Over two and a half years after it was initially set to hit theaters, “The New Mutants” is finally widely available to the masses. The film that had five separate release dates and spent an eternity in post-production hell released on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and digital Tuesday after an abbreviated theatrical run this fall due to the pandemic.
For a film as cursed as “The New Mutants,” doomed by countless reshoots, rewrites and a change of studios, the final product is almost exactly what you’d expect. Filled with characters unable to hold a compelling conversation or display any emotion, the film is extremely flat across the board. When the characters aren’t struggling through a discussion, any shred of excitement is suffocated by the abysmal CGI effects that dominate the film’s action sequences.
After years of curiosity and hoping for the best, we all knew it all along – “The New Mutants” is a mess.
After awakening to a mysterious attack on her Native American reservation, Dani Moonstar (Blu Hunt) finds herself trapped in a secret facility for young mutants. At 16 years old, Dani has never outwardly exhibited any sort of power, nor has she even suspected herself to be a mutant, but here in this forsaken hospital – the antithesis of Charles Xavier’s school for mutants – the sinister Dr. Reyes (Alice Braga) is determined to discover her ability.
Alongside Dani are four other new mutants, if you will. Dani quickly bonds with Rahne (Maisie Williams), a girl capable of transforming into a wolf, but the others are a bit more standoffish. Sam is quiet, but sports the ability to blast off with supersonic flight, while Roberto essentially turns into a human fireball. Then there’s Illyana, who’s powers aren’t quite clear, but what is clear is that she’s a force to be reckoned with. From teleportation to transformation and summoning a magic sword and dragon, like this movie, her powers are all over the place.
Trapped in the facility, the five mutants must learn to work together and control their powers as they attempt to escape Dr. Reyes and regain their freedom.
From the moment Williams first speaks in a questionable Irish accent, it’s clear this movie is headed downhill. Throw in Taylor-Joy’s Russian attempt and Heaton’s southern drawl and the accents here alone are enough to sink the film. But it’s trouble extend far beyond the characters’s dialects.
Hunt’s portrayal of Dani is incredibly shallow. Not a single line she utters carries any weight or emotion, and while the character is meant to be detached, Hunt comes across as if she simply doesn’t want to be there. I can’t blame her.
One of the laziest things about “The New Mutants” is its reliance on sharing plot information through text on computer screens. As Reyes observes the young mutants or in between scenes, a computer is shown in which details of the character’s backstory, status or powers are displayed. Whether this was always the case or simply a way to work around incomplete scenes or botched reshoots, the result feels cheap.
The film culminates in a grand finale that is ultimately just a CGI slugfest – an incomprehensible mosh pit of flashing lights and subpar visual effects that strikingly standout from their real world surroundings rather than blend in.
One of the most depressing parts about this movie is that by this point the scenes intended to be shocking reveals feel meaningless. After nearly three years of delays, the plot points and easter eggs they connect to in the greater “X-Men” universe have long been forgotten – not that it really matters, since this disaster is the last in the Fox-era of mutants. Still, even the most fun aspect of superhero films can’t even be enjoyed here.
When a film is battered and beaten for years and finally limps its way onto your screen on its fifth attempt, it’s usually wise to trust your gut instinct when it comes to doubts you may have. With “The New Mutants,” that’s most certainly the case.
One star for curiosity.
Zach Goins is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association based in Raleigh, N.C. Zach co-founded Inside The Film Room in 2018 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the website and co-host of the podcast. Zach also serves as a film critic for CLTure.org.