X-Men films often followed a narrative where the mutant individuals explored their existence in a normal world. The first three films (X-men and it’s sequels) showcased a war of existence between humans and super humans (mutants). Humans conspired to eradicate the mutants whom they consider a threat to humanity, while mutants just wanted to live in peace. It wasn’t until X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), when the creators invested their creativity in script and character, making the film, to stand out in the genre. Wolverine, sure did, created an epitome that ended with Logan. Other films based on X-Men Comic book series came and faded away without any impact (Deadpool being an exception). The 2019 release X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) was so pathetic that many fans and comic critics were of the opinion that X-Men days are over and Marvel should just shelf them. However, their latest release, The New Mutants, might look like a silver lining but there is a long way to go, after the bar setup by Deadpool and Wolverine.
The New Mutants directed by Josh Boone, is said to be a horror film. While i didn’t find any horror element throughout the movie, it might be the case for the producers only. If we just treat it as a new addition to X-Men comic book film series, then it is rather a simple, gripping superhero film, with a bit of takeaway. The plot revolves around five young mutants who are held in a secret facility so as to prepare them for the outer world, in short, help them control their powers so that they don’t kill anyone randomly. These five new teenage mutants are Rahne Sinclair (Maisie Williams) Mutant name – Wolfsbane; Illyana Rasputin (Anya Taylor-Joy) Mutant name -Magik, Samuel Guthrie(Charlie Heaton) Mutant name – Cannonball; Roberto (Henry Zaga) Mutant name – Sunspot; Danielle Moonstar or Dani (Blu Hunt) Mutant name – Mirage. The most important of them all is Dani, and the story is narrated from her point of view.
The New Mutants begins with a sequence where Dani loses her father in a tragic disaster. She, then, wakes up in a secret facility that is run and managed by Dr. Cecilia Reyes (Alice Braga). The initial conversation between Dani and Dr. Cecilia lays down the theme of the film instantly.
Dr. Cecilia says, “Survivor’s guilt is a common reaction to Trauma.”
Her dialogue explains Dani’s state of gloominess and the reason why she ended up in the medical facility. The other four mutants in the facility are going through a similar kind of trauma, the only difference being they have already identified their mutant powers, while for Dani, it is still under scrutiny.
A Standalone Movie
Other than the five mutants and Dr. Cecilia, there is no one else in the whole facility, which is odd or rather unusual. It has been resolved a bit in the climax but that room of isolation and no contact from the outer world, makes the story really detached from the X-Men series. It could be a standalone movie based on anything and no one would have noticed. If you are streaming the flick, to check out some known mutants faces or powers, please don’t because as the title suggests, everyone is new.
Through Dani’s journey, director Josh Boone explores other four mutants as well, giving them all their back story and trauma equally. While the main protagonist is Dani, the lack of any prominent antagonist throughout, has pulled down the grippiness of the narrative.
Knate Lee, who has written the screenplay with Josh Boone, has scripted some really memorable characters, where each one has it’s own fear and flaws. The basic theme of the film is, “overcoming one’s past trauma” but writers have created a variety of guilt for each one, that makes them standout. While each one fights how their own internal battle, how friendship and companionship helps in overcoming it, has been integrated in the writing brilliantly. I personally feel the state of writing in Super Hero flicks on improving drastically with each new title. Gone are the days, where they were hugely supported by CGI and Action Sequences.
The overall CGI of the film looks soothing and neatly done. The film has been given a dark tone to it, being true to its horror genre. But I didn’t really understand why? There was no horror element as such.
The New Mutants is a subtle addition to the X-Men Comic Book Film series, however, it doesn’t create a heavy impact as such. For many comic superhero fans, their loyalty is stuck with characters who are a bit dark and have a huge story arc. The New Mutants have none and seem like a project for a studio, which they want to produce rather than CREATE. I believe movies with singular characters or a mutant, like Wolverine or Deadpool work better for a comic book film, as it provides room to the character to evolve. There is a lot of space or runtime to underline all the flaws and strengths. When you have a lot of them to portray, you have to divide the run time accordingly and the space for exploration becomes less or sometimes messy.
There are many more interesting characters in X-Men series that could have their own films and it would be great, if the creators, bring them on screen, rather than creating montages of characters like The New Mutants.
For better or worse, The New Mutants leave you with an intriguing take away. It is the same dialogue that starts and ends the film.
“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 and Self-Destruction. The one you feed, Wins!”
The New Mutants is available on Video-on-Demand.
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