Oct 13, 2017

Trailing Off: "The New Mutants" (2018)

Welcome to the sporadic column Trailing Off in which I take a look at a trailer from the past week and analyze its potential. This will be done using an obnoxious amount of analyzing and personal thoughts on the cast and crew as well as expectations. I will attempt to highlight films ranging from new blockbusters to lesser known indies and give them their due. Partially to spread awareness, I do believe that there is an art to the sell and will do my best to highlight why these trailers matter or don't with approval (trove) or disapproval (trash). So please stop by, recommend some trailers, and I will see you next time.

Trailer in Discussion

Directed By: Josh Boone
Written By: Josh Boone, Chris Claremont & Knate Lee & Bob McLeod (Comic Book)
Starring: Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton 

- Preamble -

With every passing year, there seems to be less and less ways for a superhero movie to surprise audiences. How could there be? With the massive influx of properties competing for attention, it becomes harder to be too challenging while still raking in the big dollars. The X-Men franchise in particular has been around for almost 20 years now, and they haven't strayed too far from the ensemble action stories that define the medium. However, it's quite possible that 2016 marked a significant change in X-Men as a brand. Sure, X-Men: Apocalypse may have been one of the least acclaimed movies, but Deadpool marked a more comedic and edgy take that audiences were clamoring for. In 2017, Logan became their darkest movie to date with a swan song for their most iconic character. 
In 2018, they look to be continuing this trend of going against the familiar archetypes with a story that doesn't even center around the central characters audiences know and love. They have instead decided to go down the road of The New Mutants: a series that promises to be more horror oriented with a younger cast of characters. Considering how massive in general X-Men culture goes, it's bizarre that this is one of the few films to expand the cinematic canon with characters that audiences don't know. Sure, TV is offering a heavy dose of X-Men properties with Legion, Inhumans, and The Gifted. Even then, it feels like they are only starting to understand what has made the Marvel Cinematic Universe so successful. It isn't just the stories, it's the introduction to characters who in a previous form of Hollywood couldn't exist because of their inaccessibility. 
The New Mutants also has a promising cast in Game of Thrones' Maisie Williams and recent sensation Anya Taylor-Joy, whose work in Split was itself one of the best modern takes on superhero cinema. One has to wonder though what is going to happen for a franchise that's largely adventure based to finally deal with horror and imagery that is violent and won't draw in audiences so easily. With the first trailer dropping on the novelty holiday of Friday the 13th in October, it seems like the marketing is already off to a great start. The only hope is that what follows is actually as good, or scary, as Logan is sad or Deadpool is funny. One can only hope.

- Dissection -

Having seen the trailer, there's something exciting about the title The New Mutants. If this story follows the chronology set by Logan, then it literally is a new era that is even more dystopian. Considering how tragic the characters ended up in that film, there's a good chance that this story will focus on the bleak nature by which mutants now exist. I am a bit disappointed that X-23 doesn't make the cut here, but there's plenty to like in the general set-up. This trailer reminds me of A Cure for Wellness in the best ways possible. It is dark and creepy, making one wonder why these mutants are being studied upon. These are moody teenagers who don't know how to control their powers, and the idea that a study could go wrong only means that it creates, as the trailer suggests, one of the first superhero haunted house movies.
The one part that I am not wild about is that it falls victim to the trope of "slow classic song cover." In this case, it tackles Pink Floyd with a cry of "We don't need no education." It plays in between jump scares that are intense and jarring for the audience. Scenes exist long enough to provoke thought and make one wonder what it all means. Everyone knows what an X-Men character can do, but what if it's done by someone unable to control their basic nature? There's so much to enjoy about the creepiness of this trailer, and part of it is discovering the next generation of characters that may end up helming this franchise for the next decade, provided there's still an interest in a few years.
Another conflict is that the trailer plays like a horror movie in ways that are necessary but also obvious. The jump scares are overblown and take away some of the appeal. It does little to differentiate itself as the first X-Men horror movie and instead feels like another weird gifted kid movie. It's not a terrible thing, but the trailer is so at odds with what it could be and what it is that it ends up being nothing all that memorable. It has some things worthy of recognition, but it's not enough. With that said, it's kind of brilliant that the film has a Friday the 13th release next year, making the choice to release a trailer on this day of all days all the sweeter. It may not be the greatest trailer, but it still has its heart in the right place.

- One Sentence Sell -
The X-Men franchise makes its first full on horror movie with a promising young cast, including Game of Thrones' Maisie Williams.

- Trove or Trash -

This is by no means a bad trailer, but it does little to win me over. The general advertising of it being a superhero horror movie does far more work to get me excited. With that said, the idea of this being a haunted house movie as well only sweetens the deal and makes me curious. Also, Anya Taylor-Joy and Maisie Williams don't hurt, either.

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