‘The New Mutants’ Movie Review: Before ‘The Queen’s Gambit,’ Anya Taylor-Joy Joined the X-Men

In the time it took for The New Mutants to come out, Anya Taylor-Joy became the more prominent member of the cast. When they filmed, Game of Thrones’s Maisie Williams and Stranger Things’s Charlie Heaton were probably contenders, but now the X-Men spinoff hits home video right after The Queen’s Gambit swept Netflix.

New Mutants: Anya Taylor-Joy
Anya Taylor-Joy | Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

After years of delays, the fact that The New Mutants is just okay feels like a victory. It’s probably not a movie that’ll engender repeat viewings but it’s not bad to watch once. Given its theatrical release in August was during a pandemic in which many theaters were closed, its home video release is likely where most fans will discover this X-Men spinoff. 

Anya Taylor-Joy and the other ‘New Mutants’

Dani (Blu Hunt) loses her father in a natural disaster and wakes up in a hospital with other kids with mutant powers. Rahne (Williams), Illyana (Taylor-Joy), Sam (Heaton) and Roberto (Henry Zaga) have already manifested their powers, which Dr. Reyes (Alice Braga) is trying to help them control. They don’t know what Dani can do yet. 

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The New Mutants does exist within the X-Men universe. Dr. Reyes alludes to mutants we call heroes. So this is after a point where there may be some acceptance of mutants, but they still fear new, untrained mutants and take extraordinary precautions. Dr. Reyes also mentions her superior runs a school for gifted mutants, and the kids talk about the X-Men. 

Will ‘Queen’s Gambit’ fans like ‘The New Mutants’

Obviously, an X-Men spinoff is going to be quite different than a chess drama, but Queen’s Gambit fans will want to see Taylor-Joy in different roles. Illyana is more of an antagonist, pushing Dani and other new mutants to reveal their powers. She does a Russian accent and serves as the provocateur of the group.

The new mutants are trapped at the hospital by a force field dome, so the whole movie is confined to that setting. The film feels very small at first, and the gray hospital walls don’t offer much visual flair although a pool scene between Illyana and Roberto looks moody.

Anya Taylor-Joy and Henry Zaga
Henry Zaga and Anya Taylor-Joy | Claire Folger/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

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While in the hospital, each character’s past trauma confronts them again, like a Freddy Krueger nightmare. It’s predictable, but passes the time. The relationship between Dani and Rahne is worth having the whole movie exist. Maybe a bigger ensemble spectacle wouldn’t give them as much time. They’re still relegated to a subplot in The New Mutants but at the on-screen kiss alone will mean a lot to many viewers. 

Becoming X-Men

The new mutants do team up to fight monsters in the second half. At that point, the film feels comparable to most other Hollywood movies. CGI costs the same whether you’re in a crowded city or an isolated hospital. So once they face all the animated villains, it looks as big as its X-Men contemporaries. 

Anya Taylor-Joy in New Mutants
Anya Taylor-Joy | Claire Folger/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

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The hope was surely for the new mutants to have many adventures, and that’s not likely to happen now. Even if the first film came in on schedule, Disney bought Fox and has plans to launch their own X-Men franchise, although Deadpool remains successful enough to cross over. Maybe Disney will recognize the potential of Taylor-Joy and give her an Illyana movie.

The New Mutants feels bittersweet that after all that coming of age, they’re probably never going to really get to use their powers. Still, their origin film is better than Dark Phoenix and two of the Wolverine spinoffs. Perhaps if it had the baggage of characters from the superior X-Men films or a second try at a classic comic book story, it would face harsher criticism. As the little movie that could finally getting released, it makes you root for it.