The New Mutants (2020)
April 15, 2021 7:50 PM - Subscribe

Five young mutants, just discovering their abilities while held in a secret facility against their will, fight to escape their past sins and save themselves.

The movie, shot in July-September 2017 and originally planned for a 2018 release, has had a problematic public release history, complicated by the acquisition of 20th Century Fox by Disney, and then by the pandemic. Finally released on August 28, 2020, it didn't make back its production budget, and is currently at 35% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film is currently streaming on HBO Max.


Comic Con virtual panel with the cast, Josh Boone, and Bill Sienkiewicz (former New Mutants artist)

A Vulture article that goes into the troubled production and release history

New Mutants co-creator Bob McLeod criticizes Roberto da Costa's casting
posted by Halloween Jack (15 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I saw it around when it came out, but don't remember much other than the colour palette and the casting of Maisie Williams (who maybe wasn't used to good effect - something like the slower but excellent Two Weeks to Live seem more up her alley).
posted by porpoise at 7:59 PM on April 15, 2021

All the X-Men films were hit or miss, but this one was maybe the worst of them all. The acting, the story, the action scenes, just completely subpar. A pathetic ripoff of Forbidden Planet (yes, I know), that deserved to flop. I bet if MeFi ranked every X-Men movie, this one would average out in the bottom three. What a horrible way to end the franchise.
posted by Beholder at 5:05 AM on April 16, 2021

I've been thinking about this movie since finishing it yesterday, and while I don't think that I'd put it in the bottom 3 of X-Men movies--X3, the first solo Wolverine movie, X-Men: Apocalypse, and Dark Phoenix wore all arguably worse--it has a couple of big problems that would have been relatively easy to solve, and it's puzzling why Josh Boone was oblivious, if not outright stubborn, regarding them.

The first one is how the movie (mis)handles race and racism. The casting of Roberto da Costa has already been commented on. (Weirdly, Boone had a similar problem/criticism with casting Henry Zaga in his miniseries of The Stand, since he was cast as Nick Andros, a deaf/mute person; Boone's rationalization for that was a short scene in the book where Andros speaks, although there are ways of dealing with that while still using a deaf actor.) Bobby da Costa's origin in the comics is tied into his being biracial--his power manifests during a racist attack--and although not all of the original comic stands up to a re-read, Chris Claremont's pointing out that some mutants have problems and prejudices to deal with besides anti-mutant sentiment is still solid. (Cecilia Reyes is also whitewashed, vs. the comics original.) There's also the decision to make Illyana's initial mean-girl treatment of Dani explicitly racist, which has no comics parallel and is kind of weird given that Illyana is from Siberia and I'm not sure how likely it is that she'd pick up some specifically American racist attitudes toward Native Americans. Finally, there's the matter of the whole "inside of everyone there are two wolves bears" thing, which is based on the wolves thing, which... was made up by Billy Graham. White people making up Native American "legends" is a recurrent problem (it was kind of the basis for the NA character in Star Trek: Voyager), and while the wolf version has some funny memes associated with it, it's not super great to make it basically the basis for the whole movie.

There's also the weirdness of there being almost no people in the movie; there are the five NMs, Dr. Reyes, and... everyone else is either a memory or part of one of Dani's visualization of everyone's fears. These kids are being imprisoned on the behest of a mysterious corporation (it's hinted that the mastermind behind it is someone who, for my money, is the X-Men's least interesting archvillain), but literally the only person who's keeping the kids there is Reyes, who is, to put it mildly, pretty vulnerable for someone with force-field powers; all the kids have killed or hurt people with their powers, and the only thing standing between them and the rest of the world is someone who can be drugged so that the kids can party down. It's not so much a failure of worldbuilding as a contemptuous indifference to it. Boone gave the world of The Stand similar treatment; he either simply ignored a number of characters and plot points or gave them the most cursory mention. Obviously, an introductory film shouldn't include every little detail of the lives of characters who are decades old at this point, but there should be some real indication of there actually being a world beyond the institution/prison; the second Deadpool movie did a much better job with its not-the-Xavier-School school, and that was just one of the settings that that movie explored.

So, yeah, not the worst but with bizarrely obvious shortcomings. Not sure if/when any of these characters will show up in whatever Disney decides to do with the X-characters; if anyone makes the transition, I would bet on Magik, if they can afford Anya Taylor-Joy at this point.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:02 AM on April 16, 2021 [6 favorites]

I can see why this one sat on the shelf for so long. It is...not great. And to be marketed as a sort of horror movie was weird.

I feel like the cast signed up for a different movie and then when they realized what kind of dreck it was actually going to turn out to be, they did the best they could.

(Also, Shepherd, my beloved comics nerd husband, pointed out the whitewashing of Bobby de Costa as well. As well the two bears thing. Even I knew about the two bears thing. I was like, wait what, did they just make their own version of this because Dani has the Demon Bear, oh ffs)
posted by Kitteh at 8:05 AM on April 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

This was even more of a mess than I expected, and I came in expecting the white-washing, gross casual racism, and rewrites/reshoots. Was anyone who wasn't well-versed in the original run of the comic going to understand Illyana's whole deal? Why did Lockheed turn into a real dragon? Why wasn't Sam nigh invulnerable when he was blasting? Why didn't they all just teleport away? Why were they always watching Buffy, and was it just to remind us of something better we all could have been watching?

