“The New Mutants” (2020)
Action/Comic Book Adapation
Running time: 94 minutes
Written by: Josh Boone and Knate Lee
Directed by: Josh Boone
Featuring: Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Alice Braga, Blu Hunt and Henry Zaga
Danielle Moonstar: “There’s a Native American proverb that 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.”
“The New Mutants” (2020) has recently been released on 4K Blu-ray and is one of the last movies to come out of the 20th Century Fox acquisition by Disney, it is also a movie that features a very complex past having been shelved over two years ago to undergo rewrites and newly filmed sequences that for various reasons were never completed so after all of the fuss the version audiences have seen and will see is the original version writer/directer Josh Boone had intended, if you believe the marketing behind its initial release.
Over the past twenty years there has been a general reliance by studios, in particular 20th Century Fox and Disney, on Marvel Comics characters to not only produce quality event movies but also generate vast amounts of income. However, as the Disney side of Marvel has grown and grown to unimaginable height the Fox side has seen not only the quality drop but that of the box office returns, which culminated with the absolute disaster that was “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” (2019), not only a flop but a movie that was worse than a movie it was supposed to correct in “X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006). Now we have something of a curiosity, a movie that was supposed to be (I guess still is) part of the ‘X-Universe’ but with a far lower budget, new young actors and is ostensibly a genre movie crossed with a comic book movie, something that had very little downside but with quite a large upside. Of course best laid plans and all that meant that when filming was complete the studio was not happy and ordered reshoots and changes, which delayed the movie, then with the Disney acquisition it actually looked liked it would never be released. But with a global pandemic and Disney delaying most of their high profile schedule, it was decided to release “The New Mutants” into theatre where it made little impact but did generate some revenue. Now it has arrived on streaming, 4K, Blu-ray and DVD with mixed results but some very positive aspects, least of all is what a new mutant superhero team may have actually looked like.
“The New Mutants” is set around Danielle “Dani” Moonstar, a young Cheyenne Native American, escapes the destruction of her reservation during a tornado. During the chaos, Dani’s father William hides her before an unseen entity kills him, leaving her the only survivor. After being knocked unconscious, Dani awakens in a hospital run by Dr. Cecilia Reyes. Reyes comforts Dani, telling her she is a mutant, and advises her to remain in the hospital until she learns what her abilities are and controls them. There is more than meets the eye of course as the mystery of the hospital unfolds as do the other patients living there, all young mutants with very different abilities. I will not spoil the movie, it has a compact running time at a tad over ninety minutes so it moves at a brisk pace, which is a bonus for this movie in particular.
Co-written and directed by Josh Boones whose last movie “A fault in our stars” (2014) was as successful as a young adult movie could have been at the time seemed to have his sights set high, with a mooted movie adaptation of Stephen Kings magnum opus ‘The Stand’ now a mini series by Boone and a marvel movie which as it turns out is this one. If this movie had been released when it was supposed to be it might have served as a launching pad for future New Mutant movies or could have shown what mixing genres could have produced. This is an adequately written and directed movie that at times offers glimpses of what might have been, with the casting of Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy and Charlie Heaton at the time all coming off huge successes, you can see even in this movie that they are all very good actors. The storyline that was co-opted was one of the most important from this teams time in publishing, while not as well know as ‘The Phoenix saga’, the ‘Demon Bear’ storyline was no less important and possibly much more original as well as amazingly drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz.
Whilst this movie may have faced some criticism, much of which is faire, there are some other elements that are executed very well, some of those being the effects of the demon bear itself when it turns up, which was always going to be difficult but is done very well especially on a small budget. The way in which the mutants are integrated into the rest of the ‘X-Universe’ is done well and actually quite subtly, almost as fan service but not quite which was good to see. The way in which the characters come together is not great as each of them is given some time as well as explanation into their own origins but it is so clumsy that I was almost taken out of the movie, except for Illyana who is an archtype of many bad girls before her, so even though her power is not explained we instincyively know who she is, so when she sides with Danni it is no real surprise. As for Samuel “Sam” Guthrie, Roberto “Bobby” da Costa and Rahne Sinclair they are really as unknown as their abilities are, except for Rahne maybe, but we still do not know the extent of her. Fans will know that within the comic book there was much to explore even without the Demon Bear.
All in all there are enough aspects of “The New Mutants” to make it a worthwhile 4K purchase, as you can see below it has upgraded picture and audio quality that will make it look great on the right television. If the purchase seems too much then I would definitely watch streaming at the very least.
Despite the drab environments, there is a noticeable amount of crispness regarding how much this film can put on display in its bigger moments. There’s never any level of distortion, and movements always come through smooth. The black levels are very strong, using the nighttime and darker interiors to properly convey the right sense of shadow and saturation. Colors are quite strong. The HDR comes in well to further heighten the level color on display. Facial textures all feature a great detail level, which is important given the hybrid of special effects and characters in some instances.
The soundtrack features English Dolby Atmos and 2.0 Descriptive Audio 5.1, Spanish 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, and French Dolby Digital 5.1 as well as English SDH, Spanish, French languages. “The New Mutants” features an intricate mix that mostly does the job. It’s not an action-heavy film, but plenty is going on to enjoy how this mix was put together when the film does enter that arena. As this is a fairly quiet film due to the few characters and sparse locations, you get enough detail in the ambient noise and the use of score.