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The New Mutants Review: Not worth the Wait

The New Mutants is less of a movie and more a collection of Superhero, Horror, and Teen Movie clichés mushed together into the rough approximation of a film.

I never go into a movie wanting to dislike it. Everyone in the production puts in an obscene amount of work, often dedicating years of their lives to the project, and I want to appreciate their efforts. Many of the films I review for Loud and Clear are made by indie filmmakers or small production companies, some of them just starting out, and I often find myself grading on a bit of a curve for them. I love this medium, and I want its practitioners to succeed.

The New Mutants is not one of these films. It had a budget of 67 million US dollars, several of the film industry’s prominent young stars, and the backing of four production companies, two of which were 20th Century Fox and Marvel. And yet, to call the final product a disappointment is an understatement.

I’ll start with the acting. I don’t want to spend too much time criticising the actors, because they had to do their best with what they were given, but there are still a few things that bothered me. First, there was not one but two distracting accents that took me out of the movie: Charlie Heaton proved he can do a convincing general US accent in Stranger Things, but his Kentucky accent could use some work. As for Anya Taylor-Joy’s accent, I think it was supposed to be Eastern European, but I honestly couldn’t tell you for sure. Blu Hunt and Henry Zaga both came across as quite stiff and bland, which, again, may be due to the film’s writing (don’t worry, we’ll get to that).

The main cast’s saving graces, and the half-star preventing this movie from getting a one-star review, are Maisie Williams as Rhane Sinclair and Alice Braga as Cecilia Reyes. Though they also weren’t given great material to work with, they both certainly shine as the two most experienced actors in the main cast, and both are somehow able to deliver compelling performances. Also, Adam Beach is in this movie for, like, 30 seconds, and doesn’t really get to do anything. After this and Suicide Squad, I can’t help but wonder why Hollywood keeps putting Adam Beach in things only to not use him. He’s a talented guy, Hollywood! Give Adam Beach better roles!

The special effects would be impressive if this were an indie project. But since this had a 67 million dollar budget, the visuals look cheap, especially when so much of the film relies on images and sequences of claustrophobia. Also, the cinematography bothered me from the moment the movie started: it opens with a shaky-cam sequence! I thought we, as a society, agreed that shaky-cam was a bad idea after everyone got motion sick from the first Hunger Games movie.

loud and clear reviews the new mutants
Maisie Williams, Henry Zaga, Blu Hunt, Charlie Heaton and Anya Taylor-Joy in The New Mutants (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)

Finally, we come to the script. First of all, the dialogue ranges from forgettable to groan-worthy; Blu Hunt did her best, but it’s hard to deliver a line like “Keep my father’s name out of your mouth, bitch!” well. There are multiple occasions when the camera zooms in on Illyana (Taylor-Joy) so she could deliver what the writers no doubt thought would be a killer one-liner. If the one-liners had been clever, then I’d be ok with this, but they were never good enough to warrant zooms; a few times, I straight-up predicted what the one-liner would be. And they do this multiple times! If it wasn’t effective the first time, it won’t be effective the fifth time.

As for the plot, the pacing is all over the place: a serious therapy scene is immediately followed by goofy teen hijinks with an up-beat rock soundtrack, which is then followed by a serious confession of inner guilt and pain. The frequent tonal whiplash makes for a disengaging experience, which led me to check my watch multiple times in my viewing.

It also felt like The New Mutants is trying really hard to cash in on current trends and other commercially viable properties; The New Mutants wants to be The Breakfast Club-meets-IT(2007)-meets-X-Men-meets-Stranger Things. In trying to be as many other things as possible, it comes out a mess. In fact, you know what? Here’s a categorized list of other films and visual media that are more deserving of your time, and do a better job of being what The New Mutants tries to be: 

Teen horror movies
The Lost Boys

Teen superhero movies
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Sky High

Coming of age movies

Coming of age films with horror and/or superhero elements
Ginger Snaps
Pan’s Labyrinth 
Big Hero 6

Superhero movies with horror elements
The Crow
Hellboy & Hellboy 2
(2004, 2008)

Adolescents experiencing the horrors and anxieties of growing up with a supernatural twist 
A Nightmare on Elm Street
IT (2017)
Stranger Things
Life is Strange

Films about malpractice and mental hospitals
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Session 9
Shutter Island

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors

Other X-Men movies
X-Men: First Class
X2: X-Men United

Movies about a scrappy group of misfits who learn to find family in each other
The Breakfast Club
Stand By Me
The Sandlot
Guardians of the Galaxy

Teen movies that are just really good
Mean Girls
Back to the Future
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

I don’t know who we can blame for The New Mutants. I can only surmise that it’s the same big-studio meddling that’s been plaguing high-budget movies for generations. What I can tell you is that I bought an expensive movie ticket, traveled across town on public transport risking exposure to Covid, and ate overpriced food prepared by an underpaid employee, just to see this movie. A movie that the producers refuse to release on streaming during a pandemic. A movie that wasn’t even worth the time, money, and risk involved. Don’t reward this behavior. Don’t reward cynical business practices and studio meddling. I just gave you so many other, comparable, better options, many of which are available on streaming. Or maybe you already have some DVDs lying around. Do yourself a favor, save yourself some money, and don’t bother with The New Mutants.

The New Mutants: Trailer (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)
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