The casting of Williams and Taylor-Joy aside I don't think there was anything redeeming about this at all.
posted by bcwinters at 9:13 AM on April 16, 2021

- Illyana: probably not. Honestly, I think that her whole deal in the comics was one of the things that led me to start looking more critically at Claremont's work; between his fixation with inserting fantasy elements into X-Men in fairly clumsy ways and his giving almost all the female characters overly complicated and/or traumatic backgrounds or plot developments, the bloom started coming off that rose in the early-mid eighties for me.

- Lockheed: because Magik was... really magical? I dunno. The quasi-Slendermen were also a movie invention, I think.

- Sam: I think he was. The problem, which is something that the comics also did, was that he doesn't have it when he's not blasting, and initially he's not really able to steer. I don't remember him getting bruises or broken bones in the comics, but that seems a bit more realistic for someone with those initial limitations. There's also the implication that some of that may be semi-deliberate self-harm on his part due to survivor guilt.

- Buffy: because it was one of Boone's touchstones for the film, and IMO another one of his missteps. (In earlier drafts, he apparently stole pretty directly from The Breakfast Club.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:36 AM on April 16, 2021

Oh, and they don't teleport away because apparently Reyes' always-on force field also blocks Illyana's power. Somehow.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:39 AM on April 16, 2021

Oh man, it's been a long time since I saw this - I think actually kind of liked it by the end, but I think it was because it was interesting seeing them deal with their relative empowerinating traumas as opposed to just HEY COOL I GOT THE LAZER EYES pew pew like the cool kids over at Professor Xavier's School for _Gifted_ Youngsters. Or was that my complaint about it, that they could have made it into an interesting movie dealing with their traumas and in the end it just went all Avengers Assemble jump-punch-kick?

That said, I'm mostly unfamiliar with the characters other than Ilyana and Sam, which could probably be used as a touchstone for when I was reading the X-Men.
posted by Kyol at 12:13 PM on April 16, 2021

And to be marketed as a sort of horror movie was weird.

That's kinda one of the frustrating things about this flick - it could have been a really interesting horror take on the superhero genre. The bones are there, the basic set up of "A handful of people trapped in a Mysterious Facility by Unknown People for Sinister Reasons" has been used in a ton of films, plenty of pretty good ones made for a budget of like 50 bucks. But it sounds like Boone was so fixated on making "Mutant Breakfast Club" that he missed the possibilities right in front of him.

but don't remember much

I'm pretty sure I started this like 3 or 4 times before I wound up getting through the whole thing out of sheer stubbornness, and I'm pretty sure I made it through about half of another viewing before I realized I'd already seen it. "Instantly forgettable" is not a quality you want your movie to have . . .
posted by soundguy99 at 6:17 AM on April 17, 2021

I feel like every time there was a choice to be made in making this movie, the filmmakers picked the wrong one. I feel like there was a good movie in here waiting to get out but it just got buried under layers and layers of bad choices.

I am confused about the timeline of the reshoots (like I'm not sure how much of the movie was done before they did reshoots or if there was an original cut) but I do feel like this just got muddled down to nothing.

I like the idea of a superhero horror movie. I wish this had tried to do that more.

(Also, I'm confused as to when this was supposed to take place. I feel like it was probably supposed to be late '90s/early '00s just from some of the aesthetics, so maybe chronologically after Dark Phoenix, but then there were tablets and such which made it seem like it was supposed to be taking place now. I wonder if that was part of the reshoots/etc.)

What a disappointing mess and was sad conclusion to the Fox-era of X-Men movies.
posted by edencosmic at 9:55 AM on April 17, 2021

This is not a movie one should spend effort thinking about too much. If you're just in it for the kinda dumb action movie, it's passable, like something I might have watched on HBO some afternoon in the days before DVRs.

There are actually quite a few bits that worked for me. It did a good job of setting up the increasingly creepy vibe, for example.

Unlike some other films that land in the meh zone, I would not recommend seeking this one out to actively watch. It's no Event Horizon.
posted by wierdo at 4:15 PM on April 17, 2021

I enjoyed it as a mostly-okay movie. I thought shifting it from the usual 'bright colorful comic book' looking superhero film to sort of horror-looking was a really interesting choice. Having characters thinking they're in a feeder program for Xavier's school worked for me. But, parts of the script ranged from ham-handed through to flat-out bad - the dialogue fell really flat to my ear, and both Sunspot and Magik in particular seemed badly handled. (Although, gotta say, I'm glad to see some solid queer content in my mutant entertainment - something 16 year old me never expected she'd see back when the comic of The New Mutants launched)
posted by rmd1023 at 5:14 PM on April 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

The first two thirds were almost unbearable teen cringe. I mean the girl watches a Buffy lesbian kiss scene ffs, real subtle move there avant garde filmmaker.

I actually enjoyed the bug dumb cgi fight and would watch more of the teens actually doing stuff.

It shows that it was filmed and then entirely reshot with both shoots costing less than 15mins of Endgame.

I read it had been originally rumored to be an R-rated horror film with mutants thrown in. I have a feeling Disney killed it the second they bought Fox which happened sometime between the first shoot and second shoot.
posted by M Edward at 8:56 PM on April 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have a feeling Disney killed it

Oh, that makes perfect sense for how we ended up with this film.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:45 AM on April 21, 2021

From the Vulture article:
In postproduction, a studio executive noted that a total do-over would not necessarily be a financial wipeout given the film’s relatively bargain budget. “You could throw the movie out, start over, and it would still be the least expensive X-Men movie so far,” the sources recall a high-ranking Fox executive claiming.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:12 AM on April 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

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