I find it alarmingly easy to say that the end of the Super-Hero film craze is getting close, but that’s not to say that the genre dies with the trend, much like any genre it must evolve, grow, and integrate itself into other genres.
A quick run down on what one might loosely define as the “super hero” genre, although really it’s just a typical family adventure film with super heroes as the subject, one might similarly define Monsters Inc. as a horror film because there are monsters; all you require is a hero and a villain, pitch them against one another in a narrative that tells us a story of hope, and of self reliance, some kind of positive take away to which the villain is usually the antithesis. Iron Man tells us stories of taking responsibility for one’s own actions; Batman is an exploration of sanity from various angles; and X-Men is about accepting diversity; you get the idea. Toy Story 3 is only a short step away from being a super hero film is what I’m trying to say here.
So who’s seen the trailer for the New Mutants?
Now that you’ve seen that, did you also watch Legion? The FX series attempted to follow the broken narrative of a mutant with incredible telepathic and telekinetic powers and one very serious mental disorder. The first episode was a masterpiece of horror when we witness what happens when an unstable mind is given incredible power, spoilers the ward the mutant in question is in is reshaped violently, and a human being is fused with a wall that was once a door end spoilers and after that it’s eight episodes of questioning the truth 12 Monkey’s style, complete with a demonic haunting.
It was well received, a refreshing take on the X-Men franchise, and an exploration into the possibilities of the mutant narrative that one can’t usually delve into in other properties, let’s not forget that mutants are born with their powers, never ask for them, and often never have anyone to show them how to properly use them* and so are often a danger to themselves as well as others. Enter “The New Mutants”.
That line about baby rattlesnakes being more dangerous is so wonderfully apt, except that in this case we have adolescent children and teenagers who contain the power to tear down nations if they put their mind to it, and the world simply does not know how to handle it, so they shove them into a holding pen turned creche. We’re left with some substantial questions about what the nature of the horror in New Mutants might be, but it looks strongly like the fear may simply be out of control mutants who are simply unable to control their abilities. Legion proved the concept, but it’s not the only intellectual property lately that proves that X-Men can cross genres.
Logan I have heard described as a modern western (I still haven’t seen it, but I look into these things thoroughly), and it makes no attempt to hide its inspirations, flaunting the film Shane throughout to remind us exactly where it has drawn its idea. It was an answer to the fatigue of the “super hero genre” and it worked, and if I weren’t so fatigued at Wolverine as a whole I might have watched it by now, but there’s a certain satisfaction in knowing that someone, somewhere in the market is listening to the consumer.
It’s not new of course, we’ve seen super heroes blending genres for a long time now, comedy, science fiction, the neo noir stylings of the Defenders and Batman, but to my memory I have not seen a super hero project marketed as anything other than just that? The trailers tend to make a big deal out of the spectacle and the drama, where the New Mutants is clearly and unapologetically playing to every horror archetype.
I love the cast. Anya Taylor-Joy has already proven her horror chops, she’ll make an excellent Magik, Maisie Williams has some experience playing a wolf-child, and Charlie Heaton is just great in Stranger Things. Let us hope that it can lay roots for comics to stay in the cinema for generations to come without fear of losing originality for some time to come.
*Which is why I’m anti-registration by the way. If a baby is born with a gun taped to it’s hand do you arrest it for illegal possession of a firearm? I like you Stark, but screw you and your Registration Act/Sokovia Accords.