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Movie Review: “The New Mutants”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Theatrical Release: 8/28/2020

Theatrical Release: 8/28/2020

Synopsis

After a monstrous entity devastated her home, killed her father, and killed everyone else in the vicinity, Dani Moonstar (Blu Hunt) wakes up handcuffed to a bed in a strange facility. She is quickly greeted by Dr. Reyes (Alice Braga), who informs Dani that the only reason she survived was because she is a mutant. While being able to detect that Dani is in fact a mutant, Dr. Reyes has not yet determined what Dani’s mutant abilities actually are. Thus, Dani has been brought to the facility to provide her with a safe place to stay until they learn what Dani’s abilities are and how to control them.

Dani is not the only young mutant in the facility, however. The facility is explained by Dr. Reyes as being a safe place for mutants who have recently discovered their abilities, allowing them to practice their abilities in safety before going out into the world. Dani is joined by Rahne Sinclair (Maisie Williams) who can transform into a wolf, Sam Guthrie (Charlie Heaton) who can propel himself with an eruption of energy like a cannonball, Illyana Rasputin (Anya Taylor-Joy) who can manipulate magic and teleport between dimensions, and Roberto da Costa (Henry Zaga) who is very secretive about his abilities. Despite Dani’s initial trust toward Dr. Reyes, she begins to learn something that the other new mutants already have—that this facility is more of a prison than anything else. Thus, as strange things start happening, the new mutants start looking for a way out.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

The New Mutants (+5pts)

Dr. Reyes & The Staff (-6pts)

Magik (+5pts)

Slow Start (-4pts)

The Mystery (+4pts)

Dani & The Climax (-5pts)

movie-review-the-new-mutants

Pro: The New Mutants (+5pts)

Illyana was the chaos maker, always seeming eager to stir up trouble, and targeting Dani at every opportunity. Rahne was the kind friend, who pretty quickly took Dani under her wing. Sam and Roberto had somewhat of a brotherly friendship, being the only two guys in the place. They each had their own tragic story that led to them winding up at this facility, and while I found these stories interesting, I really just liked their dynamic as a group. I thought a lot of this movie’s better moments were when the characters were all on screen together, as their assortment of attitudes was interesting to see colliding with each other.

I do not want to get into each of their backstories, but the two characters that stood out to me were Illyana Rasputin and Sam Guthrie. Sam stood out to me simply due to Charlie Heaton, who I thought brought a ton of pain to the character, and I thought he made it really easy to connect with Sam. Then there was the badass Illyana Rasputin, who was such an interesting and entertaining character that I thought she should have been the main character of this story. I would have liked to have seen more character development for each character, but I liked what we did get for each of them, and I liked their dynamic as a group of misfit, prisoner, mutant friends.

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Con: Dr. Reyes & The Staff (-6pts)

I thought it was way obvious that Dr. Reyes would end up being an antagonist, and I also did not find her at all intimidating. The New Mutants kept breaking rules and Illyana even drugged her once, but Dr. Reyes never really did anything about it. The obviousness that she was a villain, the lack of an intimidating presence, and her consistent inaction was a combination that made Dr. Reyes a lack luster antagonist. She also kept referring to her “superior” as if the audience would be dumb enough to think that everything was peachy, and that she was referring to Charles Xavier. The constant mentioning of that superior also kept making me think that a bigger, more menacing antagonist was coming, but that never happened.

To make matters worse, the filmmakers seemed to think it was fine to have Dr. Reyes and literally no one else looking after the New Mutants. Sure, the whole force-field bubble thing was effective, but it being a reliable means of containing rebellious mutants relied heavily on Dr. Reyes being awake, and having eyes on all five mutants. With that in mind, there really should have been a whole staff of people working for Dr. Reyes. The sketchy doctor and the sketchy facility was not a bad idea for this movie, but the filmmakers delivered an ineffective antagonist with Dr. Reyes, and not having literally a single other staff member felt like an obvious oversight.

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Pro: Magik (+5pts)

Magik—the superhero name for Illyana Rasputin—was awesome. What we got of her backstory was incredibly interesting, as there were creepy monsters, and dream dimensions, and I was very interested in seeing her story explored further. Illyana Rasputin was fearless, rebellious, her powers were awesome, she was a total badass, and the filmmakers got the talented young Anya Taylor-Joy in the role. I did not hate Dani, but after seeing this movie, I thought one of the biggest missed opportunities was not making Magik the main character of this movie, and rewriting the entire plot around her and her story. She was simply a far more interesting, and more entertaining character than Dani. Instead, the filmmakers chose to go another way, as they made Magik a side-character for this movie. Yet even in this role, the character managed to shine above the rest.

