What we have here in the disastrously dull pilot to a TV series only comic book diehards would watch.
A cast starved of charisma, an “origin story” screenplay barely worthy of the name and middling action beats — and damned few of them — doom “The New Mutants,” a stillborn reboot of “X-Men” with new characters, captured in their hormonal teens, just as they’re discovering their…powers.
Basically, it’s Anya Taylor-Joy and a bunch of young players who can’t get away from her shadow, or out of their own way.
Blu Hunt stars as Danielle “Dani” Moonstar, a Native American girl who survives Hell Night on the Reservation in the film’s grabber opening. She and we are hurled into chaos, and her Dad (Adam Beach) cannot save her.
The doctor (Alice Braga of “I Am Legend”) who greets her when she wakes up describes her as “the only survivor of an F5 tornado” that wiped out her community. We don’t have to wait for the doctor’s later admission “That was no tornado, and we both know it,” to know she’s…mistaken.
We heard the growls.
The half-abandoned ruin of a school where Dani wakes up has just five “students” or “patients” or perhaps “inmates.” Dr. Reyes is their sole caregiver, leading group therapy, having regular counseling sessions, taking blood samples for “my employer.”
If they’re lucky and good and learn to “control” their “powers,” maybe they’ll meet this “employer,” maybe move on to “the I work for’s” more famous facility.
The other kids — Illyana Rasputin (Taylor-Joy of “Split,” “Glass” and “The Witch”), Kentucky coal-miner Sam (Charlie Heaton of “Stranger Things”), the Irish Rahne (Maisie Williams of “Game of Thrones”) and bratty Brazilian Roberto (Henry Zaga of TV’s “13 Reasons Why” and “Looking for Alaska”) all know their powers, which are standard-issue X-Men skills.
Dani? “I don’t know.”
So Dr. Reyes spends much of her time monitoring the indigenous X-Girl, testing her “psionic energy.” Outside of her sessions, Dani and the others find friendship, and maybe a little something extra — which is fine, as long as no one gets hurt.
But everybody in the place is having horrific nightmares, facing foes from earlier in their lives. Isn’t all this attention on Dani ignoring that?
How about it, Dr. Reyes, “When will I get better?”
“When I say so!”
Taylor-Joy, being the most famous member of the cast, gets all the torn stocking and short-shorts costumes, and most of the best lines.
“This isn’t a hospital, Pocahontas,” she sneers at Dani. “It’s a CAGE.”
See you in the morning, Illyana?
“I’ll see YOU in HELL.”
The effects are generically impressive, the few fights digital brawls of the standard building-toppling, villain shredding variety.
I’d be surprised if director Josh Boone landed his plum gig, directing and co-creating the TV remake of Stephen King’s “The Stand,” based on this “reel.” There’s zero sizzle here, and the only shock about the enterprise is that nobody’s come up with an algorithm to do the paint-by-numbers job of yelling “Cut” after giving little coaching to the actors or adding nothing to a plainly drab script.
Then again, maybe “Mutants” closed the deal for “The Stand.” What’d I say at the outset? Yeah, this looks like an underwhelming TV pilot. At least it’s not nine episodes long.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violent content, some disturbing/bloody images, some strong language, thematic elements and suggestive material.
Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Maisie Williams, Alice Braga, Henry Zaga, Blu Hunt, Charlie Heaton and Adam Beach.
Credits: Directed by Josh Boone, script by Josh Boone, Knate Lee. A 20th Century release.
Running time: 1:34