Film Review: The New Mutants (2020)

Also known as: Growing Pains (working titles), X-Men: The New Mutants (alternative title)
Release Date: August 26th, 2020 (Belgium, Spain, France, Poland, Portugal)
Directed by: Josh Boone
Written by: Josh Boone, Knate Lee
Based on: New Mutants by Chris Claremont, Bob McLeod
Music by: Mark Snow
Cast: Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Blu Hunt, Henry Zaga, Alice Braga, Adam Beach, Happy Anderson, Marilyn Manson (voice)

Marvel Entertainment, Sunswept Entertainment, Genre Films, Twentieth Century Fox, 98 Minutes

Review:

“Demon Bear! Let’s play a game!” – Illyana Rasputin

With two-to-three years worth of delays, Fox selling to Disney and everything else crazy that has been going on in the world, The New Mutants finally got released. I’m just glad it came out, after all this time, and that I got to see it in the theaters. Thankfully, it wasn’t simply dumped onto a streaming service, where it would’ve been treated as a complete afterthought.

Still, it’s hard to tell which version of the film we got. There were supposed to be re-shoots but they never happened, due to the Fox-Disney deal. Also, this was rumored to be pushing for an R-rating but it came out as PG-13. That probably has more to do with Disney now owning it, as opposed to representing the ideal vision of the director and the original studio.

With everything working against it, the finished product isn’t as big of a mess as I thought it would be. The editor definitely got a coherent film out of the material but it does feel light and a bit skeletal.

From what I understand, the re-shoots were intended to flesh out the story a bit more and to add more emphasis on the horror elements, as the success of the Deadpool movies led Fox to believe that R-rated comic book films could work.

As a massive fan of Illyana Rasputin a.k.a. Magik, it was incredible seeing her come to life in a live-action picture. It was even cooler seeing her face-off with the Demon Bear. It took something from my eleven year-old mind and brought it to life. And frankly, that moment alone made this film feel special to an old school New Mutants fan like myself. Plus, Anya Taylor-Joy was perfect as Illyana. I really hope this isn’t the only time she plays the character but I don’t have my hopes up.

It was also great seeing these other characters come to life in the flesh. I thought that Cannonball was a little weak but the other four characters came across pretty well. I wish that they actually expanded on their origins a bit more but we did get enough to start to understand them. Unfortunately, a sequel is doubtful even though two more films were planned before Fox was sold.

Overall, though, the movie is just okay. It feels more like a two-part pilot episode for a show that could be solid. It doesn’t feel like a film able to stand on its own though and the quality of it feels more like high budget television than something that is a part of the X-Men film universe. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, the movie just looks noticeably cheaper and visually smaller than the series of films it is supposed to connect to.

However, this is all presented in a way where it could redirect itself and connect to the already well established Marvel Cinematic Universe. I highly doubt that will happen, though, as it wasn’t made by Disney and it has a much darker tone than their MCU films.

While it sucks that this didn’t come out in the final form it was intended to with the long-term plans kept intact, it’s still an interesting movie for the superhero genre. It’s vastly different than other films in the genre and it proves that you can dabble with other genres like horror and make it work.

I was really looking forward to the followups, as the plot outlines for the second and third chapters seemed really interesting and made way for much larger stories in scope. Plus, this film hints at the eventual appearance of Mister Sinister, who is long overdue in the X-Men film universe. However, that universe now belongs to another studio and will probably be completely rebooted to fit within their own plans going forward.

The New Mutants should have been an R-rated picture that upped the ante more than the finished product did but I guess we’ll never know what that was or could have been. Still, it’s worth a watch for those who liked the comic book series in the pre-Rob Liefeld era.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Fox era X-Men films, as well as dark, coming of age superhero films like Brightburn and Chronicle.

Film Review: X2: X-Men United (2003)

Also known as: X2 (original title), X-Men II (working title), X² (alternative spelling)
Release Date: April 24th, 2003 (UK premiere)
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Written by: Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, David Hayter, Zak Penn, Bryan Singer
Based on: X-Men by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: John Ottman
Cast: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Bruce Davison, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Anna Paquin, Shawn Ashmore, Alan Cumming, Brian Cox, Aaron Stanford, Kelly Hu, Daniel Cudmore

Marvel Enterprises, Donners’ Company, Twentieth Century Fox, 134 Minutes

Review:

“You know, outside the circus, most people were afraid of me. But I didn’t hate them. I pitied them. Do you know why? Because most people will never know anything beyond what they see with their own two eyes.” – Nightcrawler

When this came out, I was pretty much blown away by it. Seeing it seventeen years later, not so much.

