Anika Goes to the Movies: The New Mutants

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I am deeply saddened by the loss of Chadwick Boseman. He appeared on my radar as a cameo character in the tv series Castle. (I miss Castle) But I was floored by his performance in Marshall, and I did all the happy dances when I found out he would be playing Black Panther. His range and he presence on screen were easily at the top of his field. So sorry to hear about his battle with colon cancer, but all the more impressed that he continued to work while fighting that fight. My thoughts are with his family.

Quick review: 2.5/5 stars. This one gets a hard meh. Not a fan of underaged sexuality generally. Have a really hard time with depictions of sexual abuse. Don’t love shoe-horned moralizing. I can forgive the above when they really contribute to the story in a meaningful way, or are done with real tact and style. There was none of that. Wait until it streams somewhere and it doesn’t cost you anything extra to view it. Or don’t even do that. You’ll be fine.

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Longer review: If you’ve been passing your eyeballs over this blog for a while, you’ve probably figured out that I LOVES me a good super hero flick. I am trash for all things super powers and world saving. Quirky folks who can do quirky things? I’m here for it.

So this being my first foray back into a public space, risking lungs and mitochondria to take in a movie after the summer season that wasn’t, I was pumped. And maybe that was the problem. I was hoping for too much. My let down, was a hard one.

This whole thing felt like a poorly done prequel. The level of story-telling and characterization conveyed the kind of weakness that assumes you’ve already bought in to the characters’ lives. The only character I really care about is the one that gets the most ignored. And the acting overall (maybe it was the direction?) was subpar.

Dr. Reyes, played by Alice Braga, is by far the most interesting character. How does a mutant with forcefield capabilities get indoctrinated into killing her own? And since the mutant ability of the protagonist, Dani, is to make your fears physically manifest, why don’t we ever see what Dr. Reyes’ is? Dr. Reyes has forcefield capabilities the keep the young, out of control mutants within the confines of the “hospital.” At the point where her orders to kill Dani go south and she is forced to use her powers rather than toxin via syringe to do what she must, she takes forever. This gives time for Dani’s own fear, the demo bear of native legend (so many issues with this by the way) time to show up and maul Dr. Reyes to a pulp. You have a person trapped between impenetrable force and hard floor, a fast compression equals death.

The other truck sized plot hole is that Illyana Rasputin, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, (Who is one of my favorite up and coming actresses. Her range is really superior for her age, can’t wait to see more from her.) is a dimension jumper. If she can pop in and out of her “special place” at will, then why can’t she just return herself on the other side of the forcefield?

No good answers to these questions.

Just lame storytelling.

For which there should be no excuse given that they had an extra six months. They could have done some beta testing and realized, oh, our plot doesn’t work and 90% of our tension is fake.

Illyana’s character is especially troubling. Her backstory, as far as we understand it, is she was a child victim of long term sexual abuse. Her deepest fear is the warped, horror show she has made of her attackers, the caricature “The Smiling Man.” The abuse of children is not entertainment. It makes me sick to my stomach. Illyana’s powers develop from her creation of a “special place” in her head to give her and her puppet pterodactyl Lockheed a way to escape the reality of her situation. It is the sort of tragic coping all abuse victims do, and if they survive to adulthood, the kind of behavior they have to unlearn in order to be functioning adults. To make a trauma-induced coping strategy into a super power is a kind of cultural acceptance of the crime. And while the empowerment of victims to heal themselves and move forward may have been the intent of the writers, killing all of your attackers is not empowerment, it’s derangement. Not to mention they totally make her into a sex object during the movie with an underaged (the characters not the actors) sex scene in a swimming pool. The message, intended or not, being “don’t worry, the objectification of children is fine as long as it’s for a movie, the pedophiles are fantastical monsters, and the other party is a consenting teen.”

All garbage.

The whole thing isn’t even that scary.

If you see the trailer and you’re thinking, “Oh, X-men as a horror flick, cool,” you will be woefully, disappointed. They pulled all the scariest bits for the trailer, and creepiest stills for the advertising and did what Hollywood does best. Lie.

So, no FOMO. You aren’t missing anything.

Now, The Personal History of David Copperfield, that’s a must see. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.

Until then, enjoy the show.

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