After years of delays, “The New Mutants” is finally in theaters, and a select few critics braved theaters to get the first look. But the verdict from early reviews is that Josh Boone’s “so-so” “X-Men” spinoff wasn’t worth the long wait, and may not be worth moviegoers immediately going back to theaters either.
“The New Mutants” has been delayed since before even the Disney-Fox merger way back in 2018, and some fans wondered if it would ever hit the big screen. And now that it has, Disney did not make the film widely available to critics, with some like The A.V. Club announcing their intentions not to review the film at all.
But a smattering of critics — just 18 on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of writing — have saddled “The New Mutants” with a lowly 22% on Rotten Tomatoes, calling it “middling,” “so-so,” or “perfectly fine,” with one critic going as far as to call it “the worst X-Men movie ever.”
“At its best, the story that arises from this setup is visually inventive and much darker than we’re used to seeing in Marvel/X-Men films,” TheWrap’s Michael Nordine writes. “But while it’s never actively bad, ‘The New Mutants’ rarely imbues any of its happenings with any real heft. Like the remote hospital that serves as its setting, the film as a whole feels too closed off from the rest of its fictional universe to matter much.”
Boone’s film mashes up the superhero genre with horror elements and ’80s teen movies like “The Breakfast Club” and puts a trio of women front and center. But many critics said that “The New Mutants” never feels as scary or as fresh as it should be, even though it finds some standout moments. For instance, Boone introduces a same-sex couple storyline in the film but then directly references a scene from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” that already did the same thing.
“Generic and, at its best, straining to be heartfelt, director Josh Boone’s adaptation of the Marvel spinoff comic series is a Marvel movie spinoff in its own right, making vague references to the X-Men franchise but attempting to stand on its own. Unfortunately, it rarely does,” The Hollywood Reporter’s Jordan Mintzer wrote, adding that there’s “very little new here.”
Scott Mendelson of Forbes was less kind, calling it a “nothing-burger” of a movie and even worse than the poorly received “Dark Phoenix.”
“‘The New Mutants’ is a miserable motion picture. It’s a monotonous, redundant and irrelevant fantasy flick that fails to commit to being a teen melodrama, a YA fantasy or a horror movie, instead offering half-assed components of all three,” he wrote. “Despite a strong cast, the all-too-rare presence of an LGBTQIA romance between two lead characters and a few moments of visual inventiveness, Josh Boone and Knate Lee’s ‘The New Mutants’ boils down to being, yes, a terrible feature-length prequel for a sequel that absolutely no one will ever want to see.”
See excerpts of other reviews below:
Michael Nordine, TheWrap
At its best, the story that arises from this setup is visually inventive and much darker than we’re used to seeing in Marvel/X-Men films. One of the mutants was brought here after killing 18 people, and Dani’s ability to conjure literal monsters leads to a climactic battle that’s genuinely awesome. But while it’s never actively bad, “The New Mutants” rarely imbues any of its happenings with any real heft. Like the remote hospital that serves as its setting, the film as a whole feels too closed off from the rest of its fictional universe to matter much.
Scott Mendelson, Forbes
Lacking marquee characters and existing as yet another feature-length prologue, “The New Mutants” fails as a teen melodrama and, partially because we know none of the core cast is in any permanent danger, fails as a horror movie. Whether it justifies itself as an X-Men movie is irrelevant since it is a very bad X-Men movie, the worst of the franchise by default. At least “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” had multiple locations, multiple characters and big-scale comic book action that resembled a trashy 1980’s Cannon flick. New Mutants’ visuals are generally drab, and the few moments of fantastical color lit up the screen by comparison. Despite a refreshingly inclusive cast and a front-and-center same-sex romance, “The New Mutants” is like watching a lousy TV pilot for a show that you know didn’t get picked up.
Jordan Mintzer, THR
At best, Boone coaxes good performances from his cast, especially the troika of Blu, Taylor-Joy and Williams, who add layers of panache and emotion to their characters while kicking ass at the same time. Per Wikipedia, “The New Mutants” is meant to be the last entry in the X-Men series — one of the film’s producers, Simon Kinberg, directed the rather disastrously received “Dark Phoenix,” which came out last year — but you could easily see these three young women joining Marvel Studio’s growing gamut of superheroines. It’s just too bad the movie that launched them doesn’t have the same impact. As far as the mutant franchise goes, it never makes its last stand.
Jason Gorber, /Film
There will be an audience for The New Mutants, and in time it may even achieve a kind of cult status, with people seeing themselves in these troubled characters as they come to terms with their own challenges. For now, we get a film that is perfectly fine in being perfectly fine. In a world where normal seems very abnormal indeed, to experience something middling feels surprisingly refreshing, and while its road to the screen has been fraught, the end result is a decent, entertaining film that is worth seeking out when time and circumstances allow.
Chris Knight, National Post
It’s doubtful any movie could live up to more than two years of pent-up anticipation, and this movie confirms that doubt. It’s a simple story, passably directed by Josh Boone (“The Fault in Our Stars”) and adequately acted, but that’s about it.
Peter Debruge, Variety
Despite all the meddling and interference the film reportedly went through, “The New Mutants” feels pretty coherent in the end. What it doesn’t achieve is a memorable personality of its own. The project’s so committed to being a 1980s-style teen- and horror-movie homage that it never distinguishes itself. What was intended to establish the foundation for a possible standalone trilogy plays like an elaborate pilot for a series you’d never watch, and while the production values are slick, the performances and set pieces have the awkwardness of cable TV.