Bear Necessities

Conceptually, The New Mutants succeeds in telling a teen coming-of-age superhero saga. No one destroys stadiums or lifts the Golden Gate bridge – it’s more intimate than that, the type of comic book movie usually reserved for indie affairs. New Mutants is sterile, bland, restrictive, and talkie, but it’s also fascinating in how it explores a rapidly evolving generational shift.

X-Men exists as a social parable, and New Mutants drives that by forcing five teens into an exploitative prison complex instead of a privileged school. They’re diverse in culture, financial security, and sexual orientation. This is the reality show superhero movie – Big Brother, now with powers.

Years of Wolverine cutting stuff makes New Mutants difficult to accept

Each teen brings a circumstantial life experience with them into this undisclosed location. Visions torment them; therapies fail in controlling their outbursts. Fear drives the kids to behave. In that, New Mutants is somber and moody, arguably even boring in stretches. The stakes feel minor, yet to these kids, their attempts to escape represent their entire lives. More than this facility, they remain bottled up, turning New Mutants into an unexpectedly honest, introspective fantasy, carefully layered, inconsistent as the execution may be.

The attention given to New Mutants focused entirely on its release, delayed, delayed, delayed, and then dumped into theaters mid-pandemic. That’s begging for derision given the studio’s lackluster confidence, because in Hollywood, such jitters tend to overwhelm the response. Regardless of how the studio quarterlies dictated New Mutants’ existence, what’s here challenges norms. Where most Marvel movies explode (X-Men too), this one sits in solitary, literally.

In 2015 Fantastic Four tried something similar and failed, outrageously so. Even the behind-the-scenes chokehold devastated things. New Mutants doesn’t fall to the same depressive measures. Rather than chastising these kids for being unique, the story begs them to find themselves, even celebrate it. And then in the end, the reason why speaks to callous, empty profitability for which this origin story sets on a decisive path toward right.

Mistakes were made in New Mutants editing and the plot lacks a bolder initiative – if intended as a restart to a franchise, the backstory never unfolds in any grand way. New Mutants leaves questions, but thematically, that’s not inappropriate. These teens found themselves, and step into a world looking to take advantage of who they are. The sun shines as the heroes walk toward the sunset, a visually happy finish, breaking from the oppressive olive green walls dominating the rest. Yet, there’s no certainty, no given path, no assurance they’ll be okay. Years of Wolverine cutting stuff makes New Mutants difficult to accept. It’s a downer. The kids might not be all right.

Video

Critical HDR gives New Mutants secure footing. Cloaked in frequent shadows, the delicate black levels produce gorgeous dimensionality and depth. Nuanced gradients maintain their grip on this material, firm in their consistency, and careful in defining detail to the deepest blacks. Plus, the counter force is dazzling, reaching stellar brightness. The usuals like glowing eyes and flame powers, sure, but it’s also sunlight trickling in through windows or other light sources. New Mutants isn’t shy with its nits, and unfortunately to note, that follows into the optional subtitles too, FYI. They’re far too blinding.

While grim, color plays up individuality, nicely elevating costumes and skin tones. Primaries have their say, even when backed by the muted paint schemes. As needed, say for glowing eyes, intensity reaches a fantastic richness. While not typical in terms of genre aesthetics, muted design works in New Mutants’ favor.

Also, this comes from a 4K digital source. That’s evident after a massive visual effects-rich intro. The first scenes afterward with Dani (Blu Hunt) bring high-grade sharpness. What follows then is impressive, attractive texture. Almost totally noise free, the clarity blossoms stellar definition. Close-ups or wide shots perform equally well, devoid of imperfections. While not a movie poised to create persistent wow factor, the tech is still utilized to its fullest.

Audio

Maybe Disney is turning things around. After Mulan offered great low-end (albeit with a volume boost), New Mutants goes on an immediate attack. Awesome subwoofer support produces satisfying crunch from explosions and monster roars right at the outset. Major fight scenes later do the same, especially the finale. A giant creature puts up a fight, slamming paws down, and eliciting appropriate LFE energy. Exceptional range keeps up, and in a rarity for this studio, minus any need to turn the volume dial.

However, New Mutants isn’t one to utilize Atmos for much. It’s moody, not an all-out spectacle. A few voices, some thunder, and scattering debris will spread overhead. Minor stuff, overall, letting the other positionals handle a majority. They do well as necessary, in particular ambiance. Winds swirl and voices echo the halls. Solid, if unexceptional.

Extras

The commentary is a unique one because rather than let director Josh Boone talk about the project, he’s the interviewer, speaking with comic/writer artist Bill Sienkiewicz. Like the movie, it’s unique, if limited in the insight some likely expect about the filmmaking process. Eleven minutes of deleted scenes, a basic look at the series/adaptation, and EPK on the cast follow.

The New Mutants
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

The New Mutants eschews large scale action for something more intimate and focused, daring to go against trends.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 49 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: