05 June 2011

+JMJ+

Twelve Things about X-men: First Class

12. This is going to be a wordy "Twelve Things" post (So what's new?), but for those who like their reviews short and sweet, I offer this one word to stand for everything I feel about this movie . . .

BEAUTIFUL

Okay, you may stop reading now. =P

11. Some of my recent activities have convinced me that it takes more creativity and skill to answer the question, "What happened first?" than the more conventional one of "What happened next?"

Prequels are very easy to screw up. (Just ask George Lucas.) But when they are good, oh, they are very good. This one is very good. Even those who have little idea who the X-men are can go to see it and be edified.

10. X-men: First Class is the story of the two most influential leaders in the X-men universe: Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr, who would later be Professor X and Magneto.

And of course, before they were enemies, they were best friends.

This idea of a deep bond between sworn opponents is an honoured convention in storytelling, but especially in SF/F: Superman and Lex Luthor . . . Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker . . . Peter Parker and Harry Osborne . . . Tod and Copper (LOL!) . . . I would not be shocked if it turns out that Dr. Doofenschmirtz was the one who raised Perry the Platypus from a pup.

9. What I love is that this film takes this old trope and makes it new and vital again.


"We're brothers, you and I."

It's just so hysterically appropriate that I can't remember which of them said it to the other.

Charles and Erik aren't just friends who've had a difference of opinion; they are the mutant Cain and Abel. But which is which?

8. The acting, by the way, is superb. James McAvoy made me see Professor X, Michael Fassbender made me believe in Magneto, and their chemistry is beautiful to behold. Remember when X-men got the classically trained Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen and everyone thought that was the casting coup of the century? Well, that was a footnote compared to this.

7. But let's face it: this is really Magneto's movie. Nobody watches a prequel to find out how the hero became the hero. All we care about is how the villain became a villain.

It's not just George Lucas's influence, either. He didn't start the trend as much as hit the existing mythmaking nail on the head.

6. Now what of the other characters? After I stopped wishing for a miraculous change that would give us a lineup of Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman and Jean Grey, I found myself really enjoying everyone else.


I hadn't realised, for instance, how much I had missed Banshee and Moira. And for the first time in my life, I could relate to Mystique. There's also a lot of sweet schadenfreude in the thought of how the writers will twist themselves into knots to explain how this Havoc is also Cyclops's brother. But my favourite character, hands down, was Beast. (Pun not intended at all!)

5. Hank is obsessed with being "normal," hearing cruelty in Erik's teasing "If I looked like you . . ." joke and completely tuning out Mystique's appraisal of him as "perfect." She plays her insecurities off him for a while--as she does at the beginning with Charles, and later, when Hank proves to be a dead end, with Erik. I think the way Hank tells her she will never be beautiful cuts her more deeply than we see in that scene.

And we should see it--because we're the ones whose eyes both of them are so afraid of.

At the end of that storyline, Hank pays dearly for his blind spot. Are we, the non-mutants, ready to hear the price we might pay for our own?

4. This is the point at which it's worth reminding ourselves why the X-men are unique among superheroes. They are the only heroes whom the world thinks of as villains. Even those who are villains are just trying to protect their own from extinction; and those who protect us from them have the most thankless job in the world.

I bring this up because I think it's what Bryan Singer completely lost track of when he directed the first X-men movie. His activist vision of mutants as a metaphor for homosexuals might have made great propaganda, but it did not make a good film--much less a good start to a whole franchise.

It took over ten years for X-men: First Class to find the plot once more. The new political parallel to the X-men's struggle is . . . our own Cold War. Anyone who remembers how "Us vs. Them" it was understands why this is an eloquent juxtaposition.

3. It's also an excuse for some art direction and costumes straight out of classic James Bond! Unfortunately, it's not a very consistent aesthetic--and one that shows up more around the villains than the heroes. (Oooh, that groovy submarine!)

2. Yet Singer's influence remains. Take the forced funny involving a CIA agent and the scientist colleague he hadn't known was also a mutant. After the latter is "outed" by an unwitting third party, he explains sheepishly, "You didn't ask, so I didn't tell." (Sigh!)

1. Pride seems to be the new X-men theme. "Mutant and proud!" one character declares--and we're supposed to find that empowering. But then the same character is among the first to fall.

Was this just something the filmmakers failed to catch--or did they actually get the point this time? I'm holding out hope for the latter and highly anticipating the sequel.

Image Sources: a) X-men First Class poster, b) X-men First Class screencap, c) X-men First Class Charles poster, d) X-men First Class Erik poster, e) X-men: First Class cast

18 comments:

Kristi said...

Love the Phineas and Ferb reference. I haven't seen this yet, but I really want to. I'm a big McAvoy fan!

