The New Mutants Finally Escaped Limbo!

The New Mutants was originally going to be released on April 13, 2018. It’s been delayed four times! Postponing this movie is the key part of a spell to cancel the Apocalypse. I guess we’re screwed now.

This being a costume-free teen-horror did not excite me, but recent unveilings of Magik & the Demon Bear made me question if it might actually be worthwhile. I was planning on seeing it at matinee prices even before all the creative drama unspooled, which make me question whether that’s too too high a cost. Except Newest Jersey hadn’t reopened its theaters the week before its release like most states. Unfortunately I still feel compelled to witness this trainwreck. At least it should be easier to dodge online spoilers? (If you’re not interested in a preamble about difficulties in viewing this film, skip past the jump.)

The crux of the problem appears to be people risking infection when they remove their masks for refreshments. (I’ve worn my mask & latex gloves indoors for multiple hours & don’t partake of movie snacks, so this felt like a risk I could manage. I’d much prefer to risk my life for Wonder Woman 1984 or Black Widow though. Maybe I should’ve applied this effort to Bill & Ted Face the Music instead?) It seems the easy solution would be to keep theater concessions closed during this period so there would be less temptation for guests to remove their masks. Of course this wouldn’t prevent patrons from sneaking in their own snacks or ensure they won’t remove their masks in theater anyway, but it’d help. Naturally theaters want to keep concessions open since that’s how they make profit, but it’s not helping their cases in states where indoor theaters are still barred from reopening. The “we’d rather make no money than less money” stance is baffling since they’ve already lost months of revenue.

Disney wouldn’t even provide screeners to paid reviewers! While it would’ve been the more hygienic move, I’m somewhat glad contractual obligations precluded Disney from dumping this on Hulu or Disney+. (If they’re going to upsell the Mulan reboot for an additional $30, purchasers should get a physical copy too. Doubly so since it’ll be free to subscribers patient enough to wait three more months.) Not only do I not want additional streaming subscriptions, $30 is too much for an X-movie I doubt I’ll be viewing more than once.

Additional effort of interstate commerce was almost required. I haven’t been to a drive-in movie since Kull The Conqueror & Excess Baggage! That was the night Princess Di died & our cat, Domino, gave birth to a litter of stillborns. ‘Twas an ill-starred evening. The nearest NY drive-in’s ticket policy feels like a scam.”If no proper spots are available at showtime, sadly, you will forfeit your parking spot and admission tickets prepaid online.” Luckily the NJ theaters reopened right before I committed to driving across the border. Due to short notice, most local cinemas didn’t have time to reopen punctually. Our theater felt like it took the responsible safety precautions too. So this marks my first collaboreview with The Wages of Cinema since Harley Quinn & Birds Of Prey!

Just like the comic book is based on, it has a generic title that is already outdated. Now without further ado, the SPOILERS have been released from Limbo below! We finally have closure for Fox’s X-movies! Since I waited this long to see it, it didn’t skimp on the verbiage.

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This film largely relies on two twists that would’ve been fairly easy to guess even if the trailers hadn’t strongly hinted at them: These youngling mutants are imprisoned for sinister purposes instead of being scouted for the X-Men, & the facility’s sudden haunting is tied to the newest inmate. Aside from that, there’s not much movie. Although not botched, both are handled perfunctorily.

I would’ve liked more individual meat one the character bones of this small cast, yet they do feel more like individuals than most cinematic X-Men. They’re all dealing with guilt (except Magik) over having killed with their powers. This is really heavy & intriguing yet the screenplay (co-written by self-professed fans Knate Lee & director Josh Boone) doesn’t allow them to process this. Some dabble in self-harm. I’m ambivalent about giving them all similar trauma. It’s a great hook for a horror movie, but it feeds into the notion that mutants are too dangerous to coexist with humans. The movie barely acknowledges this.

Danielle Moonstar is the focal character. Blu Hunt is okay, but she lacks the gumption I associate with the character. While the others fit into archetypal niches, she doesn’t. Ordinarily this would be a compliment, but here it means the script needed to flesh her out more. She doesn’t shoot anybody with psionic arrows. Mirage & Wolfsbane had a subtextual psychic link in the comics which has been expanded into an overt lesbian romance here.

