Directed by Josh Boone [Other horror films: N/A]
Filmed in 2017 but not released until 2020, The New Mutants had a somewhat troubled production, but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I loved pretty much every second of it, and as a fan of the 80’s comics this film is based on, I’ll go in depth as to exactly why and how I enjoyed this so much.
I don’t own all one hundred issues of the original run of The New Mutants, but I do own quite a lot of them (at the time of this writing, I just bought another issue off eBay to help fill in a gap), and I’m very familiar with the characters of this movie. I 100% expected to be overly critical of different aspects or missed opportunities, but I was so pleasantly surprised with virtually all of this that such negativity won’t happen.
Generally, I’m not the type to squee. Nothing against squeeing, it’s just not me. But I squeed a lot in this movie. That opening with the unseen growling – I knew instantly we’d get some Demon Bear action (and I was not at all disappointed come the ending). Then that Lockheed hand-puppet. Then some Limbo. Sam’s accurate accent. Comic-based origins all around. Illyana’s fantastic reply to “It’s magic,” as she says, “So am I.”
OH MY GOD IT’S SO GOOD
And it doesn’t end there, because we got a fantastic reveal about an hour in that I loved, and we got to see Illyana and Lockheed (IN THE FLESH!!!!!!!!!!!) kick some Demon Bear ass and Wolfsbane going badass on that bitch Reyes and Roberto’s and Sam’s friendship.
Absolutely. Loved. It.
I will now talk about each of the five central characters and why they rocked.
Dani Moonstar (Mirage) was never a favorite of mine from the comic books (primarily because I thought most of the other New Mutants tended to be more interesting), but I think that Blu Hunt did fantastic with the character. Her growing relationship with Rahne was cute, and watching her come to confront her fears toward the end was oddly inspiring, soothing the Demon Bear into submission with confidence unforetold by humanity. A+.
A favorite of mine from the comics is Rahne Sinclair (Wolfsbane), who was younger than all the other New Mutants and had a lot of religious baggage due to her upbringing. Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones) does fantastic with her character, and while the same-sex attraction (which wasn’t present in the comics) threw me off, I really think it helped flesh out her character. Also, that accent. Loved it. A+.
From The VVitch, we get Anya Taylor-Joy, playing Illyana. Making her the cold bitch was an interesting choice, but story-wise, it makes sense, especially given her comic book history and time spent in Limbo. Those Smiling Men were a new addition as far as I am aware, but they were creepy, so no complaints. Magik (as Illyana is sometimes known as) isn’t a character I often focus on in the comics (though her friendship with Kitty, or Shadowcat, always warmed the heart), but she was done great here, and Taylor-Joy was fantastic.
And that line? I’ll set it up and repeat it, because life isn’t often filled with such pleasures:
“Are you crazy, that thing will kill you,” Sam shouts out.
“He’s right, it’s magic,” Rahne passionately agrees.
With supreme confidence, Illyana replies, “So am I.”Quality dialogue from the film
Fuck. Yeah. A+.
Lockheed didn’t get much screen-time, but as both a puppet and a living being, he was cute, and I’ve always loved him in the comics. Loved how his eyes matched Illyana’s at the end – just heart-warming.
Roberto da Costa (Sunspot) was cast fantastically as Henry Zaga. I don’t know who Henry Zaga is – just heard his name for the first time tonight – but he got down Sunspot’s characteristics as accurately as one could. The CGI with his mutant power was a bit off at times, and I would like to think the design could have been done more comic-accurate, but regardless, Zaga was great here. A+.
Charlie Heaton played Sam Guthrie (Cannonball), the Kentucky-born coal miner. Heaton himself was born in the United Kingdom. I literally couldn’t tell. Fantastic job with the Kentucky accent (because let’s be honest – Cannonball without his accent is Wolverine without his healing abilities and claws), and his rather depressing background was done fantastically, as were most things regarding the characters in this film.
Cecilia Reyes was never a big comic book character – I have a handful of her appearances in the late 1990’s – so she was an interesting choice to be the doctor overseeing the New Mutants, and I think that Alice Braga did great. I didn’t know where her story was going, so it was definitely interesting to see what they came up with, and though it potentially does a disservice to Reyes’ comic counterpart, I thought it was quite satisfactory.
While watching the credits (and confirming that Sienkiewicz was rightfully credited for his obvious contributions), I saw that Williams, Heaton, and Taylor-Joy had dialect coaches, and I think that’s a big reason why their characters felt so authentic to their comic book counterparts.
Williams’ dialect coach was Jan Haydn Rowles, and helped her achieve a quality Scottish accent (Williams herself was born in Bristol). Heaton’s Kentucky accent was assisted by Jamison Bryant, and for Taylor-Joy’s Russian accent, we have Howard Samuelsohn to thank. These three gave this movie a lot, and I think they’ll probably be overlooked, so I definitely wanted to give them a mention.
Now, for a horror movie review, I haven’t spoken about the horror aspects at all. It could fairly be said that some of the more tense and spooky scenes here were run-of-the-mill or, at the very least, merely passable. Personally, that didn’t bother me, as I thought that, while some of the CGI was a bit much at times (maybe the Demon Bear finale or the Smiling Men), it was good enough as to not detract from the story being told, and as I was engrossed already, the fact that some of the horror aspects weren’t as good didn’t matter in the slightest.
The New Mutants has gotten primarily lukewarm reviews. I get it. It’s not a movie for everyone, and I can sense that some were definitely disappointed. I wasn’t at all expecting much myself, and watched this more out of interest than anything else (I haven’t seen an X-Men movie since I stopped First Class a third of the way through due to my frustration with that movie), so when it turned out that this was a new-age classic, I was more surprised than anyone.
Ratings are about how movies made you feel, and this movie made me feel happy. I love the New Mutants comic books of the 1980’s (even the issues that weren’t as good still had those characters you’ve grown attached to in order to offset the less-than-enjoyable story arcs), and that love translated here in a way I never would have expected, but I stand by it.