Review: 'The New Mutants' is filled with squandered potential

Maisie Williams, Henry Zaga, Blu Hunt, Charlie Heaton and Anya Taylor-Joy in “The New Mutants.” (Photo: 20th Century Studios)

The New Mutants
3 out of 5 Stars
Josh Boone
Writer: Josh Boone, Knate Lee
Starring: Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Blu Hunt
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Horror
Rated: PG-13 for violent content, some disturbing/bloody images, some strong language, thematic elements and suggestive material

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) – Synopsis: Five teenage mutants are brought together in a remote facility to learn how to control their newfound powers.

Review: Once upon a time there was a film studio called Twentieth Century Fox. That studio had the franchise rights to Marvel’s X-Men and its related characters. Fox had huge plans and occasionally they followed through and made films. The results were a mixed, often unfocused universe that was prone to retconning itself through time travel.

The New Mutants” is the prototypical Fox X-Men film. At one point or another it was going to be the start of a trilogy, set in the 1980s and include James McAvoy as Professor X and Alexandra Shipp as Storm. Fox changed their mind when 2016’s “X-Men: Apocalypse” failed to maintain the box-office momentum and positive reviews of 2014’s “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” Professor X and Storm were removed from the script and in time the ‘80s setting was essentially abandoned (there is an odd inclusion of a The Replacements song mid-way through the film). The film was scheduled for release in 2017 but was delayed for numerous reasons a variety of times. Director/writer Josh Boone wanted to make a horror film, Fox a coming-of-age drama. Then Warner Brothers had massive success with their adaptation of “It.” Fox had a change of heart and decided they wanted to go with Boone’s original vision. They even flirted with the idea of the film being “R” rated. Reshoots were planned to play up the “Nightmare on Elm Street” influences.

Then there was the Disney buyout and the disastrous performance of 2019’s “X-Men: Dark Phoenix.” “The New Mutants,” which had already gathered dust on a shelf for nearly a year, was a relic before its special effects were even finished.

You might be surprised to learn that “The New Mutants” isn’t a complete disaster. The cast is good, some of the horror sequences work incredibly well and it feels true to the source material. Sure, most of that is squandered by a disappointing third act, but its not hard to see how a handful of reshoots might have made the film a unique and engrossing experience. The film even directly ties into “Logan.” Maybe, in better world, we could get Dafne Keen back as X-23.

Sadly, that’s never going to happen.

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