She’s missing the ginger buzzcut, but meek self-loathing Wolfsbane is the character closest to their comics counterpart. (Maisie Williams sees the negative reviews as an endorsement!) Reverend Craig branded her with a W for werewolf witch, unless it’s an upside-down M for mutant, for extra body horror. Wolfsbane is the best emoji. Sadly her powers may be the worst depicted. Most of the time she’s in full lupine form so they just rented a wolf named Chuck. Her hybrid form is a huge disappointment compared to the comics. It has so little fur it looks unfinished. “We’ll fix it in post,” they lied.

Much like Days Of Future Past, Sunspot is whitewashed & his powers are wrong. Sunspot is specifically the product of an interracial marriage! Boone’s comments about casting Henry Zaga as “the best person for the job” completely miss the point about Roberto’s importance for representation as someone who defies stereotypes. “DOFP already screwed up Sunspot, so we needed to double down on that for continuity’s sake,” would be a less racist excuse than saying no black actors could convey rich boy energy or represent Brazil. While comics coloring has been inconsistent (Suspiciously several black mutants often look more light-skinned now despite advances in digital coloring while nobody get darker.), Roberto DaCosta is explicitly not supposed to pass a white in Brazil or USA. (At least they cast a Brazillian, although a dialect coach would’ve suficed since authentic nationalities for Wolfsbane, Magik, & Cannonball weren’t required.)

Boone said getting Sunspot’s race accurate would only matter if his arc was about racism. Aside from this offensive & arbitrary narrative limit, Roberto’s powers were triggered in the comics by being beaten by racist Brazilian footballers! The movie substitutes Roberto accidentally immolating his girlfriend. I get that this is a horror movie, but that feels like a gratuitously gruesome deviation. (That’s actually Firefist’s origin.) His original backstory was traumatic enough. It would’ve been more resonant & relatable to audiences as it show the intersection of fictional & nonfictional prejudice. It’s so frustrating they didn’t seize this opportunity!

NewMutants

When this movie was filmed, they didn’t realize it’d be dumped into theatres while potential audiences are quarantining themselves.

Dr. Cecilia Reyes is also whitewashed in addition to being evil now. (Do Henry Zaga & Alice Braga rhyme?) Whereas Storm & Monet St. Croix were worshiped as a Goddess or born into great wealth, Dr. Reyes represents a more down to Earth everywoman. She has a rare mostly defensive power & her medical skills are very useful. Her arc about how being a mutant impacted the professional life she worked so hard to build was a good example of worldbuilding. It’s a missed opportunity that she didn’t last long as an audience surrogate & rarely appears after dodging an implied offscreen death.

Charlie Heaton is more amiable as Cannonball than as Jonathan Byers on Stranger Things. (Kentuckians, please weigh in on the accuracy of his hayseed disguise voice.) Him zipping off looks nifty yet is too fast too appreciate. It could’ve used some scenes just focused on him blasting across the sky & through walls. In a reversal of the heroic moment when his powers activated, Sam’s powers cause a cave-in that kills his co-workers. Aside from his doomed dad, none of the extensive Guthrie clan are referenced. There’s a scene of him only charging up his fist to give himself a black eye, which contradicts how his powers function in the comics. He never even utters his catchphrase, “Nuthin’ kin hurt me when ah’m blastin!”

Magik isn’t necessarily one of my favorite characters in the comics, yet she became the main selling point for this film. She’s so rad in live action! Maybe she’d be less exciting if more cinematic mutants embraced the source material, but that’s sadly not the world we live in. By combining her experience on The VVitch & Thoroughbreds, Anya Taylor-Joy perfectly channels Illyana Rasputin. There’s a lot of stuff going on with her, which makes Little Snowflake feel like more of a fully realized character than Dani the ostensible protagonist. While the others are only allotted one character trait each, she drew both “psyche shattered into delusions” & “alpha bitch” out of the hat. (Since her delusions are arguably real, maybe she did get only one trait?) It’s apropos that a movie with her would get trapped in Limbo for years. They don’t mention her big brother, Colossus.

Magik, Lockheed, & the Demon Bear were cleverly reworked to fit the myopic confines of the X-movieverse. If the first film features surreptitiously switching Lady Liberty’s torch for a spinning one that’ll rewrite the DNA of bystanders when a magnetic person stands inside, however, audiences shouldn’t have had an issue accepting legitimutant demons & aliens. (“The first X-Men movie is not good,” is what I’m saying.) I’m just happy that a franchise that wouldn’t even put the iconic Phoenix Force onscreen (TWICE!) finally got some surreal visuals right.

