After 3 years, the latest (last?) 20th Century Studios X-Men movie has finally made it to the theater. The bittersweet twist, of course, is that it’s during a pandemic. As such, reviews for The New Mutants have mostly distinguished themselves by not existing. Rightfully wary of public screenings, most critics have declined to take the risk. I, on the other hand, live in an Appalachian community where a socially-distanced screening is more possible. So here’s my New Mutants movie review.
Alright, I say, turning my chair around and sitting on it backwards, like the cool youth group leader. I’m going to level with you folks. I’ve seen only 2 X-Men movies–3 if you count Deadpool 2, 4 if you count Logan.
So while other people, including many of you, might see these characters and know their alter egos immediately, I still didn’t know after the movie. So forgive me if I miss some greater meaning.
After a calamity, later described as a tornado hitting her reservation, sole survivor Dani Moonstar (Blu Hunt) wakes up in a strange hospital. Dr. Reyes (Alice Braga) explains that because of her powers, Dani, like the other kids there, is too dangerous to be out in the world. She compares them to baby snakes, for instance, who haven’t yet learned to control their venom.
So, Dani and the other kids, Rahne (Maisie Williams), Sam (Charlie Heaton), Illyana (Anya Taylor-Joy), and Roberto (Henry Zaga), must stay there until they’ve mastered their abilities. Dani, though, is like, “Cool? Also, what’s my ability?”
You see, despite the strong evidence of them, Dani is apparently unaware that she has any powers. So Dr. Reyes begins to run tests. The kids acquiesce to this, and the group therapy, and the strict rules. They believe they’re in phase one of becoming of the X-Men. Little by little, though, they start to question their assumptions. And all the while, Dani’s power continues to reveal itself.
Now while I’m mostly unfamiliar with the X-Men canon and I am a cinephile, I’m not a film snob. I like a silly cape movie as much as I like a 3-hour Soviet meditation on despair. (You the man, Tarkovsky!)
So I went into The New Mutants with optimism. Again, I wasn’t there so much for the whole X-Men thing The spooky horroresque aspects of the trailer attracted me more. And it was just nice to be in a theater again. Then the movie started.
The first line in the movie is a big sign of what was to come. Dani in narration refers to “an old Native American proverb.” In the theater, we groaned. The proverb in question is not Native American, for one thing. Evidence suggests that Billy Graham invented it for a sermon. And saying “Native American proverb” is imprecise, as it implies that the saying is common to all native nations. In summary, the “proverb” is just an overdone meme. They might as well have begun the movie with “There is an old Native American proverb: Live, laugh, love.”
So that lack of invention was a precursor to the movie because what followed was nothing you haven’t seen before. If you’ve seen a PG-13 90s teen horror, then you’ve seen this movie. And just in case you need a refresher, we watch the kids watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (I didn’t ID the first episode, but the inclusion of “Hush” was clever.)
So while it seems as if director/co-writer Josh Boone was ambitious, the movie doesn’t quite live up to expectations. Where it shines, though, is in its performances. The characterizations aren’t as strong as they could be, but the young actors make the material better than it should be. Like most of the critics out there, you probably shouldn’t brave a public screening for this, but it’ll make a fine home movie night any time.
Was the wait for The New Mutants worth it for you? Let us know what you think on our social media or by telling us in the comments.
Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. She now splits her time between the Appalachian wilds (of Alabama) and the considerably more refined streets of New York City. When she’s not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she’s working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we’re pretty sure she’s a werewolf.
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