A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The New Mutants was originally intended to be a spin-off of the X-Men franchise but is now serving as its final installment. It's directed at teens, with actors they know from shows like Game of Thrones and Stranger Things (and the same director as The Fault in Our Stars). But it's as much a horror film as it is a superhero action fantasy: Expect lots of violence, some of it bloody. The teen mutants' situations are extremely dark, including a religious leader branding a girl and the strong implication of child rape. Terrifying animals and monsters attack relentlessly, children are tortured, and the mutants attack each other. All of the mutants are being held in a remote hospital because they've killed at least one person; only a few show remorse. Teens joke about sex, and two romances develop, each resulting in a kiss. The kids curse ("bitch," "s--t"), but not excessively. The message is tailor-made for a generation that's grappling with anxiety and depression, and it's repeated over and over: Don't let fear ruin your life, you can conquer your demons. The X-Men have always led the way when it comes to superhero diversity, and this film takes it a step further: The ensemble is more inclusive in terms of gender, sexuality, economic status, and ethnicity than ever before.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In THE NEW MUTANTS, a group of young mutants -- Danielle Moonstar/Mirage (Blu Hunt), Rahne Sinclair/Wolfbane (Maisie Williams), Illyana Rasputin/Magik (Anya Taylor-Joy), Sam Guthrie/Cannonball (Charlie Heaton), and Roberto da Costa/Sunspot (Henry Zaga) -- is sequestered in a remote hospital after having just become aware of their powers. They assume that they're being treated and cared for following the painful ordeals that landed them there. But they soon discover that they are, in fact, prisoners. Working together, they must find a way to escape their captors and survive.
Is it any good?
If 20th Century Fox's X-Men: Dark Phoenix was a shrug, this abandoned spin-off is a whimper. For moviegoers who don't read the comics, there's little here to do with the Fox X-Men cinematic universe as we've come to know it. Trying to introduce so many new characters in such a bleak environment doesn't give viewers any reason to become invested. Which is not to say that each character's backstory isn't explored -- in fact, they're hammered home. For instance, when we meet Roberto, we're told his family is rich; after that, every time he speaks, he includes a reference to his family's wealth. And Rahne is a devout Catholic, and almost every moment connects to the church. The characters are as flat as the comic book page they were drawn on. They're also killers, and no one other than Roberto really seems to be troubled by that.
A deeper dive into the teens' psychology (beyond exposition) would have transformed this into a more intriguing film. While everything seems to come from the Captain Obvious School of Screenwriting, the mutants' personal emotional struggles are left vague. The most clear-cut case is that of bully Illyana, who sometimes communicates through a dragon puppet and still draws with crayons -- it's pretty obvious (to adults) the horrors that she's been dealing with, but more explanation would be enlightening. And, frankly, it's a missed opportunity to spark empathy and understanding in teen viewers. On the other hand, you absolutely can't miss the movie's message. It's an allegory within an allegory, and the takeaway is stated at the beginning, the end, and a couple of times in the middle: Living in fear leads to tragedy, but you're bigger than your demons and the environment that tries to define you. The New Mutants is a bold idea with groundbreaking elements -- LGBTQ+ superheroes in a movie put out by Disney! -- but its potential greatness is muted by a lack of solid direction, an amateur script, and, if rumors are accurate, quite a bit of behind-the-scenes meddling. Instead of reinventing the superhero movie as a horror film, it fails in both categories.
Talk to your kids about ...
Do you consider this film groundbreaking? Why, or why not?
How is Danielle and Rahne's romantic relationship portrayed compared to Roberto and Illyana's? Is it unusual to see LGBTQ+ relationships depicted in the same way as heterosexual ones? How do representations in the media influence society?
Discuss the meaning of the Demon Bear story that Danielle's father told her. How does that tie into the film's message? How are allegories and metaphors used to express ideas and actions that might be too difficult to show?
Knowing that this film was intended to create a separate storyline within the X-Men universe, how is it consistent with -- and different from -- the other X-Men films?
- In theaters: August 28, 2020
- Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Maisie Williams, Charlie Heaton
- Director: Josh Boone
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Superheroes
- Run time: 99 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: violent content, some disturbing/bloody images, some strong language, thematic elements and suggestive material
- Last updated: September 4, 2020
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