Director Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars) teams up on writing with Knate Lee (Cardboard Boxer) to deliver this long-awaited entry from the Marvel Universe, The New Mutants. Instead of going for a straight superhero origins film, they decided to risk fans' wrath and skirt the edges of a modern horror film. While the dedicated comic aficionados might not get the movie they were looking for, the turn towards horror and exceptional dedication to the original characters' elements delivers more than they might expect.
Five youngsters, each with extraordinary powers granted by genetic mutations, are individually collected and brought to a facility to learn how to control and use their abilities. But they quickly realize that the director, and the program itself, may not have their best interests in mind. Despite their broad individual differences, the children must band together to discover precisely what they have been immersed in, not to mention to survive their "treatment."
The story is a solid one, although there are some liberties taken with the original characters. While some of this appears necessary for its development, other portions seem to be for the sake of the change. By the end of the film, each alteration has at least a tenuous reason for being there. Unlike other superhero films, The New Mutants is more of a horror-mystery than a battle between clearly defined good and evil. The script skates over origins, providing mostly hints instead of tales. There also isn't much that makes this a movie that couldn't have had five random characters, either. The film doesn't suffer much for this, but it will be a disappointment for anyone expecting a more in-depth portrayal of the characters they have been familiar with for decades. Not all is lost for these true believers because the film's final twenty minutes deliver heroic action on the part of all five, with loyalty to the original personalities.
The casting director committed to not only choosing actors that look the parts but also fit the roles, even though this is something different from the average Marvel film. Each delivers a fine performance in bringing the originals to life, to the point that the audience will be left wishing there were more development for each. The lack of focus on this leaves them all remaining a little two-dimensional despite the actors' best efforts. Maisie Williams delivers an excellent performance as the conflicted Rahne Sinclair, showing there is more to her acting ability than just Arya Stark. Both Charlie Heaton as Sam Guthrie and Henry Zaga as Roberto da Costa step seamlessly into the original characters' mentalities. Although Illyana Rasputin is the character most tampered with, Anya Taylor-Joy does well. Blu Hunt's Danielle Moonstar, while the main focus of the story, lacks the most in substance. This void is more an effect of the script than the actress and was possibly the writers' intent toward the story's progression.
The visual effects are both thrilling and, at times, terrifying. Great care was taken to portray everything realistically without giving too much away in advance of the story. Various antagonists come in and out of play in a way that would make any horror franchise villain proud, and some of them jealous, too.
There are a few teasers thrown in that there could be more to follow. If the films come to be, it will be interesting to see how these characters continue to evolve - especially if they manage to cross into the traditional Marvel Character Universe, now that Disney owns all the properties. For now, the mutation from superhero to horror film definitely advances the species.