The New Mutants (20th Century Studios) is the latest film set in Fox’s X-Men universe, following titles such as Dark Phoenix and Logan. Like the other X-Men films, it remains separate from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (The Avengers etc.), although that is scheduled to change in the near future. The original plan was to release it in 2018, but it suffered several delays, and eventually reached our screens in 2020 amidst a global pandemic. At the time of screening there was not much of a choice for movie-goers; my choice was between this and Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. Cinemas are certainly using it to test the waters, but as a consequence it has the advantage that bigger blockbusters are not drowning it out.
It’s a more intimate film compared to other higher budget superhero films. Tonally, it feels a lot more indie and experimental in the shooting, as well with as the themes that it tackles, and as a result it has a rather unique atmosphere. The story takes place in a small, eerily isolated facility, where young, tragically inclined mutants are monitored and rehabilitated after coming to terms with their individual abilities. The cast is small and focused, and the majority of the film takes place on the facility grounds. I appreciated the Gothic setting and elements of horror, even if they were a little tame. It definitely gave me American Horror Story vibes, with its campy approach to scares (think Coven if you’ve seen that), but I would’ve loved it if they’d pushed the unsettling atmosphere further. At the end of the day, it is a teen superhero movie, so keep expectations in check if you’re hoping to be frightened. The emphasis is definitely on the superheroes and their relationships with one another.
The pacing felt off at times, with some jarring scene transitions. You can piece things together, but I think it could’ve done with a bit more time and finesse to flesh out specific moments and to allow scenes to flow more naturally. The film also does a poor job of explaining Illyana’s sock puppet companion, Lockheed. It is a subtle nod to the comics, although even if you are familiar with the reference, its role in the film is a little confusing and I wish we knew more. Hopefully, if there is a sequel, it will explore this; they rushed the implementation here, and without giving away too much, a bit more work could’ve made the payoff a lot more satisfying.
Overall I had a lot of fun watching The New Mutants, and considering the current circumstances surrounding Covid-19, it was a welcome dose of light-hearted entertainment. There aren’t too many new films on at the cinema right now so perhaps I was just grateful for a little escapism, but I really enjoyed seeing this new side of the X-Men universe on screen. I think it definitely would’ve benefited from being a television series like Runaways or Legion, but I do like the world that it’s set up, and I’d love to see more of these characters in the future. Ultimately they deserved more time to shine. There’s so much potential here, and if Disney does allow a sequel, I hope they put a little more care into establishing the world in the future. If you’re even just a little bit curious about this film, I say give it a chance, go in with an open mind, and have a good time!
Words Andy Porter
To read about what can you expected on a visit to the cinema under Covid-19 restrictions, click here.