It may have been a long time coming, but The New Mutants, the latest member of the X-Men cannon is here and the emphasis is on this being different to any other X-Men film we’ve seen before.
“We deal with things that have certainly never been dealt with in any other X-Men movies, and the kids don’t talk like anyone in X-Men movies really,” says director Josh Boone when we speak to him about the film. “It’s just sort of a different world and a different tone.”
Based on the 1982 Marvel graphic novel written by Chris Claremont and illustrated by Bob McLeod, the film follows five mutants: Rahne, Illyana, Sam, Danielle and Roberto who are being held at a secret facility with the mysterious Dr Reyes to apparently attempt to control their powers and overcome their personal demons. “It’s like John Hughes meets Stephen King I guess,” Boone continues.
The initial trailer for The New Mutants certainly revealed a darker tone, and it’s reportedly one of the reasons why it has taken so long for it to be released. Boone’s film has been in development limbo since it originally finished shooting back in 2017. Its initial 2018 release date has been delayed a number of times due to reported clashes with other movies in the X-Men universe, as well re-shoots being ordered to reportedly darken the tone of the movie, with test audiences apparently reacting favourably to the horror vibe of the film.
Whether that’s the case or not, when SciFiNow visited the movie’s set we got the definite spooky vibe as we wandered through the creepy halls of the medical facility where the movie is set. Though some of the interiors were built separately, the cast did actually film the movie in a real medical facility built in 1892. “Well, you guys can see the location is haunted, right,” laughs actress Alice Braga (who plays Dr Reyes) when we meet her on set.
“We are shooting on one location for about 90% of the movie, which is very different than what typical comic book movies go for I think,” Boone explains. “Normal X-Men movies are kind of grand science fiction films and this is much more like a performance driven, supernatural horror movie.”
Indeed, performance-driven themes like teenage angst and horror are almost intertwined in the upcoming movie. Teenage years can feel like a horror story in itself, with emotions ramped up to 11 – add uncontrollable mutant powers and that speaker is blown to smithereens. “The horror [is] almost necessary for these kids’ stories because they went through so many dark things to be where they are right now,” says actor Henry Zaga who plays Roberto.
Focusing on the trauma of teenagers is very much in Josh Boone’s wheelhouse. Directing 2014’s tear-inducing The Fault In Our Stars, Boone knows how to pull on the heartstrings. Mix that in with his lifelong love of all things Stephen King (he used to keep a copy of The Stand under his bed) and we could be in for a real treat of potent themes in The New Mutants: “If I can make a horror movie where I can make people cry but also scare them, then we have done something,” he says.
Boone has been a fan of the comics since he was young and has taken great care to turn his childhood obsession into a movie reality for the next generation of kids who can look to the movie for inspiration. “I wrote [The New Mutants] with my best friend [Knate Lee],” says Boone. “And when we grew up, we had a comic book company together. We loved The New Mutants when we were kids, because they were so dark and surreal and atmospheric.”
Boone’s commitment to the film, as well as staying true to the comic book it’s based on and the characters within that, has not been lost on the cast, who looked to the director for guidance in being true to the well-loved characters.
“I think Josh has had such a clear view of what he wanted since he started working on the script that he’s so trusting of us,” says Zaga. “It’s so easy to work with him, he’s such a loving guy and he’s just very trusting, he just really believes in what we’ve created for these characters, which is scary.”
With The New Mutants having a rich variety of diverse characters, it’s good to hear that the movie’s focus will be on our band of not-so-merry mutants and their mysterious doctor. X-Men characters are usually humans first and mutants second. Many of the X-Men comics have a focus on humanity and society and it seems its latest film iteration will follow the same path…
“X-Men is important to me because they’re not necessarily heroes, they’re mutants, they’re normal people with mutant powers,” says Zaga. “They’re kind of outcasts trying to fit in and I relate to that growing up in a different country and moving to a different country, having my own issues in both countries. It feels more human.”
So, just who are our five young outcasts? “Roberto… is able to absorb and emanate solar energy in heat form, but he doesn’t really know how to take care of that yet,” Zaga explains of Roberto aka Sunspot. “Aside from mutant problems he has regular kid problems, growing up in Brazil and just being a boy. And after his power revealed itself to him, he was abandoned by his family and taken to this place. So, you’re going to follow his journey in this institution with the other kids that are in the same situation.”
