Thursday, 27 August 2020
The New Mutants (2020)
I never thought that I would get to write this review. Seriously, the first trailer for this film was released on October 2017, with the original release date in April 2018. We are in August 2020. Regardless of box office intake, which will be lower than expected projections back in April since several theatres are still closed, the development and delays of this film have earned it a place in cinema history. No reshoots, pickups or anything. The film was just a victim of bad timing.
Usually, if a film is delayed for so long, its because it is awful. Luckily, that is not the case here. I mean, Thank God that the iconic X-Men franchise ends with this rather than Dark Phoenix. The handing of the female characters alone makes it a superior film.
We open the film with Dani Moonstar, who is woken in the middle of the night by her father, who grabs her and runs. The reservation that they are living on is being destroyed by an unknown force, seemingly a tornado. After her father is brutally murder, Dani is knocked out and awakens in a hospital, run by Dr. Cecilia Reyes. From there, she is informed that she is a mutant, and she is to remain there until she can discover what her abilities are, and learn to control it.
She meets four fellow mutants: Sam Guthrie, a Southern boy who can go propel himself in the air, making him invulnerable, Illyana Rasputin, a Russian girl who can create portals and has magical capabilities, Roberto da Costa, a Brazilian boy who can light himself on fire, and Rahne Sinclir, a religious Scottish girl who can morph into a wolf. Throughout the film, we learn about their pasts and the trauma they have endured due to their abilities. The mandated therapy session that Reyes runs isn't taken seriously by the teens, and their trauma isn't revealed there. Instead, their stories come out from natural conversations between each other. The film follows the five of them working together to overcome both their guilt and their fears in order to survive strange events occurring at the hospital.
I appreciated the small cast, giving this film a more self-contained character-driven narrative, an element missing from the uneven ensemble presentation from the previous X-Men films. The 5 young mutants are distinct enough in personality and their abilities that you are invested in their development. In first act is devoted to Dani as she is the audience surrogate, but I like how it became more of an ensemble film in the second and third acts.
The romantic storyline between Dani and Rahne was one of those cute romances that you hope goes well. Personally, I'm not into romantic storylines in superhero films too much as they often feel forced, but a natural connection between the two is apparent when they first meet, due to the chemistry of Blu Hunt and Maisie Williams. The LGBTQA romance was brought up several times during promotion and I did like how it wasn't simply teased or hinted at, unlike other high profile films that use that queer bait. (Cough cough... The Rise Of Skywalker...)
I do wish the film was longer. The characters bond over their mutant experiences much too quickly for me. This is a bit easier to swallow due to the performances of the talented young cast, Anya Taylor Joy and Charlie Heaton in particular. The story is serviceable. It's pretty straightforward in the sense that there are no surprises. It meets the exact expectations, which was a tad disappointing as this certainly not a typical superhero film. One surprise I suppose is the X-Men connections, especially a flashback moment that references one past X-Men film in particular.
As the film was sold as a horror film, there wasn't much of it. The smiley men were certainly creepy, but I don't see myself having nightmares over it. Perhaps by now, I'm desensitized, but even jump scares, the film was light on. The visuals were top tier, especially regarding the abilities of Illyana and the Demon Bear, a given as it isn't an action-heavy film.
I do hope that this film gets a sequel. Personally, I think that this is director Josh Boone's best work, with his past experiences in the YA genre his greatest strength here, and I'd love to see more of these characters from these actors. I guess the ball is in Kevin Feige's court.
The New Mutants features a by the numbers superhero story with not enough horror elements, but it's elevated with intriguing characters, a unique tone, and cool visuals.
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