The New Mutants

”I don’t think we’re here to get better.’

Occasionally a media product – be that TV show, game, album or film – will be described as going or having gone through ‘development hell’. It describes exactly what it sounds like; when the putting together, making of or releasing of was a hellish experience. Rarely has the term been as accurately used as when it is describing The New Mutants. Director Josh Boone started work on the project in 2014. Fox signed off on it in 2015 with the script being completed in 2016. 2017 saw pre-production, casting and the start of filming. After a cut was put together, re-shoots took place in 2018.

None of this is particularly uncommon for a big blockbuster, although the time frame is was one the slightly longer side. Then the film got pushed back by Fox, the re-shoots looked to be more extensive than initially anticipated – whispers of an entire tonal shift started occurring. Then Disney bought out Fox and it looked like it either didn’t know what to do with the film. A final cut was ready in early 2020, a release date of March was set – and then Covid closed the cinemas. Now, this weekend and next Friday, you can finally go and see the film everyone was starting to believe didn’t actually exist. Was it worth the wait?

No, not really. The whispers and speculation of the film’s unimpressiveness prove to be mostly warranted, mainly because it is hard to believe how so many interesting full-of-potential components have resulted in something so dull and bland. The best superhero adaptations, be that film or tv, aren’t ‘just’ superhero stories, they utilise generic or cultural conventions to great effect. Think the Afrofuturism of Black Panther, the take on the Western that is Luke Cage and the film noir of Jessica Jones for just a few examples.

The New Mutants seems to be a horror pitched at the young adult audience, with it’s 15 certificate clearly signposting this statement of intent. The BBFC certificate promises ‘strong threat, bloody images, abuse references’. It’s a shame then that the film isn’t particularly scary or gory or really anything at all.

Starting in media res we see Danielle Moonstar (Blu Hunt) running for her life as her reservation is destroyed by what appears to be some sort of monster. After falling unconsciousness in the middle of some woods, she awakes in what seems to be hospital. Dr Cecilia Reyes (Alice Braga) explains that she is there because she is extraordianary – her mutant superpowers meant she was the only survivor of the catastrophe. She must stay at the hospital until she learns to control her powers, although she doesn’t know what they are yet.

She’s not the only patient at the hospital. There’s also Rahne Sinclair (Maise Williams), Illyana Rasputin (Anya Taylor-Joy), Sam Guthrie (Charlie Heaton) and Bobby da Costa (Henry Zaga). All have experienced great trauma as a direct consequence of their powers. Dr Reyes refers to her ‘superior’, which the group assume is Professor Xavier, but as each young mutant endures a literal haunting from their past they have reason to suspect they are in great danger.

And so the story goes, with a running time of 100 minutes. The most memorable thing about it is just how unmemorable it really is. The cast are great, with the majority being very familiar faces known for iconic performances – Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Split, Emma), Williams (Game Of Thrones) and Heaton (Stranger Things). Those three in particular make an intriguing impact within proceeding, even when armoured with some ‘interesting’ The fault lies with the material they have been given.

The story is The Breakfast Club: emo edition, with 5 disparate superpowered teenagers trapped in a building. The true monster? Themselves! The dialogue is empty enigma sandwiched in endless exposition. We get told so much, yet very little of it helps us understand or actually like the characters. The visuals aren’t particularly impressive and the special effects are a tad on the creaky side.

The end result is a film that is unlikely to generate hate, simply apathy. At least now we know it actually exists..?

The New Mutants previews in the UK August 29th and 30th, before being released September 4th.

Tenet

‘Don’t try to understand it, just feel it.’

When submitting essays at university, between the act of final proof read and pressing that ‘submit’ button I would have one recurring and prevailing thought – this is either total brilliance or totally nonsensical. I had an echo of that thought throughout the entirety of Tenet 150 minute running time. But, are brilliance and nonsense truly binary opposites – or are they inverted…?

The biggest film to hit cinema’s in nearly six months is Christopher Nolan’s go at a Bond movie – a caper full of spies, missions, dashing leading men in great suits, a damsel in distress and gorgeous locations all around the globe. It’s also his most inaccessible film to date. I’ll avoid going into any detail at all about the plot because of A) Spoilers and B) I’m pretty sure I have absolutely no idea what happens in Tenet, and I just came out o the 14.10 screening of it. I look forward to reading the Wikipedia summary and/or idiots guide to what just went down. There’s something wildly liberating about having extended periods of time where you have absolutely no idea what is happening or will happen next.

Did I enjoy Tenet? Watching it, yes. Trying to work out what was going on, no. It’s pretentious to say, but I truly appreciated it even if I didn’t enjoy it all that much. It truly is the cinematic spectacular that Nolan himself has been advocating for months. The stunt work is truly incredible, with some impeccably coordinated and shot sequences which truly boogle the mind. The locations are extraordinary and add to the film’s immersive qualities.

The performances are exemplary. We already knew from Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman that John David Washington is a great talent. Here we see that he is an unquestionable star, with an electric charisma that is beyond captivating. Robert Pattinson’s internal chaos is channelled brilliantly as Nolan’s doppelganger (aka the character in each Nolan movie that dresses just like him. If in doubt, look for the scarves.) Elizabeth Debicki is excellent with what she is given, it’s a joy to see her 6ft 3 height shown and not hidden. Kenneth Branagh is there as a Russian villain.

As I come to end of writing this piece, I’m not sure if I need to see Tenet again or never again. My practical advice when it comes to seeing it? Go in with no expectations, don’t try to resist it or work it out. Let it embrace you and allow it to sweep you up in its journey. If you’re comfortable with getting back into the cinemas, this is one to see on the biggest screen possible.

