WARNING: This reviewer is not a consumer of comic books. Any inconsistencies with the comics will not be addressed here. It only reflects the film as a standalone work.
I’d expect that when The New Mutants first got ‘stuck in development hell’ no one would ever have expected that the movie would end up being released during a global pandemic (which puts me in mind of Monty Python and Sliding Doors – “Nobody expects the coronavirus!” Anyway…) Originally slated for release in April 2018, it has survived reshoots, mergers, script changes to accommodate studios and other films from the same story world being released.
So, what is it about? Well, it ‘does what it says on the tin’ which is deal with five mutants who are coming to grips with their newly-manifested powers. As with the Spider-Man films, a mutation that manifests during puberty is an excellent allegory for how teenagers feel. Everything is changing, and they’re trying to find their place in the world.
However, the place that the New Mutants end up is a place not fit for anyone to inhabit for too long, and while there is time spent exploring themselves, the New Mutants wise up to this quickly enough. The filmmakers described the film as ‘a haunted-house movie with a bunch of hormonal teenagers’, and while that certainly covers a lot of ground, there is also a second sinister force at play, which is not paranormal in any way.
The filming location was a psychiatric hospital that was over 150 years old, which hadn’t been used for around 50 years. The cast and crew have hinted at strange goings on. While I couldn’t say I felt that the film was a horror, there was definitely enough of a sinister atmosphere to provide an edge.
A criticism levelled at the film is that it’s quite insular for a superhero movie. However, I felt like that was the whole point of the movie – the teenagers have been extracted from the world to allow them to investigate themselves before they face the world. That’s certainly something I would have snapped up when I was a teenager! The movie works through fears, traumas and anxieties, while also managing to deal with wider threats.
Interestingly, what stuck with me was the isolated nature of the movie, and perhaps that’s one reason it’s not being appreciated so much – we’ve all had enough of lockdown. I found it quite appropriate for 2020 that the main characters were confined due to forces beyond their control. This is effectively teenage mutants in lockdown, and gosh, I hope no one outside this movie has had to deal with this level of carnage!
Each Mutant has a very different power. Although it has been criticised, I love the idea that a teenager that suddenly discovers they can fly isn’t then instantly amazing at it. Ironically, I think the people saying how bad that is are probably the same people that would complain if someone picked up a musical instrument and could instantly play at an excellent standard. (That’s movie magic for you!).
The film retains some genuine X-Men touches, not least the fact that it is the last film to list Stan Lee as Executive Producer. It’s a good popcorn movie for a Saturday night, and at a mere 94 minutes your bottom will thank you that it didn’t fall asleep!
Overall Rating: Not everyone’s cup of tea, but definitely worth a look!
Check it out on IMDB here.