Review: "The New Mutants"
The New Mutants was originally set to hit theaters April 13th, 2018. Delayed countless times, rumors of what happened floated around much like the hallucinations of the principal characters in the film. No one knew what was real. Did the film get entirely reshot and retoned by producer Simon Kinberg, against the wishes of director Josh Boone? Was it simply put on hold because of the Disney/Fox merger? The truth was revealed only recently, as in the week before the film did finally hit theaters this weekend. And while this reviewer will let you decide for yourself if you agree with it, for me the film wasn't a bad film, but like it's lead characters distinct personalities, the film doesn't seem to know what it wants to be. It's many good ideas, but delivered with schizophrenic commitment in it's tone and it's pacing.
The film begins with Danielle "Dani" Moonstar (Played by Blu Hunt), a new mutant of Native American origin who wakes up in an unknown hospital after her father and entire reservation is destroyed by a mysterious creature. Meeting Dr. Cecilia Reyes (Played by Alice Braga), she finds out of her mutation although she is unable to figure out exactly what that is. As she agrees to remain in the hospital to find out who she is, she meets the other patients and learns about their powers. Rahne Sinclair (Played by Maisie Williams) shapeshifts into a wolf, Illyana Rasputin (Played by Anya Taylor-Joy) can create an energy sword and teleport, Samuel "Sam" Guthrie (Played by Charlie Heaton) who can propel himself in the air, and Roberto "Bobby" da Costa (Played by Henry Zaga) can manipulate solar energy. While the set-up is clear, the pacing after this opening set-up is scattered, although not uninteresting.
Dani is kept as the focal point of the story and Hunt does well playing her with uncertainty and tragic angst. And while the rest of the cast support her and bring their individual stories to life, it's the work of Taylor-Joy as Illyana that is the stand-out. While perhaps this is lent to by her character's more exuberant personality (And more visually inventive powers), Taylor-Joy also just knows how to steal every scene she's in, serving as both an unofficial antagonistic force to Dani while also being a character that embodies the ensemble's collective frustrations. The feelings of being trapped and, despite having power, feeling powerless and out of control. Boone makes sure to embody these ideas in every scene, whether it's through the horror-based hallucinations of the characters or the setting of the drab and constricting hospital they occupy.
What cripples this film's best concepts is a pacing that is disastrously uneven. To the point when the best visuals appear and the best ideas occur, it doesn't fuse together as well as Boone would hope it does. One would even argue this film feels like a miniseries that was cut together without much of a thorough line to guide it. While the opening and the climax unite everything well, it feels like Boone wasn't sure what to focus on more. The horror of the situation or the warmth of the characters. In perhaps more experienced hands, a compromise could have found been found, but Boone hops from scenes of one tone to scenes of another with no natural transition until, ultimately, leaning on the tropes of the superhero genre, a climax allows it all to come together in normal bombastic affair. But even then, Boone doesn't seem to know how to pace that.
Mark Snow's score helps keep everything on some sort of path, helping give off an unsettling feeling of detachment and worry. When his score is given focus, it shines. When cinematographer Peter Deming is given a chance to lens a scene a certain way, the scene glows. And that's ultimately The New Mutants flaw that keeps it from being a great film, instead of just a middling one. The individual scenes are good. The cast is good. But the film's attempt to work it all together is not. It probably doesn't help the film was edited by three different people, that of Matthew Dunnell, Robb Sullivan, and Andrew Buckland. Whether this film really is Boone's original cut, unaltered, is anyone's guess and I'm sure several other bits of gossip will flood the rumor wheel when it comes to that. While it's an accomplishment the film even was released, given everything that happened and is happening with the COVID-19 pandemic, the film's actual accomplishment lies in being what most need right now. A time filler with entertainment value, but value that is hardly prestigious.
Cast performances (Particularly Taylor-Joy).
Visuals and Cinematography.
Editing and tonal shifts.
Leans on conventions of various genres.