I'm glad to hear it turned out so well. It's always a bit of a crapshoot when you continue to make movies from a franchise. It's nice that they're still doing them justice and not just churning them out for the profits.

Syrin said...

Seconded on the Phineas & Ferb reference. :)

I think "Beautiful" is an excellent word for the film. The only thing I'm wondering is, where can they go from here? It would seem redundant to have them fight Magneto again and again, yet to not feature Fassbender in the next film would be a crime.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Kristi -- It's definitely worth it's two hour running time! I think McAvoy fans are going to be very pleased with it. =)

I honestly didn't expect it to be so good. Let others quibble about canon and timeline; I'm so thrilled about the acting and the fact that I could believe in the characters! =D

Syrin -- Of course, the Phineas and Ferb reference was dedicated to you! ;-)

Good question! And I don't know how to answer it. LOL!

I do know that I'd love to see Mystique play a bigger role in the second movie. But X-men Origins: Mystique doesn't sound as if it would sell very many tickets. =P

The Mike said...

I'd agree with the beautifulness. I had high hopes for this movie for no big reason, so it was a real treat to see it all come together. I never cared that much about Magneto and Mystique in the previous movies, but they were all I wanted out of this one.

My biggest annoyance was the random actors I recognized popping up in bit parts. They had Ray Wise and James Remar in that Dr. Strangelove room, and didn't do anything with 'em. :(

Emily J. said...

Ok, I haven't seen any of the X Men movies, but if James McAvoy is in it, I am there. Can I use my preteen boys as cover for my infatuation?

Jillian said...

I want to see this weekend! Last weekend the theaters were still so packed it just turned me off. Haha. But I love Xmen, and I adore McAvoy and think he is a great actor, so I can't wait :)

I enjoy prequels, especially when they are done right!

Michael said...

Nobody watches a prequel to find out how the hero became the hero. All we care about is how the villain became a villain.

Hmmm...I don't know. I think Batman fits into that category (the latest franchise incarnation versus the earlier stuff), although I guess technically that is not a prequel. Of course, he is the Dark Knight. :-)

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

The Mike -- I know what you mean! This movie really makes us care!

Oh, I remember being really surprised when James Remar popped up, too. That "role" was so small it was a mere cameo.

Emily -- I'm sure the boys won't mind being your cover. ;-) But you might want to ask another parent who has already seen this about whether he thinks it would be appropriate for them.

Incidentally, when I watched it, half the audience were senior citizens! I think word got around about this being a really good movie.

Jillian -- The cinema was still crowded when I went to see it.

And it was actually Fassbender I wanted to see. He has played Mr. Rochester, you know! ;-)

Michael -- Good point! Now I must confess I haven't seen Batman Begins yet. =P We can save the debate on whether or not that is a prequel when I finally do! =)

Lesa said...

We haven't started our summer movie-ganza yet so I will read this top 12 after I see the movie. But I will say that I love X-men -- can't wait to see the movie and I wish I was a mutant!

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

I can't wait to read what you think of it when you do see it, Lesa! =D

PS--Sometimes I still wish I were Jean Grey!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I can't wait to see this one. This has been my favorite superhero series and I was thrilled with the casting.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

The casting alone is a thing of beauty and a joy forever! I just know you're going to enjoy this. =)

Michael said...

Good point! Now I must confess I haven't seen Batman Begins yet. =P We can save the debate on whether or not that is a prequel when I finally do! =)

Well hurry up, lol.

It is not cheesy like our favorite Batman television show but it does rescue the franchise from the cliff it fell off after Tim Burton's initially well received foray into the genre.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

My favourite Batman film is still Batman Returns. I couldn't believe what happened after Joel Schumacher got his hands on the franchise. =( Every time I see his name attached to a movie, I know it's going to be disappointing. Sometimes obviously so, but usually subtly, frustratingly so. Even The Lost Boys, which I will admit to liking, really seems to be missing something. Heart? Soul? Who knows?

Jillian said...

Oh I have to comment on you wanting to be Jean Grey. I wanted to be her too so bad when I was younger, but my cousins kept telling me I can't because I'm Asian.

Yeah. That's how it went down with us choosing if I should be pink ranger or yellow ranger :|

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

They only aimed that low blow at you because they wanted to be Jean Grey themselves, the little rats!!!

So who did they stick you with? Jubilee?

If Jean had been impossible, I would have fought tooth and nail for Psylocke. (Didn't she spend some time training in Japan? Close enough for those Asian smearers! =P)

Jillian said...

Haha the funniest part is that they're obviously Asian too. LOL

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

*rolls eyes*

In that case, I'd love to see the "cast list" that finally met their approval. ;-)