THE NEW MUTANTS is the latest film from director Josh Boone (The Fault in our Stars) which centers around a group of five young mutants discovering their ability while being held at a secret facility. The film stars Maisie Williams (“Game of Thrones), Anya Taylor-Joy (Glass), Charlie Heaton (“Stranger Things”), Alice Braga (Predators), Blu Hunt (“The Originals), and Henry Zaga (“13 Reasons Why”).
To best describe the plot of the film, I’ll turn to the official synopsis: “Five young people who demonstrate special powers are forced to undergo treatment at a secret institution – allegedly to cure them of the dangers of their powers. But it’s soon clear that their containment is part of a much bigger battle between the forces of good and evil.”
THE NEW MUTANTS has a pretty rocking cast which is why it was so shocking that most of the performances left a lot to be desired. I feel bad for pin-pointing one performance over another but, what was going on with Anya Taylor-Joy? She’s immensely talented, having shown her range in such films as The Witch and Split, yet her spark wasn’t there. Her performance as Illyana Rasputin, came off lackluster and amateur, especially with that horrible Russian accent, something I wouldn’t expect from an actress such as her. And don’t even get me started on the controversy surrounding Illyana Rasputin’s penchant for racist remarks towards Dani Moonstar.
That’s not to say EVERYONE was necessarily bad, as Blu Hunt, who plays Dani Moonstar, was the highlight of the film. Her performance felt the most grounded and realistic while also tapping into an emotional vein for audiences to react to. Furthermore, the dynamic between her and Maisie Williams‘ character, Rahne Sinclair, was sweet and actually one of the best parts of the film. Thankfully, the writers didn’t overdo it by sexualizing their queer storyline and instead let it blossom into a beautiful relationship.
What’s frustrating about a film like THE NEW MUTANTS is there is a something exciting there – if you are willing to dig through the mess. The only problem is that really never gets to where it needs to be. It runs that fine line of wanting to extend itself past that PG-13 rating but also wanting to appeal to a younger audience. Because of that, it unfortunately never finds the footing its looking for. I wish that Boone & Lee leaned more into the horror element instead of pulling back. Especially in regards to the Smiling Man, a terrible creature that stalks Illyana Rasputin and is her greatest fear. He looks like a cross between Slenderman and the creatures from the “Hush” episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, which is ironic considering that there’s a scene with that episode playing in THE NEW MUTANTS.
The presentation of the film does give the viewer a notion that these characters are isolated from the outside world. They are forced to live within the confines of an abandoned mental institute on a dangling promise that they will be allowed to leave once they are deemed no longer a threat to others. For the most part, I enjoyed that the film was mostly confined to this one location as it invoked a feeling of solitude and danger. Why encapsulate a person inside a mental hospital if they were fine, to begin with?
Since the film does take place within the confines of this actual, in-person structure, the CGI didn’t always mesh well with that. That said, they weren’t the worst visual effects I’ve seen, they were just… haphazard. There were moments when those visuals really shined, such as when the viewer gets a close up of a massive bear, to moments that lacked the delicate attention to detail needed to really wow the audience. That said, at least the dark tones and atmosphere helped to permeate a feeling of foreboding which, for someone like me who hasn’t read the comics, it kept me interested in seeing how everything would play out.
Overall, THE NEW MUTANTS is a film that, on the surface, begs to be watched for its dark portrayal of young, badass mutants coming into their own power. However, the problem is the film is neither engaging, creepy, or fun. For a film that features a roster of blossoming talent, it should have knocked us on our asses with exciting performances, instead we are given lackluster performances that leave a lot to be desired. Believe me, I wanted to love this, I truly did, but unfortunately, THE NEW MUTANTS doesn’t have the super human power needed to be a memorable flick. THE NEW MUTANTS is now available to own on Digital, 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD.