”I don’t think we’re here to get better.’
Occasionally a media product – be that TV show, game, album or film – will be described as going or having gone through ‘development hell’. It describes exactly what it sounds like; when the putting together, making of or releasing of was a hellish experience. Rarely has the term been as accurately used as when it is describing The New Mutants. Director Josh Boone started work on the project in 2014. Fox signed off on it in 2015 with the script being completed in 2016. 2017 saw pre-production, casting and the start of filming. After a cut was put together, re-shoots took place in 2018.
None of this is particularly uncommon for a big blockbuster, although the time frame is was one the slightly longer side. Then the film got pushed back by Fox, the re-shoots looked to be more extensive than initially anticipated – whispers of an entire tonal shift started occurring. Then Disney bought out Fox and it looked like it either didn’t know what to do with the film. A final cut was ready in early 2020, a release date of March was set – and then Covid closed the cinemas. Now, this weekend and next Friday, you can finally go and see the film everyone was starting to believe didn’t actually exist. Was it worth the wait?
No, not really. The whispers and speculation of the film’s unimpressiveness prove to be mostly warranted, mainly because it is hard to believe how so many interesting full-of-potential components have resulted in something so dull and bland. The best superhero adaptations, be that film or tv, aren’t ‘just’ superhero stories, they utilise generic or cultural conventions to great effect. Think the Afrofuturism of Black Panther, the take on the Western that is Luke Cage and the film noir of Jessica Jones for just a few examples.
The New Mutants seems to be a horror pitched at the young adult audience, with it’s 15 certificate clearly signposting this statement of intent. The BBFC certificate promises ‘strong threat, bloody images, abuse references’. It’s a shame then that the film isn’t particularly scary or gory or really anything at all.
Starting in media res we see Danielle Moonstar (Blu Hunt) running for her life as her reservation is destroyed by what appears to be some sort of monster. After falling unconsciousness in the middle of some woods, she awakes in what seems to be hospital. Dr Cecilia Reyes (Alice Braga) explains that she is there because she is extraordianary – her mutant superpowers meant she was the only survivor of the catastrophe. She must stay at the hospital until she learns to control her powers, although she doesn’t know what they are yet.
She’s not the only patient at the hospital. There’s also Rahne Sinclair (Maise Williams), Illyana Rasputin (Anya Taylor-Joy), Sam Guthrie (Charlie Heaton) and Bobby da Costa (Henry Zaga). All have experienced great trauma as a direct consequence of their powers. Dr Reyes refers to her ‘superior’, which the group assume is Professor Xavier, but as each young mutant endures a literal haunting from their past they have reason to suspect they are in great danger.
And so the story goes, with a running time of 100 minutes. The most memorable thing about it is just how unmemorable it really is. The cast are great, with the majority being very familiar faces known for iconic performances – Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Split, Emma), Williams (Game Of Thrones) and Heaton (Stranger Things). Those three in particular make an intriguing impact within proceeding, even when armoured with some ‘interesting’ The fault lies with the material they have been given.
The story is The Breakfast Club: emo edition, with 5 disparate superpowered teenagers trapped in a building. The true monster? Themselves! The dialogue is empty enigma sandwiched in endless exposition. We get told so much, yet very little of it helps us understand or actually like the characters. The visuals aren’t particularly impressive and the special effects are a tad on the creaky side.
The end result is a film that is unlikely to generate hate, simply apathy. At least now we know it actually exists..?
The New Mutants previews in the UK August 29th and 30th, before being released September 4th.