X2 is a film riddled with problems but it’s still good for what it is and for its era. It’s slightly better than its predecessor but after having just watched the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, it pales in comparison to the first two films in that series. In fact, I like the wonky Spider-Man 3 a hair bit more than this.

That being said, this does still have one of the greatest sequences in comic book movie history and that’s the part where the military squad attacks the X-Mansion, abducting the children and sending Wolverine and a few of the younger mutants fleeing into the night. I especially liked the inclusion of Colossus in this scene but that also made me wonder why he didn’t come back into the picture because he would’ve been helpful during the final battle. But I guess someone’s got to protect the kids hiding out who knows where.

Anyway, this is a film that is too driven by plot convenience and poor execution of those conveniences.

For instance, Storm can unleash dozens of tornadoes on military fighter jets but no one is worried about the innocent people living on the ground? And she does this while flying a high tech jet. Where was this immense wind power when the jet was going to be hit by raging water?

Which brings me to another poor plot convenience moment that saw Jean Grey have to push back a raging river while trying to lift the parked jet in an effort to save her friends. She’s powerful as fuck, why couldn’t she have just lifted the jet? An hour earlier, she stopped a missile with her mind. And getting back to Storm, where’s that wind power in this scene? Did you not pick up your power-ups in the final level?

I know I’m being pretty nitpicky here but these moments could’ve been shot better, explained better and just not been as stupid and devoid of logic. It seems like really lazy writing and if you needed to kill off Jean for the story, there are better ways to do it and they still could’ve had her sacrifice herself for those she loves. It just felt cheap and baffling.

This also must’ve been made in the era where they didn’t sign actors to multi-film deals because they spent so much time developing Nightcrawler but then he’s nowhere to be seen in the third film. His arc from the original X-Men trilogy is left incomplete. That just adds to the overall sloppiness of this film franchise. And it sucks because Alan Cumming was great as Nightcrawler and he was one of the high points in this trilogy.

The overall story in the film is pretty good though. I thought that the big finale was too long and could’ve been whittled down somewhat but it moves at a good, brisk pace.

Also, the set design, cinematography and overall look of the picture was a big step up from the previous one.

Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan and Hugh Jackman kill it in just about every scene but Jackman really is the scene stealer, which is impressive when you think about where he was at in his film career in 2003 versus Stewart and McKellan.

In the end, this is still a decent way to waste a few hours but it’s not the great, epic film I saw it as when I was young and didn’t have such refined taste. Also, its since been overshadowed by the Raimi Spider-Man pictures, Nolan’s Batman movies and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the other films in the original X-Men trilogy.

Comic Review: X-Men: The Age of Apocalypse – The Complete Epic

Published: 1995-1996
Written by: Scott Lobdell, Jeph Loeb, John Francis Moore, Mark Waid, Warren Ellis, Fabian Nicieza, Larry Hama, Howard Mackie, Terry Kavanagh
Art by: Roger Cruz, Terry Dodson, Steve Epting, Andy Kubert, Adam Kubert, Carlos Pacheco, Joe Madureira, Tony Daniel, Salvador Larroca, Chris Bachalo, Ken Lashley, Steve Skroce, Ian Churchill, Joe Bennett

Marvel Comics, 1462 Pages

Review:

I’ve really only heard great things about The Age of Apocalypse storyline since it started back in 1995, an era where I wasn’t really reading comics for awhile, except for Dark Horse’s Star Wars stuff.

In fact, the last major X-Men related event that I had read before this was X-Cutioner’s Song, a pretty good epic. But shortly after that, I got pretty burnt out once the top Marvel guys went off to form Image and then those comics were constantly hindered by delays and irregular schedules.

Based off of all the praise I heard, I always wanted to read this but it was such a massive story, spread over multiple collected volumes that I never really wanted to fork out the over $100 it would cost to buy the whole shebang. So, all these years later, I took advantage of a massive X-Men sale on Comixology and got the entire saga with its prelude for about $20.

Now that I’ve read it, I’m glad I only spent $20 because like Game of Thrones, all my friends and all the critics lied to me about how great this was. It’s not, it’s a clusterfuck of biblical proportions showcasing a lot of the things that were wrong with mid-’90s comic book art from the major publishers.

I’ll start with the art and just come out and say that this was mostly an eyesore to look at. The biggest reason was the colors, which relied so heavily on what I assume are digitally created gradients and overly vibrant colors that this was like staring into the asshole of a tropical fruit salad for hours. Everything is too busy, every single issue collected is made to be overly grandiose and if everything is larger than life and overly vivid, then that becomes the norm and thus, makes everything kind of boring.

