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The Biggest Unanswered Questions In The New Mutants

Nearly three years after the first trailer dropped, The New Mutants finally hit theaters in August 2020 — right in the middle of the global coronavirus pandemic. With many theaters closed, others at limited capacity, and audiences largely reluctant to enter theaters even with their extra safety precautions, The New Mutants' long-awaited bow was not all anyone hoped it would be. But now that it's available to watch safely at home via video-on-demand services, fans can finally see the film they've been anticipating for so long. And, well ... we have questions.

Set in Fox's X-Men universe, The New Mutants follows a group of superpowered teens living in a specialized treatment facility that is not all that it seems. Soon after the film's protagonist, Dani (Blu Hunt) arrives at Milbury Hospital, each of her fellow patients begins experiencing terrifying visions stemming from their worst fears. By the end of the film, they've figured out what's going on — and what their lone caretaker, Dr. Reyes (Alice Braga), has really been up to — but many of the questions raised in The New Mutants are still far from answered. Here are some of our biggest lingering head-scratchers after watching The New Mutants.

Warning: spoilers ahead.

What really happened on Dani's reservation?

The New Mutants opens with Dani's father (Adam Beach) awakening her from sleep and then running, terrified, from their house as something attacks from outside. As they flee their home, we see other houses burning and exploding, cars crashing, and chaos generally unfolding from all corners. Dani's father hides her in a hollowed-out tree trunk, but a few seconds later, his dead body is thrown to the forest floor right in front of Dani. She then runs through the woods, pursued by something large and unseen, until she is knocked unconscious. When she awakens, she's in a bed in Milbury Hospital, where Dr. Reyes tells her she was the only person on her reservation to survive the attack.

Later, we learn that Dani's powers allow her to physically manifest people's fears, including her own, and that this tends to happen when she is personally under stress. The manifestation of Dani's fears is a massive demon bear, which terrorizes her and her friends after Reyes tries to kill Dani. But while it's understandable that it appears when Dani's life is threatened, we never get any clue about what caused the bear to manifest in her village in the first place. Dani appeared to be sleeping peacefully when the attack started and wasn't frightened until her dad woke her up. So why did the bear suddenly start attacking? The New Mutants never attempts to give us an answer.

Did Dani's father know she was a mutant?

Although it appears to be news to Dani that she's a mutant, we never get a clear answer on whether her father was aware of her special abilities. When he wakes her up to flee from the bear, she asks him repeatedly what's happening, but he never answers. Instead, he gets Dani away from the residential area as quickly as he can before returning to try to help others. What's more, Dani says that when she was little, her father made her a bear charm and told her a legend about a demon bear that lives inside everyone and feeds on fear. He made her the charm to remind her not to be afraid, thus keeping the bear small.

While none of this points conclusively to Dani's father knowing the truth of his daughter's abilities, it all seems to subtly hint that Dani's father knew at least something of her true nature. Maybe Dani's powers began manifesting years before she was aware of them, and he'd hoped to get them under control without her knowing. Perhaps her father had been trying to help Dani learn to control her fear precisely because he was afraid of something like the beginning of The New Mutants happening. Unfortunately, since Dani's father died, we'll never know how much he knew.

Who were the Smiley Men?

Although Dani is the protagonist of The New Mutants, the character with arguably the most intriguing backstory is the Russian-born Illyana Rasputin (Anya Taylor-Joy), whose mutant abilities allow her to teleport herself to an alternate dimension called Limbo, where she is a powerful sorceress. We don't learn much of Illyana's past, but we see through several brief flashbacks that as a child, she was tormented by tall, gangly men in smiling masks. Later, when Dani's powers conjure the Smiley Men to haunt Illyana and Sam (Charlie Heaton), we see that underneath the masks, they have terrifying, eyeless faces with wide mouths and sharp teeth.

What we don't know is who the Smiley Men were, or whether Illyana's recollection of them as demonic creatures is even accurate. She says that before coming to Milbury, she killed 18 men, which viewers can assume to be the Smiley Men, but she never gives any further information about who or what they were. They may have been literal eyeless monsters in masks, or they could have been figurative monsters — human men who kidnapped and abused a young girl for their own twisted reasons. The New Mutants doesn't offer up much clarity in either direction, leaving the true nature of the Smiley Men up to the viewers' imaginations.

Why couldn't Illyana teleport out of the hospital?

While the full extent of Illyana's impressive array of powers is never fully explored, it's fairly well-established in The New Mutants that she can teleport across large distances — which begs the question of why she never used this ability to escape from Milbury. As Dani learns the hard way early in the film, Milbury Hospital is surrounded by a force field, generated by Dr. Reyes' own mutant ability. When Dani notices there's no fence around the property, Illyana tricks Dani into attempting to run away, and she slams face-first into the force field.