Tenet is out in UK cinemas from Wednesday 26th August.

Movie Mondays – 20 weeks in review

‘Of all the arts, movies are the most powerful aid to empathy, and good ones make us into better people.’ – Roger Ebert

After 20 weeks, I’m going to take a break on doing Movie Mondays. Whether I bring them back, most likely in a slightly different format is still to be decided! For now, he’s an overview of the 420 films I recommended:

My worst ever date

My worst ever date lasted for 27 minutes. I know this because of the call history on my phone; my date with Dan was a 4 minute phone-call followed by 23 minutes in person that truly felt like eternity.

It was October 2014, I had lived in London for four months and was a very naive 22 year-old. My rented apartment with a friend was awesome and I was loving my first ever year as a teacher. I didn’t know all that many people in the city, with most of my university friends having scattered back to their various homes across the country. My social life was practically non-existent – which made me all-too-aware of my lack of love life. And so, like most of my generation, I had turned to the internet. A cursory Google search just now has informed me that Tinder was very much around then, but it had totally skipped me by at the point (which reveals a lot about my then-self). Instead I had turned to Match.Com; which seems a slightly baffling choice now I’m in my late twenties and feeling a sense of protectiveness towards my sweet-cinnamon-roll younger self.

Dan was one of the first people I matched and messaged with. He was neither attractive nor unattractive, he was fine. He had no distinctive features and I am safe in the knowledge I would be totally unable to recognise him if I ever saw him again. I could have passed him at any point in the following years and would have had absolutely no idea. I think I continued to exchange messages with him as he was confident and unafraid to ‘say it how it is’ (which may just be the worst thing any human being can say of themselves). I was lacking in confidence and found some sense of assurance in his matter-of-fact messaging. He was in his early 30s, a banker who worked in the city – somehow, along the way of forming relationship expectations I had decided (or been forced to decide through societal expectation…) that these were good attributes in a partner (Yes. I know.) Which is why I had missed the repeated references in his messages to my legs and his wanting me to wear a short skirt to the date. I just thought that was normal flirting…

We were due to meet at Liverpool Street station at 6pm one Friday night. I’d not been there before and nobody had warned me that it is a station with exactly 1,841,858 exits – hence me texting Dan at 6pm asking where exactly to meet. He called in response and instantly I knew tonight would not go well. He was chewing gum in the manner of a ravenous cow devouring a savoured patch in an otherwise drought-struck field. His words were more like noises, mastication turning his vowels into a form of morse code that needed deciphering. Having gone out of the station’s nearest exit, I’d decided to head towards the biggest building I could see. I told him the name of it, only to be greeted with a groan and what I was near-certain translated as ‘How did you know I worked there? Are you a stalker my crazy girl?’ My mortification levels had never been so high and every part of my body wanted to run away, my brain trying to put on the breaks, but I thought that I should at least try the date. What did I have to lose..?

We (he) carried on talking over the phone until we saw each other. He crossed the road to meet me and I instantly realised he had lied about his height, by about five inches. He’d said he was the same height as me, 5ft11″ which made our height difference pretty significant. Which wouldn’t really be a problem except a)he’d lied and b) he clearly had a profound height fetish. The greeting of ‘What’s the weather like up there chick? Glad to see you wore a skirt for me!’ did not help matters. At all.

We side-hugged as greeting, then he guided me by the small of my back to a bar. It is packed with workers in their packs who have finished for the week, stopping by the watering hole before making the commute home. Dan asks what I want to drink. I’ve recently discovered cocktails and believe them to be the height of sophistication. He leaves me at the only free table, going off to order a mojito for me and a pint for himself. He returns with two mojitos for me as it’s Happy Hour. This wouldn’t be a problem except I’ve quickly realised just how awful Dan is and that I’m now stuck here for two drinks before I can leave. My two drinks are plonked on the table by him with a look of disdain, ‘They’re not very good here – much better next door.’ I think better than to ask why he didn’t say this when he took my drinks request.

After some more height comments geared towards me, he then asks after my job plans. He’s relieved someone as young as me has a job as easy as being a teacher, that it’s good I’m doing something so flexible as I explore the city and the world. You know, take it easy as I discover myself. He’s advised teaching abroad, possibly in Scandinavia where my fellow women would be as tall and pale as I am. I’ve realised they’re no point in fighting with him on just how wrong he is, that as much as I love my job I’ve realised it has a to-do-list that will never end and will most likely consume me completely.

I have always wanted to go to Sweden though.

To keep myself busy, and to speed up my exit, I’m drinking my drinks as speedily as possible. Dan observes this, drawling ‘You’re drinking ’em quick. Yeah, suck that straw. Suck that straw good.’ Reader, yes I know I should have left immediately at that point, ideally throwing the remaining drink in his face in the process, but I was too shocked and too focused on being polite to do so.

Thankfully my exit pass came swiftly after, when he asked after my family. He asked if my mum was ‘like me’. Unsure of what was really being asked here I replied ‘Well, height-wise she’s shorter. She’s also a teacher though!’ Dan replied with the now immortal line, ‘No I meant, is she hot like you? Is your mum single?’ I jokingly apologised, explaining she was happily married to my dad. Dan seemed deeply disappointed by this response, far more at that than the fact I’d now decided to leave.

‘I’m going to go now.’ was all I said, as I got up and left. It was 6.30pm when I walked back through the station, having called my best friend as I was laughing so hysterically I feared I’d look truly crazy without my phone as a prop.

Unsurprisingly, I never heard again from Dan. It would be months before I could drink again from a straw.