Additionally, there is such a mix of different artistic styles that it becomes jarring as these collections jump from issue to issue every twenty pages or so. Some of the artists had great pencils but many of them illustrated in a style that didn’t feel like Marvel and instead felt like the artists were trying to emulate indie comics from Image and Valiant. Besides, the stuff that was illustrated well, ended up being wrecked by the primitive gradients and crazy colors that looked like a giallo film puked all over a box of Prismacolor markers.

When it comes to the narrative side of this, that’s also a mess.

This suffers from trying to be way more ambitious than it needed to be. The whole story is comprised of about seven or eight different subplots that are and aren’t intertwined. Some of them merge towards the end into the bigger story but some stuff just happens within this new timeline. But the story jumps around so much that it makes the whole thing hard to follow as a singular body of work. This is the same problem I have, right now, with all the new X-Men related titles that are tied to a bigger narrative but don’t feel connected as much as they should. But this is what happens when you have a half dozen different titles and different writers, all of whom want to explore different territory in their own way while being trapped within a common framework.

In fact, the only plot I actually enjoyed was the one that dealt with the characters that aren’t tied to the X-Men.

There was a two issue miniseries called X-Universe, which focused on what other Marvel characters were up to during this event. We check in on this timeline’s version of Gwen Stacy, some of the Avengers, Fantastic Four, Doctor Doom and a few others. I found this more interesting and it showed me that this alternate timeline could provide the right sort of environment for cool and refreshing takes on old characters.

While I should probably feel the same way about all the X-Men related characters and their stories, it is hard to focus on any of them because of how this jumps around so much. When I got to the non-X-Men characters, it felt like a nice break from the X-clusterfuck I was pushing myself through.

Ultimately, I was really disappointed in this. I kept powering through it because I was hoping that all these subplots and characters would unify into something coherent that clicked at the end but that didn’t happen. We eventually get to a resolution but it’s not all that satisfying.

On a side note (and spoiler alert): the way that Magneto kills Apocalypse is pretty f’n badass.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other big X-Men crossovers of the ’80s through ’00s.

Comic Review: X-Men: The Fall of the Mutants

Published: 1988
Written by: Chris Claremont, Peter David, Louise Simonson, Steve Englehart, Mark Gruenwald, Ann Nocenti
Art by: Marc Silvestri, Todd McFarlane, Bret Blevins, June Brigman, Kerry Gammill, Jon Bogdanove, Kieron Dwyer, Keith Pollard, John Romita Jr., Walt Simonson

Marvel Comics, 803 Pages

Review:

This was a story so big that it was collected into two massive volumes. But I figured I’d read both and give the whole thing a single review, as one body of work.

But that may have not been the best approach, as this crossover doesn’t really crossover in a way that makes one big story. This is more like an anthology of events that were going on in all the different X-books at the same time. And weirdly, this isn’t collected in chronological order but as separate stories without much overlap or characters meeting.

This big event also has some short stories focused on Hulk, Captain America, Daredevil, Black Widow and the Fantastic Four. In those tales, it shows what they’re up to during the events of what is happening in some of the X-books.

The Fall of the Mutants takes place between Mutant Massacre and Inferno. It is also the last of the ’80s X-Men crossovers that I hadn’t read in its entirety.

Out of all the tales here, I thought the X-Factor one was probably the best as it concludes the Apocalypse and Angel storyline, as it introduces Archangel for the first time. Also, the X-Factor arc showcases Cameron Hodge turning on the team, revealing his true agenda to set up what would eventually be the superb crossover event X-Tinction Agenda.

The New Mutants part was the weirdest but it also featured Hodge’s heel turn and kind of sets things in motion for X-Tinction Agenda and Inferno. This is also where the New Mutants dump Magneto as their teacher and return to the ways of Charles Xavier.

Ultimately, this was kind of a mess when read as one body of work. But it does do a proper job of bridging the gap from Mutant Massacre and the next two big events to follow.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other major X-Men crossover events from the ’80s and ’90s.

Comic Review: X-Men: Mutant Massacre

Published: 1986
Written by: Chris Claremont, Louise Simonson, Walter Simonson, Ann Nocenti
Art by: John Romita Jr., Walter Simonson, Sal Buscema

Marvel Comics, 319 Pages

Review:

Well, not all giant X-Men crossover events can be created equal.

