After nearly six months of not having set foot in a movie theater, I finally made it back. I suppose I could have gone sooner, but it did not seem like they were releasing anything major. It almost came to naught, as well, when the manager approached and said the projector could break down at any moment. I guess they have not been used too much in recent months. Anyway, lately I had been seeing commercials for films being released “only in theaters,” so I thought it was time to check out the offerings and make my return. As I am not much in the mood for laughing these days, I did not see Bill & Ted Face the Music. I did peak at the ratings for it, and audiences and critics seem pretty positive on it, if you put stock in any other opinion than my own. At any rate, I saw The New Mutants.
Some Marvel corporate backstory is in order to help explain The New Mutants. If you are a fan of their comic books, you might know how with the Infinity Gauntlet saga that wrapped up last year there were a whole host of superheroes that were not present, i.e. the X-Men and their ilk. You see, long before Kevin Feige made the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the cash cow it became, the company that created all these characters sold off the movie rights to them piecemeal. Those companies who own their rights have been reluctant to sell them, even if they cannot make a competent movie. Some assets are worth hanging onto, I suppose. That was the lay of the land until the hordes of dollars at Disney’s command came along, and everything is now more or less under their control. All this has nothing to do with the story of the film. It is simply a reminder of where Marvel has been, and this movie is an indication of where it will go.
The New Mutants starts with a character this Marvel comics fan had never heard of, Danielle Moonstar (Blu Hunt). She lives on a Cheyenne reservation, and there is some kind of attack going on. Her father awakens her, leads her out of the settlement, and dies trying to defeat whatever menace was destroying their home. She next wakes up in a hospital setting, and is greeted by Dr. Cecilia Reyes (Alice Braga). The facility they are in is designed to keep young mutants inside (forcefully) while they learn to control their newfound powers. The thing is, Danielle does not yet know what are her abilities. There are four others there, though the one she develops the closest relationship to is Rahne Sinclair (Maisie Williams), a young women who can change into a wolf. Her nemesis, at first, is Illyana Rasputin (Anya Taylor-Joy), whose bullying begins to trigger Danielle. By trigger, I mean (at least according to the film) the stresses of life are what bring out any superpowers within these young people. It slowly becomes apparent that Danielle can manifest other’s deepest, darkest fears and use them against them. So incredible are Danielle’s abilities that the company (the Essex Corporation, as seen in the film Logan) that operates the facility decides she is too dangerous and orders Dr. Reyes to kill her. It is during the procedure that Danielle’s true strength is revealed as each of the other four mutants there are faced with that which torments them. They all realize what is going on and come to her rescue, but Dr. Reyes has talents of her own, namely the ability to create and trap others inside forcefields. On the verge of death, Danielle’s subconscious summons the demon bear, a monstrously huge being of destruction that first chomps down on Dr. Reyes but then starts coming after the others. Facing mortal danger, they must use their powers together in order to keep the bear at bay until Danielle recovers enough to deal with her creation. She does in time, and realizing that they are now free to leave, they walk off together.
The defeat of the demon bear in the climactic moments of The New Mutants involves Danielle letting go of blaming herself for her father’s death, which she seems to come to believe as her powers become more apparent. At the beginning there is a nice little saying about how inside of each of us are a good bear and a bad bear fighting for control of our souls. Of course, the Christian parallel is the devil and God, and we know that submission to God’s will is the only way of keeping the devil at bay. Danielle taking on responsibility needlessly is letting the bad bear win. Only when she is able to accept that he died to protect her out of love can she conquer that which threatens her. However, the more interesting character from a faith perspective is Rahne. She faces temptations on a daily basis, even when basically locked up. What is interesting, though, is that while there are no clergymen in the facility, it stills has a chapel with Confessionals where she goes to confess her sins. She even assigns herself penance. While as a Catholic you might wish to see her not give in to the romantic feelings she has for Danielle (and while we are at it, were the shower scenes, even bereft of actually nudity, really necessary?), she does seem to at least care about her relationship with God. Sure, she is a sinner. Who is not? But I like to think that her Faith informs her good character.
I do not recommend The New Mutants to everyone, particularly not younger audiences. There are some pretty scary moments, and it seems like the film was advertised as basically being a horror film. For grown-ups, if you watched this and are frightened I might suggest that you talk to somebody about those reactions. What I am trying to saying is that it really is not scary. It is exciting, and despite getting a lukewarm reception is a solid film all around. You could do worse for your first trip back to the theater in some time.