X-Men First Class

January 30, 2016 at 5:05 pm Leave a comment

This time I am doing something a little more mainstream. For Christmas I received The X-Men and Wolverine box set. It contains six movies for the very reasonable price of twenty dollars. I had seen the first three X-Men movies but I had not seen Wolverine: Origins , The Wolverine, or X-Men First Class. Since First Class, I recall, was given positive reviews compared to the other two movies, I decided to watch that one first. I realize that I may be the last man alive to have watched this movie but I will attempt to add an unique perspective when reviewing this movie.

First, I would like to do a little editorializing. When it comes to comic book movies, many of the hardcore fans will offer the criticism that the movie “got it wrong”. When it comes to a long running comic, there have been so many alternate time lines, else-world stories, and rebooted universes, how can you really be upset that the movie would be its own unique universe with its own unique continuity? This argument is even more weak when discussing the X-Men. At any given time, there are multiple, contradictory X-Universes often being printed at the same time. As a fan of the 90’s cartoon show, imagine my shock when going to the local comic book story and seeing all the different types of X-Books available at that time,  none of which resemble the show I was watching and enjoying. It is not only good but necessary for movies to do things differently from the comic books. What works on a comic book page may not work on a movie screen. Special effects, at this point, can be recreated well but in a comic book, the reader gets much more of a characters inner monologue. We learn about what motivates any given character from the narration or the character talking to themselves. This doesn’t work well in movies. The rule of thumb is to show, not tell. Characters in movies are meant to go on journeys, have character arcs, be changed by experiences. Comics tend to be episodic. Often by the next issue or story arc, the main character has returned to a status qua. This isn’t always true but more often than not it is. In movies, you will at best get three movies with the same cast of characters before everyone moves on with their lives. Comic book characters, and the X-Men in particular, have been around for fifty or more years. Point being, if you were to do a movie adapted verbatim from the comic book it would be eight hours long with long winded dialogue and nothing getting resolved in the end. Don’t get me wrong, I love comic books. But they are two very different entertainment mediums and you should have different expectations for each when consuming each product.

X-Men First Class tells the story of how Charles Xavier with help from Magneto starts the X-Men. For the record, until near the end of the movie they go with Magneto’s given name of Erik Lernsherr. For the purposes of this review I will just refer to him as Magneto. Sebastian Shaw, played by Kevin Bacon, is the leader of the Hellfire Club. They are a mutant supremacy group who wants to destroy humanity and take over the world. During World War II, Shaw executed Magneto’s mother in front of him because he was unable to control his powers and move a coin.  Fast forward to the 1960’s and Magneto is hunting Shaw, seeking revenge. Xavier, as a child, finds Mystique raiding his fridge and adopts her as his sister. Mystique, played for most of the movie by Jennifer Lawrence,  is a shape-shifter and is restless with Xavier’s optimistic view that mutants and humanity can co-exist. For much of the movie, she acts as a counterbalance to Xavier’s optimism, offering a more cynical view of the situation and is not always wrong. With the Cold War raging on and the world on the brink of destruction, the US government turns to Xavier to help. This leads to Xavier and Mystique track down Sebastian Shaw and their chance meeting with Magneto. A ball of rage and unable to control his powers, Magneto fails to take down Shaw. Shaw is backed up by Emma Frost, who has powers comparable to Xavier. She helps beat by Xavier and to an extent Magneto. They decide to team up. Xavier’s concern is to avert a nuclear war which Shaw is attempting to start and Magneto’s concern is revenge. With help from the government, they put together a team of young people to protect a world that hates and fears them.

I liked this movie, mostly. This is definitely not a comic book movie for the kids.  There are some adult themes and a plot that will go above the heads of most toddlers. You really don’t want children watching this movie, just in case you’re a parent that doesn’t know better. The special effects and action sequences are top notch and the real highlight of this movie. That is taken for granted with many of the big budget blockbusters produced today but pretty soon I will be reviewing a movie in this set where they dropped the ball on a special effects sequence. They deserve recognition for how seamless the powers in this movie looked. The acting was good. Everyone played their roles well and were convincing as their characters. I wish I could offer more of a commentary on the acting or be specific in regards to performance but everything was engaging and believable across the board. I didn’t see anything exceptional either. It was a solid job by all and a credit to the cast and director Matthew Vaughn. I found the story to be interesting and made sense in the context of this universe.

While I noticed in how many different ways they broke from comic book continuity, that didn’t bother me for reasons already stated. I did have a problem with the character of Mystique though. It took me a while to figure out why I disliked this character and I think I have figured it out. She is given an inflated role and a lot of screen time which departs from every version of X-Men continuity ever. Never has Mystique ever been this essential to the story. Which is fine by me except for that her actual role in the movie is. Her job is to be the Goliath to Xavier’s Davey. She is shoehorned into the center of this story just to say “Gee, Chuck, I don’t know. Maybe Magneto’s right.” There are tons of other characters that could have been used in the role of Xavier’s conscious that would have made more sense. Why Mystique, whose character has always been deceptive, manipulative, self-serving, shape-shifting, thief? There have been hundreds of recruits to the X-Men over the years. Any of them could have served in this roll. If the purpose was to have a dramatic heel turn at the end of the movie, also their are hundreds of other characters who have turned on the X-Men over the years and are better fits for this role. There is a certain amount of tampering with characters that I can accept in the movies. But when they depart so far from the source material that the character is completely unrecognizable aside from their powers then it may be time to consider plugging a different character into that role. Mystique could have been in the movie doing other stuff but she shouldn’t have been co-starring as one of the creators of the X-Men and Charles Xavier’s conscious.

Overall, I would recommend this movie to just about anyone. It was entertaining with a lot of fun action and a good story. Diminishing John F. Kennedy’s role in the Cuban Missile Crisis might rub some people the wrong way but  other than that, it is an infinitely watchable movie.

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Entry filed under: Action.

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