CONTENT WARNING: MENTIONS OF POSSIBLE SEXUAL ASSAULT OF A CHILD IN THE LAST PARAGRAPH, AS IN IT’S NOT CONFIRMED BUT IT IS HEAVILY IMPLIED
Full disclosure, I was one of those people who believed that this movie was never going to be released. Originally slated to be released in April 2018, it was delayed four or five times because of things like the Fox/Disney merger and reshoots to change the entire tone. Like you do. In the end it released to an extremely limited theater run in August 2020, and was made widely available for [legal] streaming yesterday. As the last 20th Century Studios X-Men adjacent film–ending a 20 year franchise–was it worth the wait? Well…
After Dani Moonstar’s Native American reservation is destroyed by… a tornado, she’s sent to the Milbury Hospital (my comic nerd senses pinged at that name) where teenage mutants learn how to control their power. Other patients are Sam (Cannonball, played by Mr. Charlie Heaton of Stranger Things), Roberto (Sunspot), Rahne (Wolfsbane, played by Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones), and Illyana (Magik, played by Anya Taylor-Joy of The VVitch and Split). They’re watched after by Dr. Cecilia Reyes and her force field powers, and she works for someone the kids think is Professor X. But instead she works for Essex Corporation, named after Mr. Sinister! Who occasionally goes by the name Nathan Milbury when fucking with Cyclops and his family! And Dr. Reyes’ work is related to the child experiments seen in Logan (as in they literally clips from Logan)! The kids finally realize that Dani’s powers make nightmares manifest, meaning it was her Demon Bear that killed her family. Oops. The kids team up against the returned Demon Bear and have variable levels of effectiveness, but Dani stops being afraid and the Bear is defeated. In the process Dr. Reyes dies, so the kids are now free to do… whatever they want, I guess.
Oh, and Dani and Rahne are in lesbians with each other. Representation!
I’ve definitely seen worse PG-13 horror movies, so there’s that praise. Other than that, this movie is a bit of of a mess. The Demon Bear here is based on the “there are two bears inside of you” proverb I recently referenced in Big Man on Campus. But in reality it’s not “two bears”–it’s “two wolves.” Changing the proverb to be about bears just feels incredibly forced for plot reasons. Dr. Reyes’ powers are super inconsistent: even drugged and asleep the force field around the facility is intact, but when attacked by Rahne she seems to forget that she even has powers. The kids’ origins are changed a fair amount, generally summed up as “when their powers manifested, they killed people.” Sam’s origin is the closest to the comics and Rahne did actually kill Reverend Craig (much later in life), but Roberto’s is a big difference. Here he killed a girl when he was about to have sex with her, but in the comics he manifested his powers against an attack from a racist. Because he’s supposed to be a dark skinned Brazilian, you see. Oh, yeah, they also got some really light skinned actors to play canonically black characters Sunspot and Dr. Reyes.
And then there’s Illyana… Big yikes, here. On the surface her movie origin is that demons abused her when she was a small girl and she only managed to escape by traveling to… um… it’s the demonic Limbo in the comics, but here it’s never fully named or explained. While there she picked up a metal arm, a Soulsword, the friendly dragon Lockheed, and the power to teleport. But if you give even a moment’s thought to her story, she was absolutely in a child sex ring. The Smiling Men that Dani accidentally manifests are demons, but they’re demons only because they’re how a small child could view her assailants. Now I do want to say that this is not 100% confirmed, but it’s heavily implied and everyone in my watch group was picking up on it. Illyana Rasputin (they list her last name in the credits so she’s still most likely the sister of Colossus, which begs the question where was he during all this) was repeatedly sexually assaulted as a small child and only managed to escape by traveling to another dimension. The fact that she’s proud of the fact that she’s killed men suggests she got her revenge, but what the fuck, movie?! That’s some heavy shit to not so subtly imply and then never deal with! You cut John Hamm as Mr. Sinister, but you kept the child sex slave origin? Maybe it’s for the best that this franchise is officially dead so we don’t have to expand on that.
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