X-Men First Class: The Review
There’s some saying out there about expectations and how you shouldn’t get them “up” when you don’t know exactly what the outcome will be. It’s a saying because it’s mostly true. So there you have it. I had ridiculous expectations for this film which didn’t translate to what we actually ended up viewing.
But I blame it on the pre-release fervor and those stupid Rotten Tomatoes numbers. 98%! 92%! Now it’s down to 88% – which sadly does not beat out The Dark Knight. But then again, X-Men: First Class hardly carries the same gravitas.
Not that it doesn’t make an attempt. It suffers a bit from Thor syndrome – it feels like three films in one and there’s hardly a moment to pause and breathe (except for maybe that wacky week-long montage). Really though, there’s much too much crammed into one film. It teeters perilously close to drowning in its own ambitions, but there was enough to rescue it from mediocrity (still kicking Thor’s Asgaardian ass).
*THAR BE SPOILERS BELOW*
THE GOOD: MAGNETO AND XAVIER
Who would have thought it was possible for Ian McKellen as Magneto to be upstaged by a young, muscular James-Bondy version of himself? Certainly not this lady. I had high hopes for Michael Fassbender after realizing I’d seen him in at least two other movies where he effortlessly stole the scenes. You might have missed him in Inglourious Basterds, Centurion and 300. In case you forgot how dead sexy and mostly naked he was in that last movie, here is a refresher:
That jump scene in the man-diaper? Delicious! And such intensity.
He has seriously made me fall deeply and madly in love with Magneto, who I’ve always kinda crushed on in the comic books especially when his clone Joseph was hanging around adding some extra tension to the Rogue and Gambit relationship. Though it was really hard to like him after he ripped all of Wolverine’s adamantium out of his body. Yeah, that happened. Kinda cruel.
Deeply surprised at a lack of similar sexual attraction to James McAvoy, who has been an actor crush since Atonement. No matter how hard they push the Charles Xavier as sex-kitten vibe, he cannot surpass the years of history I have with Xavier as a bald wise-old-sage. It would be like dating Buddha or finding him appealing during his younger years. Kinda skeevy.
Magneto however, has the bad boy image thang going for him. The heart-wrenching back story. Xavier’s evil-stepfather was non-existent and instead he spent his life apparently playing patriarch to Mystique if you can buy that. Which I can’t. That was the first bitter pill to swallow in this film. But that’s for later.
The Xavier-Magneto man love story was the drive of this film. Everything else, including the other mutants seemed secondary, dull and wasted. When you have two solid, attractive actors of their caliber – the entire film could have been hinged on them.
I wanted more of their story. I wanted the entire movie to be theirs because we only saw them on-screen for about 10-15 minutes of bonding before…you know, all the craziness happens (not going to spoil all of that ya’ll).
These two actors were hands down the best part of this film and decidedly rescued it from itself. The same cannot be said for the rest of the flick.
THE BAD: MYSTIQUE
Mystique was a terribly underused character in the first three X-Films and in this prequel/reboot/whatever she is entirely ruined. Her fickle-ness as she flits between two love interests and holding allegiance to her adopted brother is mind-boggling. I appreciated Jennifer Lawrence’s take on the character – struggling
with how to be herself in a world that hates and fears her. It certainly felt like a woman’s perspective without making it entirely about “will boys think I’m attractive?”
Unfortunately the script doesn’t give her much of an understandable arch so when she makes her final choice to go with Magneto after having a decent life of luxury and companionship with Xavier and developing a relationship with Beast – it totally rings untrue. Why would Charles encourage his sister to go with a dangerous killer? What happened to Mystique that made her drawn to Magneto? Sure, he repeatedly told her she was attractive in her natural blue form but J-Law and parts of the script managed to imbue her with more depth than that.
And did she REALLY bang Mags? Was a kiss just a kiss? Even though all her goodies are covered up in blue form…what is REALLY the point of her wandering around naked? She DOES wear clothes in the comic books. Huh. All VERY puzzling. And frustrating.
THE BAD: THE LADIES
I get it. I totally get the Mad Men vibe running throughout this movie. OK, I’m on board even though I’ve never seen a single clip of it in my life. But does it have to so faithfully fall into those tropes? Do all the women have to end up on the bad side by the end? Following the stronger, seductive male leads? Mystique, as much as she tried to be her own person, finally fell prey to how men perceived her natural appearance as being the most important thing (though they’d have you believe it’s about mutant pride). Stripper mutant Angel was such a non-character there was really no telling why she chose to side with Sebastian Shaw, expect her own cowardice and inability to cope with the male attention she received because of her mutant abilities. Blech. In the process she gets Darwin killed.
