It’s taken a long time, but finally, director Josh Boone’s The New Mutants has arrived onto the big screen, and it’s a film with plenty of surprises for its audience.
Five young mutants, who are held against their will in a secret laboratory discover they are being experimented upon and stage an escape. And in doing so have to overcome their past sins and worst fears.
Adopting the cult classic Marvel comics superhero of the teenaged New Mutants to the big screen, director Josh Boone brings new energy and style to this new chapter of the X-Men franchise that does something different with the concept of the superhero genre, and results in something that will certainly get a reaction out of audiences. Boone places his focus on the infamous ‘Demon Bear’ storyline as he introduces us to a brand new group of mutant characters who include Illyana Rasputin (Anya Taylor-Joy), Rahne Sinclair (Maisie Williams), Sam Guthrie (Charlie Heaton), Roberto da Costa (Henry Zaga) and Dani Moonstar (Blu Hunt). This is a new cast of fresh characters who are all undergoing the trials and tribulations of their teenage years, and with their added mutations these traumas are only intensified even further.
Boone has a lavish template to do something unique with The New Mutants, and this resulting mix of a genre mash-up makes for a unique experience within the Marvel Universe. First and foremost The New Mutants is a teenage film that examines the trials, tribulations and changes that affect us all through these years. From the power of first love to the punk rock flair of rebellion, Boone brings all of this into New Mutants, and the presence of his cast helps to sell this. Then there’s the film’s unique superhero focus, and it’s here that Boone goes to town with a hard horror edge that makes you jump. There’s an energy of late 1980s horror works such as A Nightmare on Elm Street and Carrie being played out in The New Mutants and this horror style, and it’s dark shadows keeps the audience on edge and creates the set-up for some super-powered showdowns.
Each of the cast has their part to play in The New Mutants and bringing the mean girl energy is Anya Taylor-Joy as Illyana Rasputin aka Magik. As the resident bad girl of The New Mutants, Taylor Joy has this shit-kicking, ‘I don’t give a damn’ attitude that gives this movie it’s fire, and she’s a livewire in all her scenes. But while she might be bad, she, like the rest of her fellow ‘patients’ is also battling her inner demons and this juxtaposition makes for an interesting character. Taylor-Joy’s Illyana is also not afraid to show off her powers, and she revels in the attention and abilities that she possesses and long-time fans of this will get a kick out of it, along with the presence of her best friend and companion in the form of a purple dragon named Lockheed.
If Taylor-Joy’s Illyana has an opposite then it most definitely is Maisie William’s Rahne Sinclair, aka Wolfsbane. As a devoutly Catholic Scottish girl, whom also happens to be a closeted lesbian, Rahne has her own traumas to face, and her journey is one of self-acceptance of both herself and her powers in The New Mutants. On the behalf of William’s performance, Rahne’s character could best be described as shy and lurking, until she comes into the presence of new girl Dani Moonstar (Blu Hunt), whom she can finally open up to in terms of both love and her mutant nature. In regards to her mutant transformation, William’s werewolf persona is pretty damn gnarly to watch and she sure is ferocious in her scenes when she decides to let the beast out.
In terms of sheer trauma, one character who exemplifies this the most is Charlie Heaton’s Sam Guthrie aka Cannonball. A poor boy from Kentucky, Sam arrives at the Institute after a devastating and horrific accident that resulted from his mutant power of combustible jet propulsion that left his father dead and Sam with some serious mental scars. As Sam, Heaton is a complete revelation as the character and ingrains himself in Sam’s headspace as this unsure, slightly frightened young man who is scared of what he might do next. Part of the fun of watching Heaton’s performance is seeing him grow as a character and even though he might be stressed out in the horrors that eventually surround all of the New Mutants it’s this situation that snaps him out of it and causes him to explode into his powers.
Playing the class jock of the picture is Henry Zaga as Roberto de Costa aka Sunspot, a rich kid from Brazil who has been locked up due to his parent’s wishes and who despite his pompous arrogance is hiding his own terrible secrets. In Zaga’s performance as de Costa, we get a through back to the rebellious rich kid jock characters of the 1980s, and there are his attempts to show-off his wealth and playboy lifestyle are a shield for the devastating pain he feels for the trauma that sent him to the institute. Like all of the characters, Roberto has to undergo some serious growth throughout this film, and as a character, he takes the longest to come into his powers. But when he does, you better watch out, because he heats up quick.
Finally rounding out the cast and taking on the position as the film’s central character is Blu Hunt as Danielle ‘Dani’ Moonstar aka Mirage. A young Cheyenne teenager who has only recently come into her powers, Dani is the audiences guide into the world of The New Mutants, and she has a long way to go to accept herself and her powers. Hunt brings great authenticity to the character of Dani and you buy into her uncertainty, pain and the hard road that she has to undergo to accept her place in the world, along with control over her uncontrolled and highly dangerous powers. Hunt brings the heart and soul to The New Mutants, and together with her other co-stars completes an exciting roster of character that classic X-Men fans will love to see realised up on the screen.
As a viewing experience, The New Mutants marks itself out completely from anything else that exists in the Marvel Universe, and from what we’ve previously seen displayed in the X-Men universe with it’s younger mutant characters. This film is dark, foreboding, violent and explosive. While it does take some time for the film’s narrative to settle in, once the horrors of Dani’s powers begin to manifest themselves in the second act things do start to get interesting and from there, it’s a ticking time bomb that explodes with the dramatic Demon Bear fight scene at the end of the film. Boone’s focus on theme and character is also of interest here in The New Mutants and Boone examines and plays with some unique ideas.
The New Mutants is a film that does something unique and different from the X-Men universe and injects into it a level of energy and genre that amps it up and shows it off in a new light. Whether we’ll see more of these characters in the years is still up in the air, but there’s a presence and unique sensibility about this burgeoning New Mutant universe, and I’d be very interested to see where these characters could go to from here.
Image: 20th Century Studios