The X-Men movies are not great. They are either outright bad, or they don’t hold up. Logan is the closest they’ve come to a genuinely good movie, and even it falls apart in the third act. But, the success of Logan and Deadpool has shown Fox a way out of the weeds with the X-movies, which is leaning into genre influence. Deadpool leaned into parody, and Logan did a sci-fi riff on Westerns, and both movies were better for going their own way, outside the larger X-universe. So now we have the first trailer for the next X-movie, The New Mutants, and it’s another step in an outward genre direction—it looks like a straight up horror movie. It also looks HILARIOUS.
I don’t think that’s the intent, but there are so many cliché shots in the trailer that The New Mutants might be a straightforward movie, or it might the Scream of superhero movies. There’s a Gothic brick institutional building up-shot with time-lapsed storm clouds! There are needles and machines! A doctor who only seems nice! FACES IN THE WALLS! Am I supposed to take this seriously? I’m having a hard time taking this seriously.
At least the cast is solid. Casting is hit or miss in the X-movies, but when they get it right, they GET IT RIGHT. Maisie Williams stars as Wolfsbane, a girl who can shapeshift into a wolf—she’s basically a werewolf—and Anya Taylor-Joy is Magik, a teleporter who can also do magic. And Stranger Things’ Charlie Heaton is Cannonball, who can fly really really fast, which is a power set with extremely limited usefulness. These are good actors to start with, though, and Anya Taylor-Joy in particular is a good match for her character.
If there’s anything encouraging about The New Mutants’ trailer—and there is not a lot encouraging about it—it’s that the powers don’t seem to be the point. Undoubtedly they’ll have to use them to escape the hospital from hell—the doctor has claw marks on her face like Wolfsbane got a piece of her—but there is zero emphasis on individual power sets in this trailer. This is another lesson from Deadpool and Logan, that it doesn’t matter how cool the powers are if we have no reason to care about the person using them. Start with a developed character, give us reasons to care about them, and then have fun with their powers. The New Mutants looks like it might have absorbed that lesson. Now, if only we could do something about how this looks like a chintzy horror video game.