Saturday, November 28, 2020

The New Mutants

This review contains some mild spoilers.

The New Mutants is exactly what you'd expect a big superhero studio to dole out for the upcoming generation. A politically correct, agenda-pushing cast of characters set against a backdrop of plot that is appealing in trailer form, but once seen up-close is too flimsy to hold up to repeat viewings. A cutting-edge technique to sell theater tickets... by 2017's standards.

I heard somewhere they released the original cut. But where were the faces in the wall from the original trailer?

I doubt it would have gone over well on it's original, April 2018 release date either, but I admit, there was a certain disappointment for me in realizing it really was just another half-baked entry into the superhero base. I was misled, perhaps by my own wishful thinking, or naiveté, or that Pink Floyd song they played in the trailer. "Disappointed but not surprised" will be my mantra for this review. Why, after all, put effort into the whole movie when you can just throw some big names together in a fun premise, and then cut corners until it's releasable? 

The premise really is a winner. The kids are in this old mental hospital and treated like rehab patients as they learn how to control their powers and stop being a danger to themselves and society. After that, it falls apart. The lead is Dani (Blu Hunt), an American Indian who accidentally wiped out her reservation in her sleep by manifesting a giant bear composed of fear. (She doesn't know it was her until later but it's no surprise to anyone who's seen an X-Men movie.) Charlie Heaton is dirty southern boy who accidentally killed his dad when he panicked in the coal mines. Maisie Williams is a devout catholic who accidentally mauled her priest to death when he tried to burn her for shapeshifting. Henry Zaga is a rich kid who accidentally burned his girlfriend alive...

Noticing a pattern? WELL.

...and Anya Taylor Joy is a cold-hearted Russian girl who created an alternate plane of existence in her mind that she can disappear into at will, which she used it to hide from creepy faceless smilers who'd come to abuse here until she got fed up with hiding and methodically murdered them all with her magical sword, invulnerable armored arm, glowing eyes, and tiny pet dragon. Yeah. There's a clear pattern until we come to her. Honestly, I'm baffled as to why the movie wasn't about her. There's a lot of implication mental questions that go into her story that would've been more interesting to unravel than a literal fear bear.

But anyway, the kids are in mutant rehab, and they fight, and bond, and tell each other their backstories one by one; but of course there's something else more sinister going on. It takes too long to get to the sinister things though, since there isn't much of it to fill the runtime. And the build-up is dry and empty. It wants to be a gothic horror—creepy, slow, and subtle—but it also wants to be a teenage drama—relatable, deep, and moral. The two don't mesh. I love the gothic horror idea but neither make it past the foundational stage, which leads me to bemoan the lack of realized potential. A typical reaction for me, I know, but it's a typical problem for a movie like this to have. 

I'll just revert to what I imagined it'd be like now...

If only if only if only. I knew I'd be disappointed; after three years of waiting and imagining what I wanted, I could hardly be otherwise. But that doesn't mean I would've liked it sans those pent-up expectations. Without the excitement and straight-up DETERMINATION I had to see this movie, I barely would've noticed it. I wouldn't have seen it yet, and probably wouldn't bother for a long time, if ever. Then I would've forgotten it instantly and moved on to the next thing—which is what I did. Except I got to enjoy anticipating. There's worthy joy to be had in anticipation. It's just too bad when—after all that effort and delay—that's all the film could conjure.

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