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Anya Taylor-Joy as Illyana Rasputin.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of 20th Century Studios/20th Century Fox

  • The New Mutants
  • Directed by Josh Boone
  • Written by Josh Boone and Knate Lee
  • Starring Blu Hunt, Anya Taylor-Joy and Alice Braga
  • Classification PG; 98 minutes

rating

1.5 out of 4 stars


First of all: Yes, The New Mutants is real! And no, it is not fantastic.

Despite a years-long whisper campaign that director Josh Boone’s scrappy X-Men spin-off was never going to be released from Disney’s vault – the first trailer was released in the fall of 2017, promising an April, 2018, premiere – here it is in 2020, one of the first movies to open in real-deal theatres in six long months. Was it worth the wait? Of course not. But at least the movie’s lengthy production history provides some tasty material to chew on as you attempt to swallow The New Mutants’ empty cinematic calories.

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Taking place within the X-Men universe that we know and sometimes tolerate – X2, First Class, Deadpool and Logan have strengths to spare; every other production would get roundly trounced by any arbitrary entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – The New Mutants concerns itself with some off-brand heroes stuck in a cheap horror movie.

Henry Zaga as Roberto da Costa and Anya Taylor.

Claire Folger/20th Century Fox

After losing her family (hi and bye, Adam Beach!) to some unknown disaster, the teenage Danielle Moonstar (Blu Hunt) wakes up in a mysterious hospital for troubled young mutants. It’s run by Dr. Reyes (Alice Braga), who intimates that she’s connected with benevolent mentor Professor Xavier, but she immediately checks all the bad-guy red flags. As Danielle begins to explore her new home/prison, she must confront her tragic past, and figure out what exactly Dr. Reyes’s end game might be.

Danielle’s fellow wards won’t ring many comic-book bells – there’s a dude who can turn into a fireball, another who blasts off like a rocket, and a third who transforms herself into a wolf – but sharp-eyed X-Men aficionados might recognize that the punky Illyana Rasputin (an enjoyably petulant Anya Taylor-Joy) is the younger sister of mainstream metal X-Man Colossus. Regardless, that unmentioned-on-screen connection and the film’s blink-and-miss mention of a fan-favourite super-villain are all X-Men fans are going to get in terms of tying The New Mutants to anything larger in the series. Which is a shame, because once you remove the X-connections, the entire project is immediately rendered irrelevant.

Blu Hunt as Danielle Moonstar.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of 20th Century Studios/20th Century Fox

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly where Boone goes wrong, because there are just so many options to choose from. The filmmaker, who co-wrote the script with Knate Lee (who I’m assured is not an alias), has several ideas of what The New Mutants should be. It’s The Breakfast Club, just with the miscreant teenagers tweaked to be moody superheroes. It’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, only with Joss Whedon’s sharp dialogue tossed in favour of hacky one-liners. No, wait, it’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, but with a giant grizzly bear standing in for Freddy Krueger (I’m serious).

Instead of funnelling his inspirations into one singular vision that he could call his own, Boone has made a Frankenstein of a franchise movie, a giant elevator pitch that leads directly to the sub-basement of originality. By the time the go-for-broke finale arrives – and we finally get to see the full extent of Danielle’s powers – the film’s energy has been sapped dry, and the emotional stakes completely erased.

But at least no one can say that Boone’s movie isn’t real. See it for yourself, if you have absolutely nothing else left in your life to prove.

The New Mutants opens in Canadian theatres Aug. 28

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