I saw The New Mutants. I did it. I went to a theater, I bought a ticket, and I saw a movie that was originally intended to release years ago.
And yet, while I sat in my seat, mask on tightly and glasses fogging every few minutes from my restless breathing, I couldn’t stop thinking to myself, “This is really frustrating.” And I think that’s because – and I know a lot of people say this but I genuinely mean it based on the film’s history and the experience of watching this film – there’s a better film in here.
I think this comes down to Disney not caring about The New Mutants (a novel thought, amirite?), but the level to which they don’t care is a little bothersome to me. That said, you’re probably a very normal, very kind, very mindful person, and for that reason, you didn’t go to the theater as I did. So, I’ll spell everything out as much as my half-dose-of-Nyquil brain can handle right now (allergies got me weak).
Basically, I think Disney:
- Observed the project’s history and knowing, while it had hit some weird form of cult status, that it would never be a blockbuster (you know, cause cult status).
- Watched the downfall of the mainline X-Men franchise in Apocalypse and Dark Phoenix and knowing, even if The New Mutants succeeds, there’s no life left.
- Didn’t really care about The New Mutants because they already have the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a successful place (although I’d posit 2020 has negatively impacted a lot about people’s interest in the MCU based on lost momentum, but that’s for another day).
- Saw what was completed and thought to themselves, “This is way more, how do we put it… content-heavy than we’re comfortable with.”
And when you wrap all of these things together and remember there’s a huge pandemic going on, I feel like Disney thought this was the perfect opportunity to not only release this film but to release it in theaters. To that end, it finally succeeds where we never thought it could (I just… I can’t believe it actually came out). But the issue is that The New Mutants has likely been purposefully edited and toned down. The result of these proposed choices is a virtually unchallenging, unprovocative, and ‘meet that sweet, sweet 90-minute mark’ film where theater screens can jam as many showings as possible.
And on that note, here’s another list based primarily on the film’s editing concluded with why it matters:
- Many actions seem as though parts are missing. For instance, Anya Taylor-Joy has a puppet on her hand, and then there’s a cut where it’s gone despite her and another character being in the same action. The puppet is now in her pocket. There are other scenes where characters are mid-action, we miss a step, and then are elsewhere. Gotta get sub-100 minutes!
- One scene shows Charlie Heaton angrily screaming in a bathroom mirror but it comes right after a conversation with two totally different characters. It’s out of nowhere.
- Characters partake in a truth-game and when Anya Taylor-Joy begins detailing her backstory, the camera turns into a ‘spy-cam’ and then exits. She’s mid-sentence when it happens and if memory serves me right, a trailer shows scenes from her backstory.
- Many scenes from the trailer are not in the film. One may think they were faux scenes to get you into the theater, but similar to Slenderman, it’s clear that scenes were omitted (although, unlike Slenderman, not for the same reason). Some scenes were likely cut due to them being too frightening in Disney’s opinion, and also to chase that sub-100 runtime.
- Anya Taylor-Joy is quite literally spray-painting a phallic image (a joke that some early scripts wanted to keep) but the film never pans down to show it. Setting shots afterward do not feature the spray-paint where it should be based on the chronology of the film.
- I counted at least two scenes that clearly missed a previous segment that ‘built up’ to a character’s verbal motivation, although I’m sure there are several more. One I remember features Charlie Heaton’s character complaining about nightmares. This scene is dramatic and tense but smacked right in the middle of two tonally fun scenes. It’s disorienting.
- Throughout the movie, there are these weird computer-screen segments that are there for minor-exposition, very clearly something added in a late-version of the film to tie together loose ends. The most glaring problem is visible when Alice Braga’s character learns something important about a student and what she has to do about it. She stares blankly at the screen as though she were mid-conversation and these were reaction shots. However, the scene is her sitting lamely at a computer typing in digits. Extreme Reylo vibes.
- On the topic of Alice Braga, it seems her entire character’s arc has been reworked. Based on the events of the film, and how it ends, it’s clear that the culmination of her arc was intended to be more dramatic. Yet, so much is missing to the point that you can actually tell it’s missing. It’s the equivalent of moving furniture from a dusty room. You know furniture was there because the feet-prints are visible. Yet, you don’t know what kind of furniture it was because it’s been removed. The end result? The room is dusty and I’m still not able to sit anywhere.
- ADR used to chase that sub-100 runtime. Many scenes of characters expositing when they aren’t on screen or their face cannot be seen.
The New Mutants once promised a fascinating premise (Breakfast Club-esque Superhero Horror flick – of which it kind of delivers) into a film that has been purposely edited to be forgotten, if not by the film itself (personally, I can never forget my adventure with The New Mutants), than by its release, which is begging people to not go. And that’s what Disney wants. This film doesn’t mean anything to them. And that’s so sad because that always makes me sad.
Film, of all art mediums, is a collective work. A lot of people had faith in the script, were confident with their performances, and, based on reports, seemed to believe they were making something new. And, it’s possible they did. There were segments at the end where I thought to myself, “Hey, this feels like what was promised. A Breakfast Club-esque Superhero Horror flick!” I would even say some scenes frightened me if it weren’t for the editing quickly running away from them (Disney be like, “Horror movie bad.”) But, like, it doesn’t matter, because Disney doesn’t care, and Disney wants this film to make them a bit of cash and then be gone forever.
And because it’s sort of an X-Men film, sort of a Marvel film, and sort of a Disney film, you will never see a Scream Factory release with all the deleted content. You will never hear that fascinating Director/Cast commentary on making The New Mutants. You will never see fan-edits that piece together the full film as it was originally intended (which, if my hunch is right, would feature an interesting plotline for Alice Braga), and you will never get to have a new insight on the saga we’ve come to know as The New Mutants.
And, I don’t know man, that just bums me out so much. The New Mutants is such an ambivalent project. But, I mean, it was kind of interesting, and I did give it 2.5 stars on Letterboxd, so I guess I enjoyed it, but I think I only enjoyed what I wanted to enjoy: seeing it in theaters as it should have been years ago.
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Melvin Benson is the Founder, Executive Editor, and Lead Host of Cinematic Doctrine. He’s written fiction and nonfiction for over a decade with short stories featured on the Creepypasta Wiki and Wattpad. His novelette Ethereal Temptation, a teen drama with a tinge of magical-realism, can be read for free here. His hope is to see King Jesus glorified as far as the east is from the west!