While Illyana thinks it's hilarious that Dani can't escape, it's never explained why she doesn't use her own powers to escape her self-described "cage." By accessing Limbo, Illyana is able to teleport to a number of different locations within Milbury. Yet she never passes through one of Dr. Reyes' force fields, even when Reyes uses one to imprison her while she tries to kill Dani. Did it simply never occur to Illyana to attempt to teleport through the force field, or was Reyes' ability somehow resistant to Illyana's teleportation powers? Since Reyes is dead by the end of The New Mutants, we'll never know.

How does The New Mutants fit into the overall X-Men timeline?

The timeline of Fox's X-Men movies is muddled, to say the least, and The New Mutants doesn't do anything to clear it up. Although the film never gives us any specifics about when it's supposed to take place, it does include an intriguing, and confusing, Easter egg when Dani sees a vision of the Transigen facility where Laura (Dafne Keen) and her peers were created and trained in 2017's Logan.

We never fully learn how Dani's powers work, so it's unclear if she's seeing into the past, the present, or the future. Logan is set in the year 2029, a year after most of the other mutants in the world have been wiped out. The New Mutants appears to take place at some point before this since we never hear any mention of the mass death of mutants. That either means that Dani's abilities also include the power to see into the future — which doesn't appear to be supported by anything else she does in the film — or that the Transigen experiments are taking place at the same time as The New Mutants but before the rest of mutantkind is eradicated. Director Josh Boone has gone on the record saying that The New Mutants is set in the present day, but trying to reconcile the details of the film with all of the other X-Men movies may be an exercise in futility.

How was Dr. Reyes' therapy supposed to work?

One of the biggest twists in The New Mutants is that Dr. Reyes is not, as it is implied early on, trying to help mentor heroes for Professor Charles Xavier, the good-hearted, idealistic patriarch of the X-Men, but is actually working for Essex Corporation, training her young charges to be killers. It turns out that all of the wards of Milbury Hospital killed someone (or multiple someones) before being sent to the facility and that Reyes' job is to evaluate whether they can be molded into tools that can be exploited by Essex Corp., which savvy fans know is owned by the villainous Mister Sinister.

Yet, knowing her endgame, viewers would be hard-pressed to figure out exactly how Reyes was attempting to get there. None of the activities we see her engaging in, save her relentless surveillance, seem designed with her goal in mind. When we see her engaging with the five teens, she's asking them to share about their experiences in group therapy or guiding them in meditative exercises. These hardly seem like the actions of someone trying to create the next generation of supervillains, making us wonder just how Reyes was planning on getting to her destination and how long she was planning for it to take.

Does Professor X know what Essex is doing to the young mutants?

There are several hints in the first two acts of The New Mutants that all of the teens suspect that Dr. Reyes works for Professor X. Several of them indicate that if they do well at Milbury, they think they'll then go on to his School for Gifted Youngsters — home of the X-Men — in Westchester County, New York. Of course, they later learn that all of their assumptions are incorrect and that Reyes has no connection to Professor X at all, but that still doesn't answer whether Xavier is aware of the actions of the Essex Corporation.

For the uninitiated, Xavier is a powerful mutant with nearly unmatched psychic powers, which he can enhance using a machine called Cerebro. Numerous times in the X-Men movies, Xavier uses Cerebro to locate specific mutants throughout the world, and we also have seen him use it to simply monitor mutantkind. It's not outside the realm of possibility that Xavier could have seen the teens at Milbury Hospital while using Cerebro or that he'd be keeping tabs on what Reyes is doing there, even if she doesn't know it. Granted, Xavier never intervenes, and depending on where The New Mutants takes place in the X-Men timeline, he may not even be physically capable of using Cerebro anymore. Still, it's interesting to consider the possibility that Xavier could have been monitoring the new mutants all along.

Why doesn't Dr. Reyes have to face her fears?

With a power that causes people's deepest fears to manifest physically, Dani is capable of reducing even her most intimidating enemy to a ball of tremors and tears. Why, then, does she only ever use her powers on her fellow captives and not on their captor, Dr. Reyes? The closest she comes is when she summons the Demon Bear to eat Reyes, but even then, the bear is a manifestation of Dani's own fear, not Reyes'.

Of course, it's important to acknowledge that Dani doesn't seem to have any control over — or even awareness of — her powers for most of The New Mutants, making it impossible for her to target them on a specific person. But even if she's just lashing out subconsciously, it seems highly unlikely that in such close quarters, Reyes alone would be spared the effects of Dani's abilities, while all of the other new mutants are forced to do battle with their darkest memories. Does Reyes possess some sort of defense against Dani's powers — perhaps her force fields also block out psychic energy? — or did she just get lucky? Sadly, we never find out before she dies.

