Wow. Where to begin?
As we exited the theater, my brother said to me that this movie was a mix of the very awesome and the very hokey. That about sums it up. Luckily the awesome just slightly outweighs the hokey.
X-Men First Class, unlike X Men Wolverine, will not make you wish you can take an adamantium bullet to your head to forget the past two hours. So that’s something.
I like to think of this movie as a better version of Star Wars Episode III. Both films are prequels that tell a similar story–two former friends, here Magneto and Charles Xavier, who, due to ideological differences, end up having a violent falling out. Except in this movie, the ‘bad’ friend (Magneto) is played by someone who can actually act.
This really is a classy trailer. And that was a really bad pun.
The best part of this movie (like in all the X-Men movies, really) is Magneto. I wasn’t sure any actor would be able to measure up to someone as great as Ian McKellen, but Michael Fassbender does a terrific job. Every second he’s on screen is a genuine treat, but my favorite moment has to be when he walks into an Argentinian bar (sounds like the setup for a joke, doesn’t it?) and butchers a pair of former Nazis. Chuck Norris wishes he were half as badass as Magneto in this scene.
The other mutants range from the very cool (the shapeshifting Mystique, and a red-devil-looking-teleporting guy) to the godawful (some woman who spits fireballs out of her mouth? Really? Are we meant to take this seriously?). Only a few actually have any depth, and honestly this movie could have done with a few less mutants. Maybe about five less. But I suppose all the angel fans out there (that’s the fire-ball spitter) have to be appeased.
The story is a mixture of hit-and miss. On the one hand, the character development is handled excellently. The opening scenes are near-perfect, as they show you the origins of Magneto, Mystique, and Charles Xavier. The movie does a great job of tying into the other movies, at showing the characters’ conflicting motivations and philosophies. The falling-out between Magneto and Xavier plays out excellently. MAgneto’s quest for revenge on the Nazis who destroyed his family strikes all the right emotional chords.
On the other hand, this isn’t the real ‘plot’ of the movie. The plot of the movie involves a bunch of mutants who want to start World War III by getting the Soviet Union and the USA to shoot nukes at each other. Their reason for doing this is one of the dumbest excuses for a motivation I have ever heard. They what the planet to be consumed by nukes so that the humans can be wiped out and only the mutants will remain. Good luck finding food to eat in the post-apocalyptic wasteland, dumbasses. It’s also worth noting that only one of these villains has the power of surviving deadly radiation.
The addition of these evil mutants, while making for some stirring battle scenes, actually detracts from the overall picture. These baddies suck up so much screen time that all the interesting character development feels rushed and incomplete. I would really have liked to see more of the friendship between Charles and Magneto and less of some asshole in a dumb helmet talking about how they’re going to rule the earth once everything’s a smoking black crater. The movie should have just focused on the cuban missile crisis, the mutants coming into their powers, and the slow erosion of the alliance between Xavier and Charles. Additionally, having a mutant be responsible for the atrocities committed on Magneto makes his whole backstory that much worse. He hates humans with a passion and believes strongly in the superiority of mutants, which is odd, considering that it was a mutant that killed his mother before his eyes.
The script is…honestly, it’s pretty bad. Half the time it’s cramming thinly veiled messages about gay pride down your throat (the words don’t ask, don’t tell are actually used, and the phrase “mutant and proud” is used at least 600 times). I honestly thought by the end if I heard the words “society” and “accept” together one more time, I would die of an aneurism. It’s interesting that in a movie so obsessed with promoting tolerance and diversity that the only black character is the first (and only) hero to die. Also, the Latina turns evil. So much for forward-thinking.
You know, for someone with serious body and self-esteem issues, that is a very low V-neck…
The other half of the time, the script is insulting you with science that doesn’t make any sense. This movie doesn’t even seem to have a clear concept of what a mutant is. Even I have no idea what they are and I watched all five movies. At one point Charles Xavier tells a chick in a bar that her mismatched eyes make her a mutant. So these superpowers are like any other gene mutation, right? Then these people are still humans? Well, I guess not, because some military scumbag later states that the laws of the United States apply “only to humans. Not to these freaks.” I guess that means we clock all the auburn hair people in the country up without a trial. That should speed up the judicial process.
In all honesty, there’s no way anyone is going to believe that gene mutations will give you the power to shoot lazier disks out of your hands or lift submarines with your mind. Why the X-Men franchise hasn’t just dispensed with all the scientific mumbo-jumbo by now is beyond my ability to understand.
So, in short: if you can get over the preaching and the campiness of some of the super powers, you should enjoy yourself. As usual, Magneto and Mystique steal the show. I’ve always secretly been rooting for the bad guys, just because they are so much cooler and more fun than Charles Xavier’s crowd. The story is not as deep, or moving, or good as it should and could have been, but it’s also not as bad as it could have been (see X-Men Origins: Wolverine). All they really needed was Quentin Tarantino to write their dialogue for them.
Oh, one more thing. I’ve been told that the chess game between Magneto and Xavier does not make sense. Apparently Charles moves his queen next to Magneto’s king for no reason and Magneto then takes it. I will have to watch this movie again just to check this out.