After 20 years, the “X-Men” film series has officially concluded with the release of the long-delayed “The New Mutants,” a spin-off film with horror elements, on Sept. 28. While it’s nothing groundbreaking, “The New Mutants” is an adequate enough film with somewhat interesting characters and enough creativity to make this entry in the franchise stand out.
Taking place within the “X-Men” franchise, the film centers around five mutant teenagers in a mysterious hospital who are trying to control their powers with the help of a mutant doctor, played by Alice Braga. However, when all five of them experience terrifying visions, the group tries to figure out why they’re in the hospital, and where they fit into the world.
Several prominent young actors, including Maisie Williams, Anna-Taylor Joy and Charlie Heaton, play the titular heroes, and each of them have creative powers with interesting backstories. Williams’ character can turn herself into a wolf, Joy possesses magical abilities and Heaton can fly, but is unable to control it, so he becomes volatile. The cast is also filled with newcomers like Henry Zaga, who can set himself on fire, and Blu Hunt, whose powers remain a mystery for much of the film.
All of these characters are set up pretty well and are interesting with relatable problems and internal demons that they are trying to overcome. While the film itself isn’t that deep, the characters are very intense and memorable.
One of the film’s strongest virtues is how different it is from the rest of the franchise. Instead of being a generic rip-off of the core “X-Men” films, “The New Mutants” contains more angst and horror elements, which adds a unique flavor to the franchise. It’s like if Guillermo Del Toro took over “The Breakfast Club.”
The film’s self-contained nature is also admirable. In an age where it seems like every superhero film is trying to create a cinematic universe or set up a sequel, “The New Mutants” seems content on telling its own story, and it does that reasonably well.
Only featuring six main characters, taking place in one location and having a small but atmospheric feeling, “The New Mutants” is relatively refreshing compared to current superhero films. While the characters do mention the X-Men once or twice, this film keeps the focus where it should: on its main characters.
Unfortunately, for a film with horror elements, it falls short in scares. There’s definitely creative imagery, but it’s not especially frightening. If the film had expanded upon its imagery and pushed the PG-13 rating to its absolute limit, this would have been more entertaining.
The core X-Men films fall into the typical world-saving nature of superhero films with some doing this well, like “X2: X-Men United” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” and others terribly, like “Dark Phoenix.” The spin-offs, however, all offer a unique look into the franchise, with “The Wolverine” films being more gritty, and the “Deadpool” films being comedies. “The New Mutants” tries to add something different to the franchise and is serviceable.
With Disney now owning 20th Century Fox (now 20th Century Studios) and the rights to the X-Men, a 20-year-old series has now come to an end. While not the worst film in the “X-Men” universe, “The New Mutants” ends the franchise on a whimper, although, with the many delays the film had and compared to last year’s “Dark Phoenix,” the film is much better than expected.