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Con: Slow Start (-4pts)

Act structure can be somewhat subjective, but for me, the first act of this movie ended with Dani being comfortable inside the facility, having found her place in the group of New Mutants. The second act ended with Dani going with Dr. Reyes for her last treatment in the movie, right before everything started going down in the climax, and the third act ended with, you know, the end of the movie. The movie started with an exciting scene showing the tragic disaster that led to Dani winding up at the facility. Later, there was the tense confrontation between Dani and Illyana, and there were also the scares for each of the young mutants as they encountered their fears at various points in the movie. Unfortunately, most of what connected these scenes was kind of boring.

We saw Roberto doing dishes and doing laundry, we saw the New Mutants playing with a lie detector, and we saw Dani and Rahne exploring the facility. None of this would have been bad if there was actually character development throughout. However, the filmmakers only really ever dipped their toes into the water of each of these characters’ stories. There were some entertaining scenes and moments sprinkled throughout, but for the most part, the story always felt like it was stalling, rather than progressing.

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Pro: The Mystery (+4pts)

I saw four different possibilities regarding the mystery of who or what was causing the hauntings. The first possibility was that it was Dani, the second possibility was that it was Dr. Reyes, the third possibility was that it was Dr. Reyes’ unnamed “superior”, and the fourth possibility was that it was an old patient of Dr. Reyes who perhaps died in the facility or whose power allowed them to be unseen and messing with everyone’s heads. I could have seen the filmmakers going with any of these possibilities. Each haunting involved different characters, and each haunting had me reassessing which possibility I thought was the most likely. It was a somewhat engaging guessing game to play, but unfortunately, the filmmakers kept focus on other things, and the mystery behind who was responsible for the scares was pretty much kept in the background.

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Con: Dani & The Climax (-5pts)

By focusing so heavily on Dani's abilities in the movie's climax, it made all potential antagonists and protagonists irrelevant. The climax had some cool moments for sure—a number of which were thanks to Illyana—but the story in the climax did not really have any stakes, and it did not feel like there was much for the protagonists to achieve. While the climax had plenty of action, it all felt somewhat meaningless. The filmmakers could have gotten around this by giving more focus to this group of misfits being ready to risk their lives for one another, as this would have given each moment more emotion, but I also thought the antagonists should have played a bigger role in the climax. The filmmakers sprinkled Easter Eggs hinting at Mr. Sinister—a big X-Men villain—throughout this movie, so I do not understand why they did not just bring him into the story more directly, instead of delivering the inconsequential climax that they did.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

movie-review-the-new-mutants

Grade: C- (74pts)

I loved the idea behind this movie. It was a horror-thriller set in the X-Men franchise. Unfortunately, I thought the filmmakers made bad call after bad call when telling this story. The first and most obvious issue was having this story focused on Dani. She was not a bad character, but Illyana was the most interesting character in this movie by far, both in terms of her story and her abilities. Instead, the filmmakers focused on Dani, and while the uncertainty regarding her powers provided some mystery, I thought the filmmakers did a poor job of developing that mystery and its potential outcomes.

Instead, the filmmakers spent the majority of the first two acts of this movie showing what life was like within the facilities. This let the filmmakers tell the audience each young mutant's tragic stories, but it did little in terms of keeping things exciting and keeping the story moving forward. Then there was Dr. Reyes, who was so obviously an antagonist, and the filmmakers made the blatant oversight by having her literally by herself, trying to contain five young, powerful mutants. The movie did have its strengths, as the mystery had me at least somewhat intrigued, I liked all of the interactions between the New Mutants, and Magik—Illyana—was an absolute badass that I thoroughly enjoyed watching. Unfortunately, these strengths were really only enough to make this movie watchable, as its plot issues made the movie fall pretty far below its potential.

Comments

Keith Abt from The Garden State on December 29, 2020:

I was disappointed in this one too. It has a low budget look that resembles the pilot film for a TV series, not a feature. It finally started coming alive in the last quarter, but up till then it was mostly a slog.

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