What is the link between Essex and Transigen?

The Essex Corporation has popped up a couple times in the X-Men movies, although never as prominently as it does in The New Mutants. In the post-credits scene of X-Men: Apocalypse, we see a group of men in suits arrive to collect a vial of Wolverine's blood and place it in a briefcase labeled "Essex Corp." This is later understood to be the genetic sample that is used by the Transigen Corporation to create both Laura and Wolverine's clone, X-24, in Logan.

In The New Mutants, another link between Essex and Transigen is established when Dani sees a vision of the Transigen facility from Logan when she touches Reyes. That sequence of events seems to imply that Reyes is connected to Transigen, even though we only get explicit confirmation that she's working for Essex. The Transigen program — which Logan revealed involved cloning mutant children and raising them to be weapons — was remarkably similar to what Reyes was attempting to do with Dani and the others in The New Mutants.

It seems safe to surmise that Transigen and Essex are closely related, but just how they're connected has never been fully explained. Is Transigen a branch of Essex, or are the two companies more of a collaborative partnership? The New Mutants doesn't tell us, and thanks to Fox's X-Men movies now having reached their conclusion, we'll likely never find out.

Why would Reyes tell Dani what she was about to do?

Superhero movies tend to rely on villains monologuing about their evil plans so often that it's become a well-known trope, but even with grand speeches being a common theme in films about people with extraordinary powers, it's still kind of baffling why Dr. Reyes decides to completely lay out her dark plan for Dani toward the end of the film — especially the part about how she plans to kill her.

By that point, Reyes is well-aware of Dani's abilities, as well as the fact that her powers are so dangerous and unpredictable that even the sinister Essex Corporation has ruled her too much of a risk to attempt to tame. Yet as Reyes prepares to put Dani down like the dog in the story she tells her as she straps her to the medical table, rather than try to placate the powerful mutant until she's safely unconscious, Reyes instead tells Dani exactly why she's about to kill her. 

Even if Reyes herself is immune from having her own fears manifested by Dani, she doesn't have any protection from the other things Dani can create, as evidenced by her death via Demon Bear minutes later. Granted, no amount of placating Dani would've saved Reyes from the attack of Rahne (Maisie Williams) moments later, but it seems like she might have given herself at least a little more of a fighting chance if she'd have tried to spend Dani's final moments of consciousness soothing her rather than stirring her into a panicked frenzy.

Where are the new mutants headed at the end of the movie?

After finally defeating Reyes and, in turn, eradicating the force field that kept them trapped in Milbury, the new mutants all head out together at the end of the film, following the road to the unnamed town that Reyes always said was 20 miles away. We don't know what town this is, or if it even exists — Illyana mentions that Reyes could've been lying about it, and we receive no evidence to point us in one direction or the other — but even if there is no town, the group is certainly headed somewhere and could actually conceivably go anywhere if they traveled using Illyana's portals.

So where does a group of mutant juvenile delinquents with a trail of bodies go? The obvious answer would be Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, which was hinted at throughout The New Mutants. However, there's no telling whether Dani and her friends will consider Xavier's school a viable option, since they seem to have bought into the false narrative that they have to first prove themselves worthy in order to join Xavier's team, even though the other X-Men films show that Xavier will welcome just about anyone. 

Another possible destination for the new mutants could be to seek out another mutant misfit in the Fox X-verse: Deadpool, who was last seen in Deadpool 2 disastrously attempting to assemble a super team of his own. We may never know what the new mutants' destination was supposed to be, but it's fun to imagine where they could have wound up.

Will we ever see the New Mutants in the MCU?

With the acquisition of Fox by Disney, as well as the poor performance of X-Men: Dark Phoenix at the box office, it seemed likely that Fox's version of the X-Men was over and that the MCU would be completely reinventing some of their most beloved characters when it was time for them to make their long-awaited entrance into the juggernaut franchise. While The New Mutants was technically the final Fox X-Men film to release, it was never intended to close out the franchise, and its open ending was meant more to lead into the culmination of an X-verse that never happened.

However, while most signs point to The New Mutants being the one and only iteration of these actors playing these characters, the door to the MCU is still cracked slightly open. Deadline broke in November 2020 that Deadpool 3 is indeed in the works at Disney, meaning Ryan Reynolds' Wade Wilson may cross from the Fox X-verse into the MCU. If Deadpool makes the jump to the MCU, the new mutants could conceivably follow — especially considering that Deadpool's loyal friend, Colossus, is actually Illyana Rasputin's older brother.