The New Mutants (2020)

“You know how much trouble we’re going to get into for this?”

It’s both upsetting and undeniable to call The New Mutants a relentlessly short yet unequivocal disaster. The kind of blockbuster flop that’s unforgivable, unaware of its awfulness, with its best descriptors prefixed by “un.” It’s just shy of being a cinematic Category 5 hurricane, and is an altogether unremitting mess. Some might think this one will age into a cult classic, but I’ll just be honest and hail it as one of the worst comic adaptations in modern history. The film – so obviously cut and glued together with hardly a second to dry – lives in an unwieldy hell destined for such unforgiving movies. Outside and disconcerting efforts are so required to make a film this incompetent. Seems to have been the case.

Drenched in angst and riddled with rebellion, The New Mutants desperately tries and completely fails to blend John Hughes’ high school / teenage formula into a dark, superhero driven story. Leading all of the lame and lazy action is Danielle Moonstar (Blu Hunt), a seemingly talented actress given too little agency in the bland script. She’s traumatized, grieving her father, still trying to figure out her powers while locked up in an abandoned building with other off-color teens. It’s clear she’s different though, and the movie at least takes the time to brand her as such. As for the rest of the characters though…not so much. Personal histories and traits are designed more than they are organically built.

If you couldn’t already glean from my hazy description, the above picture should illustrate just how much The New Mutants wants to be The Breakfast Club in a supercharged, secretive setting. Overseeing this detention center is Dr. Reyes (Alice Braga), who’s so coolly and plainly channeling Nurse Ratched that we know she’s compromised from the first start. She’s up to no good. It doesn’t help things that the rest of the minimalist cast are so thinly drawn and their powers so lackluster. Rahne (Maisie Williams) mutates into a wolf, Sam Guthrie (Charlie Heaton) can propel his body, Illyana Rasputin (Anya Taylor-Joy, the only performer who brings any attitude to the table) can teleport and perform sorcery, and Roberto da Costa (Henry Zaga) is capable of spontaneous combustion. Every character is given a hint of depth, but there’s no shading or shrewdness, and with less than 90 minutes before the credits, there’s no time to build these teens into adults either. They’re flat, one-dimensional scribbles instead of 3D portraits.

Writing this review pained me. The New Mutants is so clearly the product of studio oversight, and it’s pretty obvious writer and director Josh Boone was put on the fast track to deliver a picture which ultimately took forever to hit theater screens. However, that’s not excusing Boone’s dull direction or on the nose writing, making for a movie whose only consistency is how maddeningly inconsistent the tone is over the course of its run. Should this be considered horror? There are elements in play. Is this science fiction? The more soulful source material would say so. Is it a “coming of age story” (if you’ve read my reviews, you know I hate that classification) hindered by its desperate longing to be The Breakfast Club mutated with X-Men? The problem with The New Mutants is that it tries to be an all-in-one endeavor. To touch every base while hitting a pop fly. And in doing so, nothing registers as true or faithful or safely makes the turn towards home plate. It’s an unrepentant miss from start to finish.

“Sometimes, the most humane thing to do is to put it to sleep.”

Rating: 0.5 out of 5

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