Thanks to the power of drive-in movie theaters in upstate New York I was finally able to see the (kind of?) anticipated New Mutants. It has been a hot minute since I have been able to review anything so let’s waste no more time; the good and the bad.
1: Actors- These are some of my favorite X-book characters, and having them brought to life on screen supplied a fair dose of nerd anxiety. After seeing the cast in the roles I have to say I was satisfied with (most of) the portrayals we got.
Ana Taylor-joy as Magik was fun to watch. I think she did a fantastic job of embodying Ilyana. That being said, I don’t know how I felt about her being our stand-in villain until the real villain revealed itself. Any and every scene she appears in she makes an aggressive choice to treat Dani like trash and sprinkle dashes of racism in between. Of course there is an explenation for this down the road, I digress, but overall her attitude towards Dani yet noone else seems random.
Maisie Williams as Wolfsbane is also a favorite. I think she did an excellent job of capturing Rahne’s timid and reserved nature. The film balanced her romantic connection to Dani and the emotional/physical scars of her past pretty well.
Charlie Heaton as Sam was fine. The accent was a little distracting but other than that…great. Henry Zaga was able to get the vibe of Roberto da Costa but more on my issue with him below…
2:Third Act- There is a definitive moment in the film where you realize we have finally arrived at the third act and even now I’m still not sure if I was excited to see it or if I was just relieved we finally made it so it would end soon? That being said, as a fan of these characters, I had a blast.
Magik with her sword, Sunspot using his strength, Cannonball flying around, and even letting Wolfsbane be the character to critically injure Reyes before the battle with the bear was fantastic. It was one of those comicbook movie moments where I realized I was indeed watching the New Mutants in live action and it was very satisfying.
3: Network Television Quality- Yes, I’m including this in my positives. Hear me out. Going into this movie if you’re looking for an MCU level investment you’re not going to find it.
If you go into this thing anticipating an indie low-budget project you MIGHT get some fun out of it. I shifted my expectation to that sphere and, once I did, I found it to not be a terrible movie at all. It’s just fine. It’s a made for TV movie about a group of teen comic characters and it’s a fine 1.5 hours of television.
4:Interpretation of Relationships- Everyone will have their opinions, but when it comes to the romantic relationship between Dani and Rahne I was cool with it. It’s not as random as some might think. We know that in the books Rahne and Dani share a telepathic connection while Rahne is in her wolf state allowing them to continue communicating even while she’s transformed.
This is a critical element in the books because Rahne, for the most part, is so traumatized by her history and her fear of people that she gravitates more and more towards her animal state rather than her true human form. For her to have that connection with a person even while transformed serves as a thread linking her back to her humanity and allows her some sense of intimacy with a friend; something the young lady desperately needs when she gets to the institute.
Taking that narrative and interpreting it as romantic for the film made complete sense to me! I dug it.
5: Great Creative Risk- It’s not the first attempt at horror in a comic book film, but I will say it was the most appropriate attempt of the bunch. What this movie made me realize is that the origins of a good chunk of these characters is very much rooted in horror elements. Having Dani as the centerpiece, a mutant with literal telepathic abilities to bring ones fears to life, just felt like the perfect creative approach to this project.
Did it work? No. This movie was not scary. At all. It’s an eerie teen mutant movie at best.
1:First Two Acts- I say it often on the podcast; what I really look for in a film to determine if I think it’s good is its “rewatchability factor.” Well, the first two acts of this film are a BIT rough.
Watching it for the first time and seeing the New Mutants hang out is delightful. The idea of choosing to put this back on and watch it from start to finish again- I don’t know…
2:It FEELS Low Budget- I know, I know, I said I didn’t mind the “made for TV” feel of the film. I don’t! However a general audience person hoping to see a 20th Century Fox produced X-Men movie might be hoping to see a little more.
The entire thing is shot on one set with six actors. You feel it watching the movie. It doesn’t add to the eerie/horror goal but rather you think “damn they couldn’t afford any extras, huh?”
3:The End?- This isn’t the fault of the film but after Reyes is eaten and the bear is tamed The gang realized the dome has vanished and they are free to go. Our heroes walk off into the sunlit road and that’s it!
We know there is no future for these actors in these roles and we know it may be YEARS before we see them on screen again. There is a surge of gratitude for the movie existing and at the same time a surge of dissapointment as the credits start rolling knowing this is all there is and will be.
Ultimately, you leave it aware that it didn’t make enough of an impact to merit further investment.
4:Sunspot- Lastly, I think it needs to be mentioned how much of a disservice this movie did to Sunspot. Every other character had their origin neatly intact but, when it came to Roberto, they had to gut it because they altered a pivitol element to the character’s story; his race.
Sunspot is a brazilian black man! You mean to tell me you couldn’t find a SINGLE black brazilian actor who could have played this role? Off of the top of my head- you couldn’t give Alfred Enoch a ring?! Speaks fluent english, comes from HTGAWM and Harry Potter fame, and is connected to the roots of his heritage.
He would have been an EXCELLENT Sunspot. This isn’t to say Henry Zaga didn’t do a fine job with the role, but the activation of his powers comes from Sunspot losing his cool on some racists during a soccer game! Come on! Jordan Peele has introduced to the world the blurred line between fantasy and real world horror. There was a real chance to bring the same flavor to this project.
Overall I have to give The New Mutants a 5 out of 10 potatoes.