Maisie Williams, meanwhile, who plays Rahne Sinclair aka Wolfsbane, a mutant who can transform herself into a wolf, relished playing a different character to any she has previously portrayed: “My character is far more introverted than any character I have ever played before,” she says. “She has powers but she doesn’t really know how to use them. In fact, I think she is quite terrified of them and what they do to her. She is a character who likes to be in control, almost so much that it limits her from letting herself go.”
Williams isn’t the only actor who is stepping out of their comfort zone and portraying a more introverted character. “I feel very privileged to play a character that I haven’t played before,” says Anna Taylor-Joy, who is playing Illyana Rasputin aka Magik, a Russian sorceress who can teleport. “She’s very big and angsty and she’s struggling a lot with her internal world but in a very external way, whilst a lot of the characters that I’ve played before are very internal,” she explains.
In the comics, Magik famously creates a sword from her soul which can disrupt powerful magic, an aspect that Taylor-Joy very much enjoyed: “I’m having the best time with the sword because it’s so much fun and who doesn’t want a badass sword to swing around?! So that’s cool. I just love her.”
In terms of how close her character is to the comic book version, Taylor-Joy assures us that fans of the series won’t be disappointed: “I think that obviously [it’s] a comic book and we’re bringing this into the real world, [so] certain things have to be more grounded in reality. But she’s definitely got all of her same quirks and I think the fans will be happy with how we’ve kept true to the original depiction of the character.”
Stranger Things actor Charlie Heaton plays Sam Guthrie aka Cannonball, who “has the power to be able to project himself through the sky at the speed of sound, although in this movie he hasn’t quite worked out how to do that yet”. Sam is from a very normal background and, at first at least, his mutant abilities are most definitely not wanted: “Sam is lower class. He left school to work with his family and he finds himself in this facility. There is a reason that he is in there and that reason is very detrimental to the way he feels about his power and what he has to overcome.”
The five mutants are rounded out by Danielle Moonstar aka Mirage. Played by actress, Blu Hunt, Mirage can telepathically create illusions of her opponents’ fears or wishes. Furthermore, if, as reported, The New Mutants follows the seminal ‘Demon Bear’ saga from the comic book, it’s this character that the film will revolve around and the ‘spirit bear’ that she believes killed her parents and will come for her next…
Watching over the mutants is Alice Braga’s Dr Reyes, who describes her as a therapist who is guiding them on how they can manage their powers and go back to society. “It’s funny because it’s a role that is a different generation from the kids. So I’m the one that is taking care of them in a sense of helping them understand their potential and their powers,” she says. “In a way, in normal life, when we’re 15, 16, 17 we’re trying to figure out who we are and what’s our place in the world. The kids are going through that and I am the doctor that is taking care of them and guiding them through understanding this new world that they’re living in which is being a mutant.”
The X-Men franchise is as rich as the group of characters. From the original comics that began back in the Sixties and the beloved Nineties cartoon, to the films that now span over 20 years (Bryan Singer’s X-Men came out back in 2000), X-Men has been a part of our culture for generations. And that deep lineage isn’t lost on any of the cast and crew involved in this latest addition…
“I always loved the X-Men series because these characters are so truthful and broken… they’re kind of like the anti-hero,” says Braga.
With the X-Men franchise hitting heady heights (Logan) and disappointing lows (Dark Phoenix), we’re yet to see whether The New Mutants will spawn a new series of X-Men films, but it’s something the cast is preparing for, not least Maisie Williams who has not long finished being part of a long series of her own, namely with Game Of Thrones.
“It was strange to sign that new contract,” she confesses. “We don’t know what the first movie is going to do with us, but I’ve signed another possibly long contract if they do decide to pick it up for more. That was a big decision, but I guess there was familiarity in it. It’s exciting to be part of something that is building towards an idea that you have. In terms of working with a core group again, it’s also great to know that I get on so well with these other mutants, and that this could be our life for a while.”
A Stephen King meets John Hughes supernatural horror set in the X-Men franchise? It certainly looks like we’ll be seeing more of our young mutants…
The New Mutants is out in cinemas now.