[NOTE: Review contains minor spoilers]
After having its release date rescheduled no less than four times, The New Mutants movie is finally in theaters. The wait for this movie wasn’t appreciated, but the final product was okay.
The pacing is the worst part of the film. It’s nothing short of glacial. The actors and actresses are well cast in their roles and do their best with the material, but they are given absolutely nothing to do. At least until the third act. Most of the movie’s run time is spent on expository scenes disguised as therapy and hangout sessions for the characters which allow them to explain to one another (and the audience) the nature of their powers and origins. This is all fine and good, but every time we get to know a character the movie resets itself by either putting characters in solitary or cutting to another group therapy session.
Rahne Sinclair (played by Maisie Williams) and Danielle Moonstar (Blu Hunt) are the two characters that have the most chemistry, but Anya Taylor-Joy’s Illyana Rasputin steals most of the scenes she is a part of with her cold demeanor and attitude. Charlie Heaton and Henry Zaga as Sam Guthrie and Robeto da Costa respectively are fine, but don’t have a whole lot to do until the third act. Even then, they’re more showpieces for their powers than characters in their own right. Actress Alice Braga who plays Dr. Reyes is a recipe for disaster. The character was flatly written, her motives were unclear at times and the performance was far too subdued, leaving Reyes to react to things happening around her rather than doing anything else.
What this movie does successfully is act as an extension of the X-Men cinematic universe. Think of this movie as a tie-in comic – it isn’t required reading, but it helps to flesh out a larger world for the X-Men and other mutants. It also works to connect the dots between the X-Men franchise as a whole and the movie Logan specifically.
While I would have preferred a movie like the Breakfast Club featuring mutants, this movie lacks personality, energy and charm. At one point, Dr. Reyes’s drink gets spiked by Illyana Rasputin, which earns the kids a night of roaming the institution grounds unsupervised and without consequence. It’s set to the song “Bastards of Young” by The Replacements. The sequence is composed of various cuts of the cast racing and pushing each other in wheelchairs and playing with tambourines. If it sounds forced, it’s because it is. This scene exemplifies how hard the movie tries to inject a sense of fun and energy but falls flat. The horror aspect of this movie could have also been played up, but I suppose the imagery of the Smiley Men is sufficient enough checking off the disturbing-image box.
The third act, which has been marketed to death, is what most moviegoers paid to see. The characters are finally brought to life – in one case literally – using their powers in a situation that requires them not not hold back. The CGi in the climactic battle has a visual language perfect for the film. It’s two epic fantasy elements meeting reality. The Demon Bear, which looks to be made up of a dark and stormy cloud, is shown blinking in and out of the real world while flashes of Magik’s Limbo dimension fade in and out of existence. The juxtaposition of light and darkness has an unreal, dreamlike aesthetic to it.
The ending of this movie feels abrupt, which is a shame since this is the end of the Fox X-Men franchise. In addition to being frustrated with the knowledge that we won’t to have another outing with this ragtag team, it was an odd choice for this movie to bring back a plot point that was teased in three other movies with no clear resolution. It’s a story that would have made for a great catalyst to bring the various mutant teams together.
In any event, this movie ends on an upbeat note for the 20th Century Fox X-Men franchise and enriches the world these characters inhabit. The door has been left wide open for fans to speculate where these stories could have gone, and it almost seems fitting that this franchise leaves fans with the question “what if?” seeing as this franchise will potentially end up serving as stories outside of the mainstream MCU continuity.
The writer of this piece is: Laurence Almalvez
Laurence tweets from @IL1511