For a long time it seemed like The New Mutants might never come out. Filmed in 2017 – an eternity ago – it was originally planned for April 2018, then delayed for reshoots that never happened. Then it was moved again to August 2019, and then to April 2020. And then the pandemic hit, and rumors kept flying it would be punted to VOD or one of Disney's streaming services. But it went ahead with its contractually obligated theatrical release, even as theaters in California, New York, and other states remain closed.
So do all those delays and lowered expectations help the final product? Yes and no. The movie ultimately isn't very good. It's both extremely dark (often literally) and extremely silly. But it doesn't carry the crushing disappointment of some of the other failures of the X-Men franchise, including last year's Dark Phoenix. And since it's all but guaranteed Disney will reboot these characters and integrate them into the MCU, it ultimately won't matter.
Blu Hunt plays Dani, a young mutant who wakes up in a creepy hospital after a tornado wipes out her entire reservation. The cold doctor (Alice Braga) informs her that she's a mutant and that she's not allowed to leave the grounds. She makes fast friends with Raine (Maisie Williams) and fast enemies with Illyana (Anya Taylor-Joy). They're the only other patients in the sprawling facility, along with Berto (Henry Zaga) and Sam (Charlie Heaton).
Unsurprisingly, things get more unsettling as the teens are studied physically and psychologically, and the dark secrets of their pasts and mutant powers are revealed. There are moments when it all works, when you feel the weight of the guilt of these kids who have blood on their hands. But often the interactions – both romantic and antagonistic – are laughable, downright Twilight-esque.
Still, the film deserves some points for doing what other comic book movies aren't - it features two prominent gay characters, one of them religious. There's not just a passing mention like in Avengers: Endgame or Deadpool 2. These are the leads of the film and they're not just chastely holding hands either. This is one of the things that will be lost with Fox folding into Disney. For all their jumbled continuity and inconsistent quality, at least Fox's X-Men movies allowed their characters to be horny.
In the end, there's nothing special about The New Mutants, the final X-Men movie for the foreseeable future. It's certainly not worth risking COVID for. (I saw the film at a drive-in theater in Atlanta.) But if Boone had been allowed to make the other films in his planned trilogy, there was a lot of potential.