Quick Reviews: 'The New Mutants', 'Mulan' | 'X-Men' Horror Spinoff, Live-Action Adaptation, Fantasy
THE NEW MUTANTS
Coming out of their rage and they’re doing just fine, The New Mutants, directed and co-written by Josh Boone, finally arrived in my horizon after years of pondering whether it was in fact a real movie and why Disney decided to put its only local press screening on the morning of its release, merely couple hours before the first public screening. That’s also the reason why it took a while to get to it and after seeing it, it makes you think why you would do that for something that isn’t the catastrophe it was expected to be.
Five teen X-Men mutants—Dani (Blu Hunt), Rahne (Maisie Williams), Illyana (Anya Taylor-Joy), Sam (Charlie Heaton) and Roberto (Henry Zega)—are put into a rehab-ish facility under care of Dr. Reyes (Alice Braga) to make sense of their powers while all of them eventually take form of supernatural horror madness. Perfectly average in most filmmaking aspects, it finds solace in some spooks while being flattened by sleazy accents and a boring ending.
”Mutants” brings up several interesting ideas with its premise as well as exploration but unfortunately many of them don’t blossom into much. All of the five seem to be new to the facility and we do get some backstory about them, however we never spend any time learning about their powers or mental battles about essentially being locked in this remote mansion. Instead we only know that Illyana is racist, Sam has a dad, Roberto had a girlfriend and so forth, they blabber on about nothing for too long which is not helped by the shaky accent work of Taylor-Joy and Heaton, distracting you furthermore. Diving deeper into this place where you are stuck with young super-powered people, who can’t control themselves and where they are being tested and medicated in, could’ve been more horror inducing than whatever we got now.
Something that seems to be going over people’s heads when reading thoughts about the film is that it is in fact PG-13 horror with Marvel characters. You can only get so wild with that rating so the actual VFX work and scary things are pretty impressive, notably the Smiling Men and Roberto’s powers look great. The ”with Marvel” phrase is important because this is in no way a superhero team-up type of thing, it’s a bunch of not mature kids colliding which works because the actors play off each other nicely. Score, production design, cinematography and sound are all solid in their own right too. One last chance where the film could’ve taken more risks is its ending but all of the tension evaporates into thin air when the final VFX monster arrives. That whole sequence is painfully predictable, gets resolved way too easily and leaves Dani and Rahne out in the cold considering their arcs were the biggest thing in the movie.
Frowneys: Ending, dialogue
Existential, psychological horror film called ”The New Ant-Mans”. Let’s talk Disney, let’s talk.
I’ll make a remake out of you. Why? Because you’re a Disney property. Latest addition to the astounding amount of either live-action or computer animated remakes of Disney’s classics (’Dumbo’) and new classics (’Aladdin’) is of course 2020’s Mulan, directed by Niki Caro. Once again it’s about a Chinese girl Hua Mulan (Liu Yifei) who isn’t ready to meet her designed ’’match-for-life’’ and embarks on the imperial army’s war against revolutionists instead of her father, the point being that she pretends to be a man. This time there aren’t magical dragons by her side and neither there are musical numbers, the movie opts to focus on Mulan’s ’’chi’’ and the looming war instead. That just happens to be a big part of the film’s problem as it’s quite messy and dull, something that even the 200 million dollar visuals can’t really save.
Those visuals are nearly all thanks to the wonderful work that the cinematographer Mandy Walker does. Crisp wide lenses capture the landscape, few zoom shots are a nice surprising touch that get you ready for the incoming action sequences and those involving fights shoot the stunt work really well and in a way that you might not expect. It should be pointed out though that much of that work goes unfortunately to waste because of the sloppy editing that doesn't trust the viewer's eyes as well as the awkward VFX which comes off as silly looking, not as an enhancement. Colours (especially the red and orange shades) pop really well on screen and a collection of screenshots would make a really cool flip book type of thing. And, despite missing the musical numbers, there are few stand out moments in Harry Gregson-Williams' score that support the visual style in key moments.
What doesn't support the visual side is the lack of convincing storytelling aspects, mostly failing because the character writing is honestly laughable. This time Mulan herself doesn’t even train herself to become the destined hero, she just happens to be a natural born superhero who doesn’t need to put the work in. That’s exactly what makes the story so boring - she flirts with another soldier, Honghui (Yoson An) whose only trait is that he is into Mulan and she ’’fights’’ two villains that aren’t capable of anything really. One villain, Xianniang (Gong Li), is a shapeshifter for some reason (note that this ’Mulan’ movie was supposed to be less fantastical) but she doesn’t even really put up a fight despite knowing magic.
The film just lacks focus from the writing (four screenwriters!), to the stoic acting (not good, not horrible) to post-production (editing, VFX). One thing it all culminates symbolically is the fact that everyone in the film looks absolutely flawless during the action scenes; flowing hair, perfect skin, ironed clothes, no hesitating expressions and no signs of blood. It’s like no one even put up a fight.
Frowneys: Characterisation, makeup, hairstyling, VFX
Is it a bird? Is i... oh yeah it's just a bird.