Dani Moonstar (Blue Hunt) is awoken by her dad (Adam Beach) when their reservation is struck by some sort of disaster. There’s fire, explosions, a howling growl, and… snow? Dani is knocked unconscious and, after waking, finds herself in a mostly abandoned hospital where Dr. Reyes (Alice Braga) informs her she was the only one to survive the catastrophe on the reservation. The official word is a tornado struck, but nobody seems to believe that.
Dr. Reyes tells Dani she is a “new mutant”, and they’ll work out what her mutant powers may be. Dani’s forced to join group therapy sessions with the other new mutants in the hospital: Irish lesbian teen Rahne Sinclair (Maisie Williams) who can transform into a wolf, sexy but borderline psychotic Illyana Rasputin (Anya Taylor-Joy) who has a magic sword and can access another dimension, southern self-abuser Sam Guthrie (Charlie Heaton) who can fire himself off like an energetic cannonball, and womanizing Roberto da Costa (Henry Zaga) who has heat powers. Even Dr. Reyes herself is a mutant, capable of creating impenetrable forcefields.
The five teens deal with each other’s conflicting personalities, budding romances, their desires to get out of this forced confinement… and their worst nightmares that start coming real and hunting them down! Where are these monstrosities coming from? Who is behind this facility? And how can they escape?
At long last, I’m finally able to see The New Mutants, which kept getting bumped back and bumped back for years. When Disney bought Fox, it looked like this horror/superhero hybrid would be locked away in the vault with no escape (much like the characters it contains), but then it was finally released in movie theaters, during the Covid-19 pandemic. During a time when most movie theaters are shuttered, Disney made that the only way to see this film, which helps explain why there’s so few reviews of it. Like many curious fans, I’d have to wait until the film came home before diving in and can share my opinion with the rest of the world. I’m not sure it was worth the wait.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m fully on board with a horror superhero flick! I dug Brightburn, was sad when Swamp Thing was cancelled after just a handful of episodes into its first season on the DC Universe, and I would be interested to see the Beast horror flick that never got made (X-Men’s Beast in a horror film facing off against the Wendigo). While The New Mutants gets the horror elements dead on, it just takes an incredibly long time to get to it.
Worse, there’s hardly any superpower use before the horror arrives, making this Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars) directed movie (also co-written by Boone and Knate Lee) feel like an angsty high school drama without the high school, complete with terrible dialogue in spots and flimsy motivations in others. I realize this is probably the “final” X-Men movie from the Fox days, but a little more mutant mayhem would have been nice.
There really isn’t much story in The New Mutants to talk about, just people yelling at each other, people hooking up, people… yelling at each other some more and being generally catty or flirty depending on the situation. When there is horror it’s done very well. When there’s action, it’s done very well. It’s just that there’s so much meandering and on-the-nose dialogue while we’re waiting for any of the good stuff to happen. It’s more soaps than supes. With equal parts thrilling and boring, I’d say you can take it or leave it with The New Mutants. It’s enjoyable enough… but in today’s cinema is that really good enough?