The X-Men movies have been going on so long and so big with their bombast, it feels like they needed a sort of reboot to get them back to the basics of dealing with mutants discovering their powers and trying to fit in. THE NEW MUTANTS does exactly that, discarding the heroes we are so familiar with and introducing us to a new generation of mutants and wrapping it up in the trappings of a horror movie. Does it work? Absolutely.
The movie opens with Dani Moonstar (Blu Hunt) and her father trying to escape their reservation as what is presumed to be a tornado ravages it. He hides her in a tree and is caught by the storm while she falls unconscious. When she awakens, Dani finds herself in a hospital run by Dr. Reyes (Alice Braga), a place for “new” mutants to discover and learn to control their powers before moving on to rejoin the real world. Fellow inmates include Rahne (Maisie Williams), Illyana (Anya Taylor-Joy), Sam (Charlie Heaton) and Roberto (Henry Zaga), or as comic book readers recognize them, Wolfsbane, Magik, Cannonball and Sunspot. All of them are mutants as well and all of them have a personal tragedy linked to the awakening of their powers that they are trying to move past. However, when the fears of Dani’s fellow teenagers start manifesting themselves in the real world and hurting them, they need to figure out what is the cause and stop it before it kills them all.
Unlike the previous X-Men films, THE NEW MUTANTS is very much a slow burn of a film, giving us time for the characters to breathe and for us to get to know them and all of their faults. This allows us to feel for them and fear for them when the manifestations of fear begin to plague them. Interspersed throughout the movie are flashes of the powers of the students, but never does it reach the all-out combat of a typical X-Men movie until the very end. For me this helped make the eventual showcase more satisfying that if say Cannonball had been blasting around the building constantly or if there had been a big mutant brawl smack dab in the middle of things. It also lets the horror and dread build, as even with their powers, these mutants might not be a match for the terrors that spring from their own heads.
Everyone on the cast does a great job with their parts, and I think the fact there were only a handful of them around helped give them space to strut their stuff and never lets anyone feel like they are being sidelined. Taylor-Joy continues to be a delight in everything I see her in, as with Williams. I think Heaton was the breakout for me and his Cannonball felt pitch perfect to me. Braga was great in her role and kept you guessing if she was on the side of the angels or if she had an ulterior motive.
It’s a shame the movie got so savaged by reviews and was reviled as it really is a fun and creepy character piece unlike any of the previous X-Men films that we got. I would say it feels more like something from the UNBREAKABLE universe thanks to the tone. Honestly, I had such a good time with it I wouldn’t mind them abandoning the current X-Men universe and just keep on going with the New Mutants and Deadpool as the cornerstones of the franchise instead. Sadly, save for Deadpool, I don’t think that is going to happen so we just have to be happy we got this fun and weird little film out of it.
Check it out.