January Jones? Who cared about her as Emma Frost? She was wooden and emotionless – with none of the sassiness, bitchiness or agency the current version of the White Queen possesses. Why am I complaining that her White Queen sucked when I think the White Queen sucks? Cause the only redeeming factor of her character is the poise and grace with which she claws her way around life. She does what she wants. I can begrudgingly respect that, while still loathing her role as substitute Jean Grey in the current titles.
I get that its old school Emma from the Hell Fire Club which was led by Shaw. But she never seemed like such a pawn back then. A member – but not such a tool. She had her own fortune and prestige.
The roles for women in this film? Yack. They are all either bad, turn on their friends or family – have to resort to taking off their clothes to get their job done or end up causing major harm to others. And all of them appear half-naked at some point in the film. Whereas we get to see NO real exposed man flesh. Not a single dapper dude gets anywhere close to being in the buff. Havok’s blown apart uniform and Magneto’s tight polo are the only items to make any ladies swoon.
There are about twice as many male roles in this movie, and only one female ends up on the male side by the end of the flick. Fox seems to want to produce X-Movies (X-3, Wolverine) where bitches will kill, betray or paralyze your ass for their own evil ends. Fuuuuuuuu
And all those scenes with the sexist CIA agents? More yack. It annoyed the SHIT out of me. I get the angle they were playing, but it worries me that some/most of the irony in that flies over the head of less informed assholes and perpetuates terrible stereotypes and pumps up the level of machismo in our culture to further unbearableness. My only hope is that Bridesmaids is still the best reviewed non-independent film currently out in theatres.
I can just imagine some Fox producer standing over the shoulder of the screenplay writers with a scotch in one hand and a cigar in the other saying, “More sexism! Openly sexist comments! It’s OK because it’s the 60s! White Queen should fetch him ice!”
Fuck you very much. That is all I can bear to say on this subject.
THE BAD: RACE CARD
I’m pulling it. The only black man in the entire film (Darwin) and he gets horror movie-d within the first hour. Fucking awesome. Really? I prolly wouldn’t get so pissed if it weren’t THAT blatant.
Get your dirty fucking race and sex politics out of my comic book movie adaptation. Please and thanks.
THE ALRIGHT: FRIVOLOUS X-CHARACTERS
As mentioned above – this movie would have done alright without 8 additional X-Characters piled on top for good measure. Banshee and Havok were totes wasted. Angel was MADE THE HELL UP as were Azazel and Wind Guy. Fine. I’m fine with that. But why did all these Avengers have to assemble when Magneto, Xavier, Mystique and maybe Beast would have been plenty to keep the plot and action sequences rolling?
There was no time to really develop feelings one way or the other and too much time was devoted to characters we didn’t give a fuck about. I was willing to be totes fine if Banshee and Havok both died. In fact, I expected it. I already checked Angel off the list (only other character of color) as well as Wind Guy (he might have been South American…couldn’t tell).
They were just some pretty faces to beef up the rosters. Which is a bummer because Banshee has a LONG ASS history with the X-Men. Havok is kinda…meh. He’s a second-rate Cyclops who never managed to emerge from his brother’s shadow, even when he was leading the X-Men. Plus he had that really crappy uniform for a while. Poor kid.
Is it wrong that I wanted to delete their scenes and usefulness from this film so I could spend more time with the main four characters? Well, five if you count Sebastian Shaw. Everyone else was tertiary and cannon fodder and should have been treated as so. If history has taught us nothing it is that more mutants does not = better movie. In fact, the opposite is true. The higher the mutant count, the crappier the flick ALA X-3 and Wolverine.
Keep it simple, stupid. And all that.
I REALLY enjoyed Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw. He was creepy good. Especially his turn as a Nazi, with all its Cristoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds style trappings. His performance echoed tremendously of one of my fave movies from back in the day Sleepers where my opinion of the lovable, goofy faced Bacon changed completely. He’s been MIA for a while on the big screen, and it’s nice to see he’s living up to that crazy game of “Six Degrees” by injecting his proximity to a new generation of actors and actresses. Good show Mr. Bacon. Mmmmm. Bacon.
Despite some LAWLS and guffaws, grumps and groans around the pacing, writing and some questionable directing moments: What was with Fassbender’s face when he was manipulating the satellite? He looked like Frankenstein’s monster. How did the line Mutant and Proud make it past EVERYONE? It was about as cheesy as “The same thing that happens to everything else.” Who agreed to let January Jones in this picture? She sucked balls.
Despite all the above mentioned fan squawkings – this movie delighted me to no end. I would watch it a third time if it weren’t summer movie season and I didn’t have lots of bucks to spend on other fare. I will happily own this on DVD and watch it over and over again. Especially that scene in Argentina in the bar. Mmm. Fassbender.
Bechdel Test: ”X-Men: First Class” features more than two female characters with names and DOES NOT PASS the women test, DOES PASS the men test and features more than two minority characters who have names (but do not speak to one another) so it DOES NOT PASS the race test.