Magik teleports via Limbo, although it’s ambiguous whether it’s a pre-existing dimension or one she imagined into existence as a coping mechanism. Instead of being kidnapped by Belasco (You ever think about how pointless Azazel is when Belasco already exists?), she was abducted by eighteen men in smiley face masks whom she later slays. This is depicted abstractly so it doesn’t feel exploitative of child trafficking. They don’t explain the Soulsword she manifests is literally made from her soul as the cause of her sociopathy. In the climax, her Lockheed puppet inexplicably becomes a real dragon. I theorize Lockheed, the Soulsword, & Limbo are actually manifestations of a power to bring her imagination to life similar to how Dani’s powers work on nightmares. I found these adaptations fascinating, although viewers without a grounding in the comics will probably extremely confused by the absence of context.

Why aren’t they selling the Lockheed puppet? It’s got adorable Figment vibes! Marvel hasn’t even sold plushies of the other Pet Avengers. They’re leaving so much money on the table! The least they could do is finally produce Bamf dolls.

While her patients presume Professor X is her supervisor, Dr. Reyes is working for Essex Corp. Comics fans will be able to tell in advance for the red diamond pin she wears in the film’s only noteworthy costume detail. Her force fields keep the new mutants imprisoned in the Millbury Hospital facility (filmed in the real Medfield State Hospital) rather than protect her herself. She has no staff because this was made on the cheap. She unengagingly responds to terse emails from her superiors because they didn’t commit to casting the perpetually foreshadowed Mr. Sinister. (The stinger that would’ve finally introduced John Hamm or Antonio Banderas as Mr. Sinister wasn’t filmed.) Being ordered to euthanize Dani because she’s too dangerous should’ve presented a great ethical quandary with an opportunity for a redemption arc. Instead Reyes barely hesitates. So she gets mauled by Wolfsbane & devoured by the Demon Bear for being one-note. Being able to automatically generate force field when attacked sure would’ve come in handy!

The Demon Bear is always weird. It doesn’t arbitrarily & permanently transform to white people into Native Americans, which may be tied with Nova Roma as one of Chris Claremont’s most WTF moments from the original series. Instead of being its own being, here’s a manifestation of Moonstar’s subconscious that massacred her Cheyenne reservation. (The two wolves bears parable is a lie.) It seems wasteful to cast Adam “Slipknot, the master of climbing things” Beach as Dani’s dad instead of Thunderbird if he’s contractually obligated to die anyway. (He survived Nancy Drew by getting the hell out of Horseshoe Bay.) The special effects surpervisor got to wear a bear cape! (Speaking of cursed killer bear movies, Grizzly II is finally being released!)

When Mirage’s powers see into Reyes’s mind what happens to other kids selected by Essex Corp, we’re treated to reused Alkali-Transigen footage from No Country For Old X-Men Logan. This doesn’t mean she’s clairvoyant or the movie is set further in the future. It just couldn’t afford to film its own medical atrocity footage.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer has replaced Magnum, PI. (There is a reboot they could’ve used, but it just doesn’t have the same international influence without Tom Selleck’s glorious moustache.) The Willow & Tara scenes mirror Dani & Rahne. Sam & Berto have enough chemistry that you can ship them too. Otherwise they don’t really contribute anything vital to the film.

The film has a more deliberate pace than the average superhero movie without the scares expected of typical horror. (PG-13 horror movies are never frightening, so this was expected.) It gets more fun once Dani’s apparitions attack so the teens can cut loose. The final Demon Bear boss battle is a bit too dark. Sunspot finally turns black but is completely useless so it squanders the bare minimum fan service. Cannonball knocks out a fang then sadly ceases to matter. Magik, Lockheed, & Wolfsbane comport themselves better in battle. Mirage finally realizes The Demon Bear is a part of her & wills it to dissipate. Since she was ultimately the only one who could’ve defeated it, it was a lot of wasted effort by her teammates. The quintet departs the facility, still desperately in need of grief counseling.

