The mutants in question are five deadly teenagers who, shortly after their powers kicked in at puberty, each killed someone (or some entire town, in the case of the distraught Dani Moonstar, played by Blu Hunt). With the exception of Illyana (Anya Taylor-Joy), a Russian who snarls that she’s slain 18 men, none intended to murder. Roberto (Henry Zaga), a playboy from Brazil, simply learned the hard way that he ignites into flame when aroused.
The film does indeed take place within the world of Fox’s X-Men series, although that franchise’s random continuity negates much interconnectivity. There are, at best, a few verbal references to the X-Men and a fleeting non-verbal reference to Charles Xavier, a character who either still runs the Xavier School For Gifted Youngsters (X-Men: Days of Future Past) or left the school to Hank McCoy after his attempts to control Jean Grey went awry (Dark Phoenix).
The story, by Boone and Knate Lee, was designed to be a potentially lucrative experiment. As “The Avengers” and “Star Wars” bloat with galactic mythology, “The New Mutants” tests the question: Can a slight genre film with one location and no name-brand characters pass itself off as a franchise blockbuster? The term “X-Men” is muttered a couple of times as if Wolverine and company were fogies on the classic movies channel. These teens prefer a marathon of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Even Dr. Xavier, the patron saint of post-pubescent angst, is merely alluded to with a wheelchair and a look.
Honestly, the tykes’ disdain is refreshing. The original New Mutants comics debuted in 1983, the year Johnny Ramone howled for “Psycho Therapy,” and its punkish, expressionistic pages wafted spray paint. Boone’s version is set in the 1990s and wallows in Gen-X ennui. But the plot needs more pep. Most of the running time is allotted to the inpatients and their shame overpowers that brought them under the good doctor’s thumb.