The New Mutants

 

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The thirteenth chapter in the X-Men saga cannot squeeze a drop of new blood out of the franchise.

   
New Mutants, The

The Borstal Club: Charlie Heaton, Anya Taylor-Joy, Henry Zaga, Maisie Williams and, lying down, Blu Hunt

 

There’s a lesson to be learned here. When one has completed the twelfth edition of a franchise, it would be wise to avoid a thirteenth. Allegedly the last chapter in Marvel’s X-Men series, The New Mutants hints at fresh blood but it’s more of a last gasp. Designed as the first in a new trilogy, the film, in spite of its hefty budget, is a chamber piece dehydrated of new ideas. Think The Breakfast Club with dodgy accents and one has the measure of the scope of this diluted epic. Five quarrelsome teenagers are in detention – or lockdown – ostensibly for their own safety. Each one is possessed of an awesome power that in the outside world could wreak untold havoc. And so the young mutants are incarcerated in a dreary abandoned hospital, a facility that is reinforced by an invisible force field and the solitary command of a Brazilian doctor (Alice Braga).

 

In an era of prescribed diversity, they are a sundry bunch, headed by the new girl, a Native American called Dani Moonstar (Blu Hunt), the sole survivor of a “growling” storm that saw her reservation “wiped off the face of the earth” (such is the clichéd dialogue). Being an innocent, Dani becomes instant prey to the bad girl, Illyana Rasputin, played with swaggering insolence by Anya Taylor-Joy, last seen as Jane Austen’s Emma. Then there’s the good ol’ Southern boy Sam Guthrie (the Yorkshire-born Charlie Heaton) who, when prompted, can fly faster than a jet, although he’s limited by the hospital’s perimeter. Rahne (Maisie Williams) is a Scottish werewolf with a thing for Moonstar and a fear of Roman Catholic authority figures. And Bobby da Costa (Henry Zaga) is a Brazilian stud who is all mouth and attitude. He is also a human torch.

 

For the film to succeed on any level, one must be totally invested in the dynamic of these mavericks. However, the dialogue that they are fed is not only redundant and mundane, but often predictable, which at least gives the viewer the satisfaction of correctly guessing what they say next. However, the claustrophobic setting and the imagined nightmares that the mutants are privy to is hardly the stuff of propulsive escapism. It’s a shame, as the penultimate chapter – Simon Kinberg’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) – proved a suspenseful, nuanced and multi-layered adieu to Charles Xavier, Mystique and their clan. Even more of a shame is that Josh Boone – who previously directed the moving and erudite Stuck in Love (2012) and the sweet and thought-provoking The Fault in Our Stars (2014) – could have breathed real life into these teenage misfits.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Alice Braga, Blu Hunt, Henry Zaga, Adam Beach, and Marilyn Manson (voice only).

 

Dir Josh Boone, Pro Karen Rosenfelt, Lauren Shuler Donner and Simon Kinberg, Screenplay Josh Boone and Knate Lee, Ph Peter Deming, Pro Des Molly Hughes, Ed Matthew Dunnell, Robb Sullivan and Andrew Buckland, Music Mark Snow, Costumes Leesa Evans and Virginia Johnson, Dialect coach Howard Samuelsohn.

 

20th Century Studios/Marvel Entertainment/Genre Films/Sunswept Entertainment-Walt Disney Studios.

94 mins. USA. 2020. Rel: 4 September 2020. Cert. 15.