This one started off with a bang though. Sadly, it withered away in the second half, as it crossed over into non-X-Men-related titles and became a narrative clusterfuck that slowed down the story’s momentum to a complete halt.

The main reason I wanted to read this was to have a bit of background context before jumping into the following big event The Fall of the Mutants. While I had never read either crossover in their entirety, I had read parts and I knew that the stories had a very close association.

The focal point of the story shows the Marauders invading the Morlocks’ sewer hideout where they murder the shit out of them. Only a few actually survive and that’s mostly due to the X-Men, X-Factor and the New Mutants involving themselves in the ordeal.

As this collection rolls on, the story spins off into issues of Thor, Daredevil and Power Pack. This is where the narrative starts to become a mess. And once we get to this point, a lot of the issues rehash some of the same shit, over and over.

What I was excited to see was Apocalypse show up and the actual breaking of Angel. I thought that he would actually be turned into Archangel in this story but I guess that happens just after, which was kind of disappointing, as I’ve never got to read that actual story. I assumed it would happen here once Angel had his wings destroyed and was nailed to the sewer wall with about half the story left.

There were a lot of deaths in this but none that really hold any weight or matter to the bigger picture.

But I guess this helped plant the seed for The Fall of the Mutants and the introduction of both Archangel and Mister Sinister.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other big X-Men crossover events from the ’80s and ’90s.

Comic Review: The New Mutants: War Children – One-Shot

Published: September 25th, 2019
Written by: Chris Claremont
Art by: Bill Sienkiewicz

Marvel Comics, 32 Pages

Review:

Being an old school fan of The New Mutants, this was a pretty cool one-shot that took my brain right down memory lane in the best way possible.

This re-teams the creative duo of Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz, who were the guys that gave us so many New Mutants stories from their original run.

The story here fits well with their work from thirty years ago. I’m not sure where this would fit, as I don’t remember the details from issue to issue but this is in that great period between the debut of Magik and her eventual (but not permanent) death in the Inferno mega crossover event. This certainly takes place well before Rob Liefeld came in and changed the direction of the title, evolving it into X-Force.

I’m assuming that this was made because The New Mutants are being relaunched in a few weeks on the heels of Jonathan Hickman’s pretty beloved House of X and Powers of X miniseries.

And while I look forward to the new New Mutants comic series, I’d rather just have more of this. I wish that this wasn’t a one-shot and could have been expanded into a miniseries. But the quality of this would have been difficult to pull off in multiple issues on a schedule.

Sienkiewicz’s art has never really fallen off. He’s not a guy that’s been phoning it in later in his career like some of the other greats have done. This is a stunning and beautiful book to look at. Additionally, I thought that Claremont penned a good story that was a throwback to his glory days writing multiple X-comics.

I don’t want to say too much regarding the plot, as I’d rather people pick this up but it mostly revolves around Warlock and Cypher and the fear that Warlock has about losing himself to his nature and hurting his friends.

Old school New Mutants fans will probably dig the shit out of this. I did. And as I said, I just wish there was more.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the original New Mutants comic book run.

Comic Review: New Mutants, Vol. 2: Necrosha

Published: September 8th, 2010
Written by: Zeb Wells
Art by: Niko Henrichon, Diogenes Neves, Paul Davidson, Alvaro Lopez, David Lopez

Marvel Comics, 148 Pages

Review:

I wasn’t super big into the volume before this one. That could also be due to me not really liking the Legion character, who had a major presence in that book.

This volume finds its footing a bit more and I enjoyed both stories that were collected here.

I like this team, overall, and their dynamic. There are interesting twists to the story but the first half of this collection ties into a crossover event where some of the context is lost, due to this not featuring the parts of the story that weren’t specifically published as New Mutants issues. Also, this volume leads into the big Second Coming event.

Regardless of this being tied to and setting up other stories, I like the chemistry within the group and how the characters are written and how they’re evolving here. In fact, I assumed I’d give up after this volume but I think I’ll give the third one a read too.

I’m a big New Mutants fan and always have been. I just haven’t been very satisfied with their comics since the original run in the ’80s and early ’90s. Zeb Wells’ run seems to be carving out its place in the larger mythos though.

Plus, I dig the art.

All in all, not a bad book, better than most New Mutants collections after the original run and I’m at least interested in sticking with it beyond this chapter in the series.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the volume before this story, as well as most New Mutants stories featuring some of the key original members.

