The New Mutants: What Went Wrong?


The 2020 X-Men spinoff, The New Mutants, was the first new movie of 2020 that I had the privilege to see in theatrical release since theaters across America closed this spring. I was bubbling with excitement just from the sheer novelty of the film, but with a mere thirty-three percent on Rotten Tomatoes, I must admit, I watched The New Mutants for the first time with exceedingly low expectations. I spent all one hour and forty minutes of its runtime waiting for the glaring fault, the thing about this movie that would make it evidently terrible, but nothing presented itself. Though not without its flaws, The New Mutants, directed by Josh Boone, was not inherently bad, it just felt unfinished.

The New Mutants follows a girl named Danielle Moonstar, Dani, who gets put in a hospital for mutants where they are supposed to learn how to control their powers so that they can join the X-Men. There, Dani meets Rain, Sam, Henry, Anya, and Doctor Reyes. Between scattered scares, the movie seems to be made up of three different storylines. Part of the story follows the high school dynamics between the various young patients. There is some petty fighting between Anya and Dani, and some romance brewing between Rain and Dani. Another part of the story follows Doctor Reyes and the mystery surrounding her employers. Finally, the linchpin of the plot is Dani’s self-discovery as she learns how to control her powers and face her fears. These three pieces come together to make a comfortable comic-book plot. 

This movie had several aspects that were very well done. The animation and design of the monsters were fantastic for a movie that had to finish post-production during a pandemic. Also, though some of the characters’ powers were slightly confusing, Dani’s in particular was innovative and led to some pretty spooky sequences throughout the plot. Each of the characters also had an extensive backstory that we got glimpses of throughout the film, which helped give them depth and get the audience invested. There were some really excellent parts in this movie, and that is why it is such a shame that it fell short in other areas.

The main problem with this film was that it felt unfinished and a little lost. By the end, the main message was very clear—it was all about overcoming your fears—but there were other threads of the story that the movie started and gave no explanation or closure to. This made the main antagonist impeccably unsatisfying, and whether or not the heroes actually won was kind of ambiguous. The New Mutants was intended to be both a superhero movie and a horror movie, but it fell slightly short of both, because, though some moments were decently scary and others were certainly heroic, most of the film, most notably the main climax, were neither bone-chilling nor epic. The final battle itself was not even against the main external antagonist that had been developed, and it was not that scary. Of course, the climax was relevant to the plot and the overall message, and it definitely looked like a superhero battle sequence. Still, I was left wondering whether the heroes actually defeated all the evil in the movie. There needed to be more, whether that is more scares or more thought put into the main villain’s downfall, The New Mutants deserved more.

The New Mutants had so much potential to be the next great thing to come from the X-Men universe, but it did itself an injustice by underdeveloping the true evil in the story. It did not deserve to be judged as harshly as it was, but it was not nearly all that it could have been. The movie needed more time to flesh out its villain and deliver the audience a truly terrifying and heroic climax. Unfortunately, there was so much working against this film with production needing to work around a pandemic, a delayed release, and so few people going to theaters right now to see it. The New Mutants is a really good example of a missed opportunity. Whether the ending was lacking because of COVID-19 or it was entirely the writers’ faults does not change the fact that this movie could have been so much more than it was. Was it a terrible movie that you should not bother to see? No. Was it as bad as most critics have been saying? No. Was it a worthy addition to the notorious X-Men universe? Maybe not.