The New Mutants film has been on our radar for a very long time. Between delays and COVID-19, this film felt doomed from the get go. With a cast of young stars: Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones), Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit), Charlie Heaton (Stranger Things), Henry Zaga (13 Reasons Why), Blu Hunt (The Originals), & Alice Braga (Queen of the South), it seemed the film would be a hit. Sadly, the Box Office won’t have a say in the matter, since the film went straight to HBO Max in 2020.
The trailer (below) lays out an action based film with thriller undertones. When we first saw it, it immediately intrigued us. Yet, once again we face promotional materials that present one thing when the film is another. Let’s start at the beginning.
We open right in the middle of action. Dani Moonstar’s (Blu Hunt) father wakes her up and drags her away to safety. After that bit of hair-raising, we’re in the primary location for the rest of the film – a hospital. But this is no ordinary hospital. It’s one for young mutants to come into their powers and learn how to control them.
This becomes the film’s strength and weakness, all in the same breath. The unique location, it’s history and creepy feel, lends to setting the mood throughout. The fact that patients cannot escape from the grounds is a parallel within their inability to escape their powers. Yet, while the trailer shows us the location and action – it doesn’t show you the spaced out scenes, slower pace or delve too far into the unique history of the building. We’re only shown snippets of what the hospital really is.
If the film dug deeper into the background, instead of abstract hints, we might fear those who run the hospital. The tension might be more palatable. Instead, we are left to fill in the gaps while the story hurriedly moves on.
Thus begins the biggest issue with this film. It all feels like a psychological study of emerging mutants. There are elements of group dynamics and developing relationships – all interesting to watch. Yet, for someone coming into the film looking for action/adventure similar to previous mutant films – they will feel cheated. The film puts pressure on these characters to provide the continuity of story without the explosions or fear inducing moments to pull your attention away from thin sections.
One thing that stuck out and was the continuity thread throughout the film was Dani’s proverb about the bear. She says: “Inside every person there are two bears, forever locked in combat for your soul. One bear is all things good: compassion, love, trust. The other is all things evil: fear, shame and self-destruction.” She asks which one wins out. Her father answers, whichever one you feed.
It’s a beautiful proverb that they utilize throughout the story. We don’t want to spoil one of the better parts of the film, suffice it to say we really enjoyed this underlying theme.
Overall, this is a fun watch with a much deeper psychological element. If you are looking for explosions and action sequences filling most of the runtime – this is not your film. This lays the foundation for additional entries. If Disney picks this up for a sequel, it would be very interesting to see how they would proceed.