Saturday, June 4, 2011

X-Men: First Class


Here we are with the exciting new "one post every six months" format. It's been way too long, but it started with losing the internet temporarily and also was related to me initially wanting to only reach 100 posts.

But with this outrage called X-Men: First Class being foisted on the public, I can no longer keep silent!

Just joking, I didn't dislike it that much, I just didn't love it. I sort of want to feel the excitement that other people experienced from the new X-Men movie but it didn't have it for me. I'm not trying to convince anyone who liked it not to, because to me, in the grand scheme of things, someone enjoying a movie that I didn't particularly like is not the worst thing in the world, in fact if someone enjoys an evening at the movies it's pretty positive.

First of all let me say my problem is not, as it is with a lot of fans, that the First Class has nothing to do with the original X-Men team, which we all know consisted of Ringo, Gilligan, Shaggy, Potsie, Drooper and Snork. I completely support film tweaks of original material when there is reason to go back in with more recent revelations, and so forth, or just to not be extremely laborious and predictable - I'm a big Smallville fan, after all, which, more often than not, played fast and loose with the mythos in a knowing way, such as how Lena Luthor was depicted. I would hardly expect a film production company to invest in a story that wasn't very successful its first time around even as a comic book, as in the case of X-Men and its original team. Do those "hardcore" fans really want a step by step retelling of the original Marvel stories, with scenes such as the X-Men using their powers in construction jobs to raise money? I mean, I'd get a kick out of that, but I think some of the so-called "purists" would scream bloody murder. Just not cool enough. Comic fans hate being exposed to the general public as liking silly things.

I'll run down some of my problems with X-Men First Class.

One is that while we were given an origin for Magneto's hatred of mankind that contained absolutely nothing surprising but which instead, in typical prequel fashion, drew it out painfully, we actually learn nothing about where Xavier's humanitarianism really comes from. It seems like this iconic mutant's entire basis for his sunny outlook is simply that, having grown up rich, he experienced few real difficulties and was sheltered, having no chance to view either humanity's darker side or its more heroic side, which basically makes him seem naive. Granted, he's psychic, so in a way he is privy to everyone's thoughts and experiences. Maybe he's optimistic because he's able to tune in on some of people's finer thoughts, but that would also of course mean he could see their most evil thoughts. How does he sort that out? How does he deal with the potential disgust? But that's another thing - in this version, Xavier seems to just roam around in people's minds with no compunctions, and not just for tactical purposes, though he does that as well. He's depicted as virtuous, but at no point is it viewed as slightly shady for him to change someone's mind on an issue using psychic tampering. He is depicted as doing so quite playfully, and is not shown as having a moment of realization that this might not be much better, from an ethical point of view, than Magneto using his own powers aggressively.

Most of the young mutants have extremely generic, blurry personality types, with none of the actors, save the young actor depicting Hank McCoy, the kid from About a Boy, using acting ability to imbue the character with a sense of life as a good actor does when a character is underwritten. Havok seemed like a very poor man's version of Chris Evans' Human Torch from the much-maligned Fantastic Four movies. Angel, based on some new concept Angel, and portrayed by the daughter of Denise Huxtable, goes from being horrified that villain Kevin Bacon's forces have just slaughtered a bunch of men to suddenly joining up with him because of...why? Because some of those guys who were just brutally slaughtered made fun of her when they were alive, I guess. I've been made fun of before but I would still be utterly traumatized to see the perpetrators actually brutally killed, and I sure wouldn't want to then put myself in the hands of the killers. She sure didn't seem that cruel or that naive. I have to say I can not reconcile that side of her with anything shown previous to that moment; not as we can see the development of X2's version of Pyro.

In the end Magneto kills Sebastian Shaw by very slowly moving a coin through his head. He's bulletproof but supposedly this action contains no energy at all for Shaw to absorb because it's happening very slowly. Huh. Because to me, it might work better to throw Shaw's ship into space with him in it to see if he could absorb a vacuum. Or if Mags isn't quite up to that at this stage in his Jedi career, wrap a section of the hull around Shaw and then throw him into space. But it wouldn't have the poetic justice, I grant you. And putting things in space isn't as cool and "badass", which seems to be the esthetic demand for all films deemed worthy by fanboy masses.

I could sit and pick apart leaps in logic all day but I would bore everyone, especially myself. Comic geeks like myself are on shaky ground when they pick apart logic. In the approximately 4,000 comics I own there is probably an overall average of 10,000 crazy leaps of logic. But those comics, mostly, are fun to read, and I didn't find the film much fun at all. I will happily go along with crazy logic if it's for something fun that doesn't take itself so deadly seriously as this movie does, and if I have something invested in the characters. I mean my other blog is about how much I love b-movies, so I'm not trying to present myself as a snobby, serious film critic. X-Men First Class has moments, but there is also a lot of tedium waiting for something to happen. The action scenes I found were actually less exciting than the fight at Jean Grey's parent's home from the hated (by most) X-Men: The Last Stand; I felt much less invested emotionally because I hardly cared about the characters. If any of the nominal good guys had died I'd have been unlikely to cry myself softly to sleep that night. Also, the climactic scenes were choreographed and filmed sloppily so it was hard to make any spatial sense. I applaud the ambition of introducing battleships to superhero action, but not a lot of the action felt very visceral at all. There was nothing to match Wolverine's battle with Deathstrike at the end of X2, and as a villain Bacon doesn't measure up to Brian Cox's (admittedly less dynamic-looking) Stryker, even if he cuts footloose on making evil facial expressions while involved in mundane activities such as sitting in a chair.

If you liked the film, more power to you. I always say, if everyone felt like I do about everything, I'd lose my individuality and I sure wouldn't want that; and having fun watching a movie other people don't like isn't a sin. I know, I do it all the time.

Just so we don't all leave with a bad taste in our mouths, here's some art from a piece I always loved, a backup Steve Mellor did for Spider-ham back in the day. Mellor's style is great, I would have loved to have seen more superhero stuff like this.

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