I really like the concept of mutants thinking they’re being scouted for the X-Men being drafted for another team. This scenario would’ve worked organically with Emma Frost’s Hellions. We should’ve seen some of Essex Corp’s recruits. The Marauders/Nasty Boys could’ve provided a challenge where Dani wasn’t the only necessary combatant. I guess they were saving The Essex Corps for a sequel that’ll never be made.

Boone intended this to be explicitly set in the 1980’s with appearances by Professor X & Storm, but Fox nixed that in response to Apocalypse’s poor reception. (No Split reunion here!) An early version of the script had Storm as a sadistic jailer of mutie teens, so maybe this is an instance of it being a good thing she was prevented from being pivotal in a movie. The proposed reshoots with CGI Warlock never happened. I don’t see how they would’ve had room to integrate selfriend anyway. Bill Sienkiewicz was treated well, but the team’s  co-creator Bob McLeod’s name is misspelled in the credits. 

I came in with nigh-subterranean expectations, & The New Mutants exceeded them. It’s not the worst X-film, but it’s definitely not near the top either. The racist whitewashing of Sunspot & Cecilia Reyes is yet another example of how the franchise fails black mutants. (HBO’s Watchmen is superior look at race & superheroes.) The premise is undercooked, especially when compared to Legion. It had a higher budget than Deadpool yet feels much cheaper. Unless you can’t take the wait any longer, you’ll probably feel like you got your money’s worth more if you wait for it to hit streaming. A Magik solo movie probably would’ve been more satisfying.

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If this had been punctual to theaters, would it have encouraged folks to snap up all the exclusive Magiks clogging shelves at my local Walgreens? I’ve heard some stores haven’t gotten any because Illyana’s power is to teleport only to stores where she’s not needed. I know it’ll go on clearance the day after I buy another at full price just to scavenge for parts. Meanwhile I’ve not seen any of the Mirage/Wolfsbane/Karma set.

Not crowdfunding a pricey Marvel Legends Sentinel (that still managed to nearly quadruple its initial goal in these trying times) makes me feel financially responsible.

UncannyXMen.net turned twenty! Blackcyclops, a longtime friend on its forum, described me as “the singular most odd, unique and consistent human being I have ever known.” Nobody’s ever accused me of being human before!

Remember when Gail Simone & Kevin Maguire snuck a flaming Sentinel phallus into an in-universe X-Men movie in X-Men Unlimited #35?

Megan Fox is starring in a Rogue movie & didn’t even get skunkstripe hair.

This 80’s Inferno fantasting is both genius & pants on head crazy.

I’ve seen way too many MCU fancasts with tall actors for Wolverine, which is only acceptable if his co-stars stand on crates. I was thinking about how Thunderbird died for being redundant to Wolverine. Why not cast a First Nations actor for the MCU Logan? Thunderbird is still pretty low on the list of mutants to be adapted despite The Gifted, & instantly killing him would be terrible optics. Forge would be a great cinematic X-Man, but sadly isn’t an A-list pick. His similarity to Tony Stark could work against him, especially the MCU is committed to introducing Ironheart & the accursed Reed Richards.  Unless Marvel Studios does an Alpha Flight movie, it’s doubtful we’ll see any canonical First Nations superheroes. Wolverine’s amnesia could be metaphorical to Canada’s residential schools. Him struggling to control his savagery could be problematic if Wolverine wasn’t one of the most prominent X-Men guaranteed plenty of juicy screentime. Or since he hangs out in Japan fighting ninja & samurai a lot, Wolverine could be Japanese-Canadian. Regardless of his ethnicity, Wolverine needs to keep his iconic haircut & hopefully wear a decent costume this time.

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I’d thought about editing my condolences to the family of Chadwick Boseman into my previous article since his most famous role dresses like my cat, but he deserved to be in a blog people may actually read. His passing is both unexpected & depressing. It’s incredible that he was able to film his Black Panther appearances between treatments. He & his doctors were also able to keep his illness under wraps for four years. This is a huge loss to the entertainment world. In only a short span, he got to play Jackie Robinson, James Brown, Thoth, T’Challa, & Thurgood Marshall. Not only was he a tremendous talent who career was blossoming, everyone who knew him attests Chadwick Boseman was a marvelous yet humble human being.

8 thoughts on “The New Mutants Finally Escaped Limbo!

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