’re capable of. That’s not the case for Magik, though. There are times she can teleport, there are other times she can summon a sword from thin air, and she can apparently summon a fire-breathing dragon. It’s like either the comic writers or the filmmakers just kept giving her new abilities when convenient. She also could’ve easily busted out of the facility on her own and chose not to.
There are a handful of times the mutants are met with a dangerous situation where their superpowers would prove useful, and yet they decide not to use them for seemingly no reason. It’s an attempt at forced suspense, making the viewer think “how are they going to get out of this one?” However, we all know they’ll just use their mutant abilities, and they do. They really just decide to not use their powers to fight the Smiley Men or other threats to make the movie feel longer. It’s a superhero film; we want to see those powers being used.
There’s much more going on with this Essex Corporation than what we see in the movie, but we never find out more. There’s never an explanation quite good enough to explain who they are or what their plan is. We know they want mutants, but is it just to have a mutant army? If so, why? It’s something that probably would’ve been dealt with in a sequel that we’ll now never get. Also, it’s crushing knowing that they were potentially setting up Mister Sinister, an X-Men villain who isn’t Magneto (I know, I’m shocked, too), but we won’t be seeing him anytime soon.
There’s an underlying mystery of “what’s going on here?” throughout the movie, but those answers become pretty obvious part of the way into the movie. It’s even more obvious and predictable if you’re familiar with the source material. It’s a mystery that could have been great, but wasn’t exactly well-executed.
In the Know
As previously said, New Mutants is an X-Men movie, so it takes place within the same world as Wolverine, Storm, Cyclops, Professor X, and the rest. This technically serves as the thirteenth live-action X-Men film. Even more are sure to be on the way now that Disney has the rights to include them in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The release date of New Mutants was delayed four times over the last few years. The film started development in 2016 and was originally planned to release in April of 2018. The movie was pushed back to August 2019, then to April 2020. It was finally released in August 2020. Many fans are just happy to finally be able to see the film, for better or worse.
New Mutants is worth a viewing and can be fun at times. However, its various genres clash against each other, making it obvious that the filmmakers flip-flopped on what their vision for the movie was. When it’s trying to be a superhero horror movie, it works well enough. The same goes for when it’s trying to be a teen drama. It doesn’t necessarily excel at either, though. If you want the teen side of things, you can just watch The Breakfast Club or Sixteen Candles. If you want something scary, there are countless great horror flicks out there.
The dynamic between the characters is entertaining, and it is refreshing to see mutants not-yet covered by other X-Men movies. Plus, the third act action is extremely exciting. There are weird decisions made, like the mutants forgetting to use their powers to get them out of danger, but some of it is worth overlooking because of the parts that are still fun to experience. New Mutants isn’t terrible, but it isn’t great either. If at some point you come across it on a streaming service where you don’t need to pay any extra fees to see it, it’s certainly worth the watch.
Rating: 5.5 / 10