So, I saw The New Mutants; a movie that’s been a long time coming. It’s been touted as a horror movie take on the superhero genre; it’s a good idea, but I’m not sure I think they really pulled it off. It definitely gets a lot of its cues from the genre, but it never quite dives full-on into horror. The characters do spend a lot of time scared, but perhaps not the audience.
There’s a theme of the unreal being made real, which manifests with the characters’ fears. I’ll give it that; but for a movie with a werewolf, a witch (with a sword), and experiments on kids… I think it could be scarier.
They’ve changed the team’s origin a little; it’s informed by the horror genre, becoming much more sinister than the comic book version, but still doesn’t quite go over the edge into said genre.
All together, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing; a full-on horror take could’ve been interesting, but this pseudo-horror take still isn’t bad.
The main theme seems to be sexuality; I’m not sure how appropriate that is, given the ages of the characters (only one of them – Sam – doesn’t have a story-arc that’s based on sex). In one scene, one of the teens admits to masturbating; and the film-makers could’ve chosen anything else. They also have Rahne and Dani talking in the shower together – they didn’t need to film it there. It’s either shot from the back, or from the neck up (this is definitely not porn), but it’s not necessary. They justify it by saying that this is the only place where they aren’t bugged – then a few scenes later, we see the kids gathering in an attic because it isn’t bugged. Dani also sees a brand on Rahne’s shoulder; which could’ve been handled outside of the shower stall, wrapped in towels.
This is so gratuitous, it comes across more as an attempt to titillate than to discuss these issues.
But I nitpick.
Speaking of Rahne, and sexuality… She’s kind of one of Marvel’s token Christian characters (‘Christian’ being synonymous with ‘Catholic’ to Marvel), and that maybe might be carries over to the movie. It’s not clear.
There are basically two ways I see the topic of Christians and sexuality handled in popular media: Type 1: completely repressed, probably abused, and don’t even know what sex is. Type 2: they’re promiscuous, and give the concept of sex, even outside of marriage, no more thought than the secular world does. As if Hollywood and comics writers have such a lack of diversity of thought, they can’t even imagine that there are people who might make an informed (though not experienced) choice to not have it, or to wait for marriage. You either fully embrace it, or you shun and fear it, and it sneaks up on you and you get teen pregnant. Sorry… This has long been a bugbear of mine.
Rahne in the comics is Type 1. The way Rahne launches immediately into a relationship with Dani in the movie puts her firmly in Type 2. Neither shows Christians as I know us, and I find both alienating as a reader / viewer. Oh, and she retains her horribly-stereotyped abusive upbringing from the comics – though movie Reverend Craig looks nothing like comics Reverend Craig. (He’s a fat cardinal. No, not the bird.)
My point here is not to say ‘how dare a modern movie / comic not show Christian sexual morality!’; don’t worry, I’ve watched pop culture, I know better. No, it’s to say ‘if you ever want me to finally shut up about poor representation, you’re going to have to do better than this; because Type 1 is a complete mockery of me and my beliefs, and Type 2 shows you haven’t bothered with even the most basic research’. That’s all I’m really trying to say here.
The movie might be a bit better if you don’t know the comics. That’s not a dis; it’s just, they make a big mystery out of Dani’s powers, but since I walked in knowing what they were, it wasn’t much of a mystery.
The choice of characters is almost straight out of the original graphic novel. Apart from swapping out X’ian for Illyana, it’s the same team. I’m not sure I’ve seen one that close since The Fantastic Four; and they’re set in stone (especially Ben).
The actors are mostly good matches for their comics counterparts; their Sam isn’t quite lanky enough:
and their Roberto needs to be a bit younger, a lot darker, and much, much less like Freddie Mercury.
Illyana, though she looks the part, is one of those really nasty people who’s always trying to tear people down, that Hollywood seems to think are so cool.
Their powers aren’t exactly faithful, though; they tend to end up like they were in the (early) comics, but they start off all wrong. Roberto, for example, has Rusty Collins’s exact origin, making him more of a fire guy than a brick. It’s never made clear if Sam is invulnerable while blasting, and indeed it’s strongly implied to be the opposite. Until he needs to be invulnerable for story purposes.
Oh, and Rahne looks to me more like a German shepherd than a wolf (she’s paler and has very patchy colours). But I honestly have trouble knowing what the visual difference is.
There’s a character who, on first appearance, is so different from the comics I didn’t even know who it was – but I figured it out before the name was given. This character has a dramatic change of nature in the climax of the movie that needs explanation. It was cool, but entirely unexplained. (If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about; if not, it’s a spoiler.)
Speaking of how things look, when it opened, my first thought was ‘that’s a really Sienkiewicz logo!’ According to the credits, they actually got him in to make it.
There are villains who are based on The Gentlemen from Buffy.
Lest you think I’m being too loose with my reference pool, lest you’re thinking ‘that could be anything! They look like the Slender Man!’, they actually show a clip from Hush (the Buffy episode with The Gentlemen in it) shortly before a bunch of the smiley characters appear. (The kids like watching Buffy out of order.)
I haven’t read the original Demon Bear Saga, but I’m pretty sure they changed it for this. The change works, but it’s pretty big if my understanding of the original is correct.
Overall, this was an enjoyable movie, but the way it uses teens for sexual titillation means I won’t be adding it to my collection.