A sublime end to Fox’s X-Men
By Craig Allan, Staff Writer
This year has been a disappointing year for the blockbuster. With COVID-19 shuttering theatres for months, there have been very few films lighting up the projectors. Ironically, one of the films that found its way to theatres during the pandemic is a film that many questioned would ever see theatrical screens. That film is The New Mutants, which after reshoots that never happened, studio mergers, and COVID-19, finally saw its big screen debut back in August. The wait was worth it, as New Mutants offers a refreshing and condensed take on the superhero genre. It may be the best comic book movie of the year, albeit with a very low stock to contend with.
The story follows Danielle “Dani” Moonstar (Blu Hunt), the only survivor of a vicious event that decimated her Native American tribe. She later wakes up in a hospital, which she believes is training her and other mutants to control their powers and eventually join the famed X-Men. Little does Dani and the rest of the mutants know that the goal of the hospital, led by the sinister and secretive Dr. Cecilia Reyes (Alice Braga), is to prepare them for a much worse fate. The movie overall is a very hopeful film that promotes overcoming fear and not “feeding the wrong bear.”
The behind-the-scenes story of this film may be just as interesting as the film itself. The film was originally shot in 2017. Little did anyone know that at the end of that year, 21st Century Fox was negotiating with Disney to sell their entire production arm and library to the mouse-eared giant. The Fox-Disney deal went through in 2019, and with Disney intending on folding the X-Men into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), New Mutants became stuck in the middle of two franchises. This along with COVID delayed the film again and again. The film was finally released in theatres back in August, and despite being thrown into theatres with low expectations and an even lower chance of success, New Mutants is still a notably competent standout effort from a franchise on its last gasp.
Following in the footsteps of the Fox and X-Men franchise high of Logan, New Mutants takes a beat from the successful Wolverine film by focusing deeper on characters and emotion more than action. Fans of the genre may be disappointed in the lack of action compared to other films in the Marvel canon, but for viewers interested in character development, New Mutants offers a slower, but much more engrossing experience than the punch-out action typically seen in the MCU. The film does end with a quite spectacular action set piece, but it does not feel out of place. Instead, it shows our characters teaming up to fight this unbelievable threat in a realistic way. The film also introduces the first ever lesbian relationship between two starring female leads Danielle Moonstar and Rahne Sinclair (Masie Williams) in a comic book movie, which while feeling long overdue, does not feel unnatural or forced.
New Mutants offers a slower, but much more engrossing experience than the punch-out action typically seen in the MCU.
The biggest flaw in the film comes from outside factors. One of the reasons why this film took so long to get to the theatres was due to the 21st Century Fox-Disney merger. This film was originally intended to start a new franchise in the X-Men universe, but with Disney indicating that they are looking to restart the X-Men in the MCU, a lot of the plotlines here hinting at things that were going to be brought up in later movies falls flat. Things like the actions of the real villains Essex Corp are illuded to but never explained, likely because they were setting up for sequels that unbeknownst to them were never going to materialize.
New Mutants may not be the Avengers Endgame spectacle that this franchise (which started the comic book movie renaissance for Marvel) deserves, but in terms of quality, New Mutants more than satisfies as a fine final edition to Fox’s X-Men film series. It fits in solidly with middling franchise efforts like The Wolverine and X-Men Apocalypse. The saddest part about the film is that we will not get to see what happens to Physic (Dani), Wolfsbane, Magik (played by a superb Anya Taylor-Joy), Sunspot (Henry Zaga), and Cannonball (Charlie Heaton), as their comic book journey was cut short before it even had a chance to begin.