Over the last twenty years of mutant-based adventures, the X-Men film series has seen some astonishing highs and some even more astonishing lows. For every Logan, there is a Dark Phoenix, for every X2, there's an Apocalypse. Indeed, those last two films had left even this stalwart fan of the franchise in doubt that there was much hope left for mutant-kind.
And then, two years ago, the trailer dropped for The New Mutants; a seeming horror movie from the X-Men universe, centering around Chris Clairemont's team of teenaged newcomers to the Xavier School for the Gifted. It looked pretty awesome. I was duly excited. And then it got pushed back. And back. And back.
Indeed, such seemed the fate of The New Mutants to lay in perpetual production hell that when, a few weeks ago, I texted my editor to let him know that it had finally received a post-lockdown release date, his response was simply “I'll believe it when you see it”.
And, along with the sparing few who braved the cinemas this weekend, I have now, finally, seen it. Was it worth the wait? Short answer… “meh.”
Based upon one of the comic's most famous stories, “The Demon Bear Saga”, The New Mutants kicks off with a delightfully bland voiceover (seriously, if you're not Patrick Stewart, we don't need you to do a VO on an X-Men movie) from Blu Hunt (Another Life, The Originals) as Dani Moonstar, a young girl who, throughout our rather headache-inducing cold-open, is seen running from an unknown force as it destroys the reservation on which she has grown up. Thereafter, she wakes up in a medical institution run by Cecilia Reyes (Alice Braga; I Am Legend, Elysium) who tells her that she is under instruction from her “benefactor” (is it Charles Xavier? Hmmm? Hmmmm? Is it?) to prepare young mutants to join his “facility for gifted youngsters”.
Here she meets bitchy teleporter with a penchant for talking to a dragon puppet, Illyana (Anya Taylor-Joy), clumsy Kentucky kid, Sam (Charlie Heaton), hot-headed rich boy, Roberto (Henry Zaga), and a pair of literal puppy-dog eyes played by Maisie Williams. Together they find themselves haunted by strange goings-on around the hospital, all fuelled by the ghosts of their own dark pasts.
If this happens to sound anything like a certain Nightmare on Elm Street sequel, that's because it basically is. Sadly, however, it never buys into the horror schtick entirely, thus leaving a rather lacklustre genre movie with superpowers which also never really get any screen-time. Perhaps this is because this was clearly meant to be the set-up for a new wave of X films, with our heroes getting more chances to show off their abilities in the second and third movies, but with the franchise now being defunct, the film is left feeling rather like a TV pilot for a show that probably isn't going to get picked up.
But, does it live up to the moniker of “Worst X-men movie”? No, it doesn't. Even at its slowest, it is still infinitely more watchable than the last two movies; there are some nice sequences, most notably the Smiling Man (played, bizarrely, by Marilyn Manson), and Hunt and Williams do have a rather enchanting charm as young lovebirds Dani and Rahne.
After such a wait, The New Mutants is yet another dribble at the end of a series that really should have just stopped at Logan. It's not dreadful, it's just entirely unnecessary.
Dir: Josh Boone
Scr: Josh Boone, Knate Lee
Cast: Blu Hunt, Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Henry Zaga, Alice Braga
Prd: Simon Kinberg, Karen Rosenfelt, Lauren Shuler Donner
DOP: Peter Deming
Music: Mark Snow
Run time: 94 minutes
The New Mutants is in cinemas now.