Comic Review: New Mutants, Vol. 1: Return of Legion

Published: April 28th, 2010
Written by: Adam Kubert, Zeb Wells
Art by: Diogenes Neves, Cam Smith

Marvel Comics, 131 Pages

Review:

I’m an old school O.G. New Mutants fan. I’m also a bitch for nostalgia. So I often times pick up New Mutants titles whenever they have brief resurgences. And usually, I regret it after the fact.

Reading the first volume of this short lived New Mutants incarnation didn’t leave me with buyer’s remorse though. However, this also didn’t wow me in any way.

Some of the key members get back together to do a mission for Cyclops. Cannonball is put in charge of the team, which is fine but anytime Magik is put on the backburner, I tend to get fussy. She’s one of my all-time favorite Marvel characters and a big reason why I read New Mutants.

Sure, Magik still plays a part in this story but it feels pretty secondary.

This arc also brings Legion into the mix and he’s never been a character I’ve been that fond of.

While this was an entertaining read, there wasn’t much here to justify a return of this team. Although, this does setup the second volume and hopefully that gives this chapter in this two part saga more meaning. However, this still didn’t leaved me too enthused about continuing on.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: the follow to this story, as well as most New Mutants stories featuring some of the key original members.

Comic Review: X-Men: Second Coming

Published: June 22nd, 2011
Written by: Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, Matt Fraction, Zeb Wells, Mike Carey
Art by: David Finch, Terry Dodson, Ibraim Roberson, Greg Land, Mike Choi, Rachel Dodson, Sonia Oback

Marvel Comics, 360 Pages

Review:

I went into this thinking that I would like it for the most part. The events that precede it were pretty good reads. What I didn’t expect was to be blown away. But in the end, I have to say, this was one of the absolute best X-Men crossover events that I have ever experienced. Seriously, this was nothing short of superb.

More than anything, this story made me love Cable more than ever and it got me to love Hope Summers, who I would say is one of the best characters to come out of the last decade, even though she previously appeared as a baby before this in Messiah Complex.

This had a lot going on in the story but there was room for it all. Plus, all the key players were well balanced throughout and it gave most of the top characters a real purpose and mission.

There are real consequences in this story, as some key X-Men figures die. Granted, one could argue that those consequences are never real because no one truly dies in comics and the two biggest victims of this story are already alive and well, once again. But despite that, it felt like a real blow within this narrative. It didn’t lose its impact knowing that they’d eventually be back.

Second Coming carries all the doom and gloom of Messiah Complex over and it brings more doom and gloom but it ends in a way that finally sees a glimmer of “hope” appear in the darkest time of the X-Men franchise. I don’t want to spoil too much because I’d rather people give this a read.

Being that this is a crossover event, there is a mix of art styles. All of it works for me though, even if there are noticeable style shifts from chapter to chapter. Ultimately, the tone stays about the same from beginning to end.

This is a fairly long read but none of it is boring or filler. It moves at a brisk pace, keeps you engaged and makes you cheer for these heroes in a way that you haven’t since the early ’90s.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the stories that precede it: Avengers Disassembled, House of M and X-Men: The Messiah Complex, as well as the one this leads up to: Avengers Vs. X-Men.

Comic Review: New Mutants: Back to School – The Complete Collection

Published: 2003-2004 (originally published)
Written by: Chris Claremont, Nunzio DeFilippis, Christina Weir
Art by: various

Marvel Comics, 350 Pages

Review:

The New Mutants was one of my first loves in comic books. I discovered it at a pretty early age and loved it, along with the Chris Claremont era of the X-Men. So I wanted to check out this series from 2003-2004. I had put it off for a long time but with it being free for Comixology Unlimited members, I finally decided to give it a read.

All this did was disappoint me though. And man, it was a really long read at 350 pages. This collection covers the whole run of the relaunched series, plus some other comics that tie into the story.

This focuses on the formation of a new team of mutant youngsters, as opposed to bringing the original team back together. The cover was severely misleading as I wanted to read the adventures of that team. All the characters on the cover don’t even come together until the last issue in this collection and even then, it’s way too late and doesn’t do much to salvage the complete boredom I felt for everything before it.

10-20 percent of this giant collection features actual action. The rest of it is just talking and talking and talking and talking. And even with 80-90 percent of this being dialogue, I don’t really care about any of these characters and there is no emotional weight to anything that happens between the covers.

Even if you are a hardcore New Mutants fan, you can ignore this completely and not miss anything. If you are a Dani Moonstar fan, I guess you might want to read it, simply for the fact that she is a big part of this slow, boring story.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: more modern X-Men and New Mutants comics.