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'The New Mutants' Review | A painfully subpar diet X-Men tale that packs zero punch

This X-Men spin-off lacks substance, smarts, or any reason to exist. It's everything that takes place after the first sip of diet soda: sadness and disappointment.
Credit: 20th Century Studios

ST. LOUIS — Early on in "The New Mutants," the latest diet Marvel/X-Men concoction, I wondered to myself, "why does this movie exist, again?"

By the time I left the theater a couple of (LONG) hours later, the question didn't find a real answer- unless you think "I have no idea why" is a thought-provoking response. Josh Boone's new film is a product of the uneasy yet existing Marvel-20th Century Studios partnership, and the entire film comes off like a warm can of diet soda.

After the first sip hits right and gives you that sweet sting of satisfaction, the following gulps prove to be far more uncomfortable sounding and regret creeps in. You no longer understand why you didn't just order the regular cola, the conniving yet trustworthy partner in crime. "The New Mutants" catches your eye early with enhanced young ladies like Maisie Williams' (Arya from HBO's "Game of Thrones") Rahne. She's a capable actress and sells some of the early moments. The powers of various young supes are shown off, and you give in a little. Like that first taste of "the non good stuff," looks here can be deceiving.

Before long, they are facing the same problems, inside the same set of limitations, and must try to work together to save the ... you get it. This isn't a good movie, and it's quite the bore for a superhero flick. What you see here has been done many times before, and in a better way. It isn't like Kevin Feige had his hands directly on this; this kind of property output must seem like spam in his email. He shakes the shoulders, rolls the eyes, and stores it in the dumpster. Feige and his Marvel wizardry had zero input in the development here, and there is no Wolverine sighting to brighten things up.

The heroes here are the same batch of jaded gifted youngsters that populate, in smaller capacity, other, much better comic movies. You'll notice Charlie Heaton's fiery yet innocent Sam, because he played a similar type in Netflix's "Stranger Things." The diehard "Game of Thrones" fans will be willing to stare at Williams read the takeout menu for an hour or so, but her character doesn't have a real arc or multi-dimensional build. The actors can't lift up material that comes off as phony in an instant.

It seems like every year, someone wants to relight the X-Men fire, and it comes off as a half-measure with ingredients we've seen before.

The cast tries hard, but they never carve anything out that is succinct. What we do get out of them isn't that great. Anya Taylor-Joy's accent doesn't just come and go; it overwhelms you the way a bad karaoke singer would right after a bad plate of nachos. The film is stuffed full with bad accents or just weak character development. After a few minutes of dialogue reading, the screenwriters just spin quickly to an action sequence. It doesn't work, because it just seems so fake.

Boone, known for making romantic comedies, dips his feet in the superhero waters, hoping to make an out of nowhere dent. But Boone is no Jon Watts, whom Feige and company picked up after his dazzling and twisted Kevin Bacon vehicle, "Cop Car." It was like a not-so-sweet version of Matthew McConaughey's "Mud." Boone doesn't bring any edge to the darkness that he aspired for in taking on the project. At least that's what he mentioned in the above-linked Screen Rant piece.

"The New Mutants" comes off more like diet "X-Men" than a true stand-alone feature. A better swing at this would have happened on network television. A hundred minutes isn't enough to show us if these thinly written heroes have a future. What we do get is less than subpar.

It's actually forgettable, and not in a drunken stumble kind of way. There isn't a noteworthy element to it, so when the credits do roll, you've already checked out completely.

"The New Mutants" was exactly what I thought it'd be: A weak impersonation of the Avengers mixed with unhinged mutant youth. You can pass this one up and take on a truly dark back-road like James Mangold's "Logan." Talk about leaning into a goal.

Here, Josh Boone tries to change pace with this superhero high school field trip, but the results are timid at best.

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