20th Century Fox and Now 20th Century Pictures, the abused step cousin living in the shadow of Disney has had hits and misses with the X-Men universe. Their misses have been big and their hits tend to blend in to one after a while, whilst the misses such as Apocalypse and The Phoenix Saga (BOTH TIMES!) were stains on the timeline that can never be scrubbed out.
THE NEW MUTANTS was set to be a trilogy but thanks to a huge merger with Disney and meddling studio executives along with a marketing team that paints by numbers and doesn’t care about comic book franchises, this film became a joke not only to the fans but to the movie going public as a whole.
Which is criminal for any distributor. As someone who works in film marketing, yes you do get shit to work on and you do get amazing films that come along and then you get everything in between…. The in between is where THE NEW MUTANTS sits, much like it did when it first hit the comic book stands. There’s a lot of history here but lets just go straight in to the film.
Five young mutants, just discovering their abilities while held in a secret facility against their will, fight to escape their past sins and save themselves.
This is a film is a teen in an identity crisis, it’s not sure what or who it wants to be just yet. You have the X-Universe elements with big budget CGI set pieces coupled with a coming of age story and a blending of horror movies that have already been made.
The marketing team behind THE NEW MUTANTS would like to treat this as if it were any other superhero but it’s not any superhero movie… these kids are not suiting up. Their powers have killed whether through their own misdeeds or by accident and they’re coming to terms with the havoc they can cause if they don’t get their powers under control. Locked up in the nut house with Dr. Reyes (Alice Braga) the teens realise that their caretaker may not be all she seems to be. There's a lot to digest when it comes to each character.
No amount of introduction posters with sparks and super powers on display or TV spots could show what these characters are about. We’re still living in a pandemic where mental health problems are on the rise as people are shut away from those who care about them… insecurities, anxiety and isolation are top of the bill and this is what THE NEW MUTANTS delivers in its characters and story. This should have been the marketing strategy, exposing the characters as vunerable teens with hopes and fears just like you and me.
The story does need work as the characters are not fleshed out enough. Maisie Williams and Anya Taylor-Joy shine alongside their ensemble cast who also offer steady and resilient performances with the subject matter they’ve been given and no doubt the reshoots couldn’t have been easy.
With the time that has passed between shooting and release…. (YEARS!) the film has aged, it feels more like a Netflix or Amazon Prime streaming original more than anything else and I would LOVE to see more of this story unfold. I grew up on Illyana and Storm in the X-Men comic books and Illyana was always an intricate character with immense power… and then she turns out to be the sister to Colossus…. Which who knows where that would have gone in the films.
Like I said the story is weak in places because not enough character is delivered. At the heart of every good superhero piece is not an invincible or perfect person, there’s a human element… scared, the underdog with their own hopes and fears, loves and losses… their story of perseverance/survival and being that boy or girl next door with the ability to turn the tide is what’s inspirational about every superhero story; that even immortals fall and the average Joe who thinks they have nothing to offer can pick them back up… it’s why the scene with New York picking up a beaten and bruised Spider-Man in Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 is still referred to, to this day.
THE NEW MUTANTS puts these teens on show, their fears no matter how dark manifest themselves through no fault of their own and helps them come together. The subject matter isn't cookie cutter for everyone. There's references to child abuse and suicide litterred throughout and it needs to be said, they chickened out in some instances and they should have faced it head on...
Yes someone obviously stopped caring about this film during post production because there are some awful moments of ADR where new audio of actors re-recording their lines have been slapped on to the picture. You’ll get a clear delivery of a line which was obviously recorded in a stale atmosphere with no ambiance and it’s never treated to add in the background noise or echo to match the characters location. You also have the seemingly out of place sequences that feel slapped together in the middle to make things fit and the transitions from A to B seem too fragmented to ignore, the cast make these tortured moments forgiveable.
This was a film that deserved some love to help it over the finish line but in the end it was just buried and beaten because some execs and marketing teams just don’t understand just how passionate geeks can be… it didn’t speak to them but had it been left as it was to speak to the audience it was intended for, it probably would have spread its wings and soared.
Ultimately the heart of a hero story is there.... confronting the demons that plague us all and coming to terms with who you are whether that's being gay, being yourself or being the person that stands up and says NO when it counts. We all have that voice and that strength and we need to find it in a world where voices are pushed down because they don't fit in a box or those voices have been told their place is not on equal footing with the world around them. A good superhero film speaks to injustice with subtext and sometimes outright... THE NEW MUTANTS scrapes by with that message and if you pay attention all the way through, you may just leave with a lump in your throat.
Never discount the little guy when they have something to say.