Five troubled teenagers and twenty-somethings, the only patients in a sprawling, run-down hospital, locked in their rooms at night as though they were prisoners, miles from the nearest town and cut off from everyone but each other and their sole therapist, Doctor Cecilia Reyes, who attends to their medication and guides them through group counselling sessions.
Danielle Moonstar is the newest arrival, joining the dysfunctional family of Sam Guthrie, twitchy and withdrawn, Illyana Rasputin, icy and challenging, Roberto da Costa, handsome but aloof, and Rahne Sinclair, the only one who makes any effort to welcome Dani whose waking nightmares have apparently followed her to the facility.
Doctor Reyes explaining to them that they each have powers, she hopes that the new mutants can learn to control them and one day join the legendary X-Men of Professor Charles Xavier but for now they are a danger to themselves and others, under constant surveillance and haunted by manifestations of their personal fears.
Directed by Josh Boone from a script co-written with Knate Lee based on the comic series of the same name, The New Mutants was shot over the summer of 2017 to be released the following year only to be substantially delayed by planned reshoots which were ultimately never undertaken and the acquisition of 20th Century Fox by Disney, respectively the owners of the cinematic rights to the X-Men and the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The result of these shenanigans is that, like the new mutants themselves, there is talent and potential in abundance but it is unfocused and misdirected, the opportunity wasted when there was a chance to make a more immediate and personal film parallel to the wider X-Men series but shedding the theatrics of the superhero genre, opening it the universe to a different audience.
Rahne twice watching DVDs of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the facility common room, it is apparent that Boone wishes to emulate Joss Whedon’s iconic allegory of the teenage experience being an unfolding horror in a confusing and changing world but his ensemble perform with one hand tied behind their back, the result stilted and oddly silent.
The dialogue aiming for profound but stringing together little more than empty platitudes in stock situations, The Originals‘ Blu Hunt, Marrowbone‘s Charlie Heaton, Split’s Anya Taylor-Joy, Teen Wolf‘s Henry Zaga and Game of Thrones‘ Maisie Williams all essentially sport the same backstory of rejection and abuse while Elysium’s Alice Braga barely even warrants a personality beyond her function as an obvious agent of Evil Incorporated.
Moving at a snail’s pace to a telegraphed conclusion mediated entirely through digital effects, a folly which disengages the audience and also hampered Wolverine’s first two solo films, despite fresh faces The New Mutants have nothing new to offer to the mix, and while Deadpool took the series into comedy by breaking the fourth wall and the rules of the genre this attempt to add a strand of psychological horror is overly timid and compliant when horror above all needs to be subversive.