The final chapter in Fox’s X-Men Cinematic Universe has finally arrived. ‘The New Mutants‘ was originally slated for a mid-2018 release, but was then pushed back to 2019 for re-shoots that in the end never happened. After Disney’s purchase of 20th Century Fox (now 20th Century Studios) was finalized, the film got pushed back another year to make room for the release of the abysmal X-Men: Dark Phoenix. In March of this year, it was once again postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, 20th Century Studios has finally dropped the film in its original glory in cinemas, but was it worth the wait?!
“There’s an old Native American proverb that says, ‘Inside every person, there are two bears, forever locked in combat for your soul. One bear is all things good: compassion, love, trust. The other is all things evil: fear, shame, self-destruction.”
After her entire Indian reserve gets destroyed by an unknown force, Danielle “Dani” Moonstar (Blu Hunt – ‘Another Life‘) finds herself as the sole survivor, chained to a hospital bed. Dr. Reyes (Alice Braga – ‘Queen of the South‘) is quick to diagnose her with survival’s guilt, but explains there’s a reason she’s there. New Mutants are a danger to themselves and society, and because most mutants only get a taste of their “true nature” during puberty, a secret organisation has taken it upon themselves to contain and guide these young adults. During a therapy session we meet the other patients, and not all of them are ready to welcome Dani with open arms.
These moments, in which all of The New Mutants get together, are the most fun, because of their different personalities, where tensions run high and new friendships get build. Illyana (Anya Taylor-Joy – ‘Emma‘), a feisty young blonde with a hand puppet, is the one who gets to show Dani around, where we quickly get a sense of her personality. Illyana isn’t afraid to speak her mind, after all, as we find out later, she has killed people and is proud of it. The way she assumes Dani could be of good use on the land because of her cultural heritage, quickly turns into a series of racist remarks that thankfully end quickly before it ruins all the fun.
Josh Boone‘s (‘The Fault in our Stars‘) coming-of-age superhero movie deals with mental health, guilt and overcoming fear. In the midst of this all, a beautiful love story and new friendships get build. This is also the first time a superhero film made by a major studio has an LGBTQI love story front and center, that feels genuine and doesn’t just get used purely as queerbait. It’s mainly because of Maisie Williams‘ (‘Game of Thrones‘) convincing performance as Rahne (that hints at her love for the same sex early on, when she’s captivated by a scene on tv, in which Willow and Tara kiss for the very first time in the iconic tv-show ‘Buffy, the Vampire Slayer‘), who takes the lead in this blossoming romance.
Once we find out why Dr. Reyes and her cameras are keeping a constant eye on these new mutants, the film makes an important connection to one of the best films in the X-Men Universe that’ll please die hard fans. Where Dani, Rahne and Illyana get the most screen time and kick-ass action, it does feel the two guys are being left out. Charlie Heaton‘s Sam Guthrie, gets little screen time and is severely under used, while Henry Zaga‘s Roberto da Costa keeps beating around the bush about his powers to then experience one of the most frightening scenes in the film. Williams, Taylor-Joy and Zaga do an amazing job, each delivering powerful performances. Hunt, Heaton and Braga unfortunately are disappointingly one note. The main problem I had with most of the cast is that they occasionally slip into a harsher or even completely different accent than their characters are supposed to have, but that happens to the best of actors. The casting however is spot on, showing that the studio and creative team knew exactly who their target audience is.
Disney/20th Century Studios would be out of their mind not to offer Boone a future Marvel-project to helm. He has a clear vision from start to finish, in which the scenes with Illyana’s worst nightmare – the absolutely terrifying Smiley Men – and romantic moments between Rahne and Dani are just wonderful to watch on the big screen. The practical and visual effects are strongest under a light source, especially referring back to the Smiley Men and the Demon Bear.
‘The New Mutants‘ finally gives fans that have supported the franchise since 2000, a story that hasn’t been done before and does so in a thrilling way. Not entirely free of plot holes, the film does feel like an origin story in the next generation of mutants we could’ve end up embracing – alas. An exciting new vision that’s often eerie, sometimes endearing, but most of all faithful to the comics.
Review – ‘The New Mutants’
Reviewed at UGC Turnhout, August 26, 2020. Rating: 16+ Running time: 98 min.
PRODUCTION: A Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures release of a 20th Century Studios, Marvel Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox production. Producers: Simon Kingberg (p.g.a.), Karen Rosenfelt, Lauren Shuler Donner. Executive producer: Stan Lee.
CREW: Director: Josh Boone. Screenplay: Josh Boone, Knate Lee. Editors: Andrew Buckland, Matthew Rundell, Robb Sullivan. Cinematography: Peter Deming. Music: Mark Snow.
WITH: Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Alice Braga, Blu Hunt, Henry Zaga, Adam Beach, Thomas Kee, Colbi Gannett, Happy Anderson.