I saw X-Men: First Class the other day. I hadn’t planned on seeing it. I liked the first X-movies and the trend of going back in time in order to recast the old fogies as hot young things is a total eye-rolling marketing ploy that I don’t want to encourage (okay, the Star Trek movie was pretty cool, but I still protest the practice on general principals!)
But then I discovered that James McAvoy was cast as Professor X. Why does no one tell me these things?! Yes, I live under a rock – I don’t watch television and I rarely go to the movies. But McAvoy had me at Tumnus, so I had to go see X-men. My reaction? Mixed.
I thought the three male leads – McAvoy, Fassbender, and Bacon turned in some pretty satisfying performances. They were quite a lot of fun to watch. Fassbender was sharply edgy with moments of unexpected vulnerability. Bacon has altogether too much fun playing over-the-top villains – more power to him :). McAvoy has an amazing way with the charming patter, as well as the ability to create an intense, engaging focus between himself and his scene partners. I love watching him do that. I also got a big smile watching young Charles using groovy genetic one-liners to pick up hot chicks. But c’mon, the dude’s a telepath, how much of a challenge is getting a date, really? Still funny. Though as all this took place less than 10 years after the structure of DNA was discovered, I doubt he could know which gene carried the mutation for auburn hair. That wasn’t discovered until 1995.
Setting the movie in the early sixties gave it a colorful, ‘Mad-men/Spy-who-shagged-me’ vibe, though I wasn’t all that amused by the tongue-in-cheek chauvinism. Sure, they were making fun of the old-fashioned attitudes, but they still had most of the women running around in their skivvies, and letting the men run the show. Is it progress when you don’t make any attempt to show that there’s been progress? Hmmmm.
I wasn’t nearly as impressed by the female performers as I was by the male. Raven came across as a bland, pouty teen-ager and not much else. The Mystique character really could have been so much more, especially given her kick-ass portrayal in the earlier movies (loved the Rebecca Romijn cameo. I wish she could have stayed). Moira McTaggert was a strong, intelligent, capable woman, but I really didn’t get any sense as to who she really was or how she felt about her boss’s attitude: “Back to the steno-pool with you!” She might have been more convincing to me as the independent researcher portrayed in the comic, rather than coming over as a 21st century government agent working for a mid-20th century agency. Emma Frost was cast well – she fit the time and the role (loved the Diana Rigg catsuit – in white) and the visual effects of her frost-to-diamond transformation were stunning. She wasn’t asked to do very much, but she did it well and came across as an exemplary hench-woman to Shaw.
I also liked Azazel, just because he was so cool and very nearly unstoppable. A well-used weapon. The villains really had no excuse to lose this one, except for having a stupid plan and an overabundance of arrogance.
The movie itself was a complete disaster. Nothing was thought through or portrayed plausibly. Young Erik manages to kill everyone in the room *except* the man who just shot his mother and then promises to torture him for the next several years? Schmidt wasn’t even forced to duck, he just smiled and clapped at the show. Ridiculous. I understand the point of the set-up for the big revenge moment at the end, but still, very poorly done.
And when did Schmidt/Shaw come into his own mutant power? He claimed to be a ‘child of the atom’, but he must have been in his sixties before the first A-bomb was ever detonated – way over in the American southwest. He wasn’t any closer to the two explosions in Japan, either. So that’s all very fuzzy to me. Even if he *did* have some level of power during the war, I don’t see how he managed to keep Erik from killing him as he forced the boy to access his power. A scalpel, a hat-pin, a single metal button would have been enough.
Speaking of using one’s power intelligently, who in their right mind destroys a ship from the top down, or tries to *raise* a submarine?! Sinking is such an obvious solution. This is why torpedoes were invented. Rip the bottom out of the ship. Bend the submarine propeller and crack it open like an egg. I don’t think Magneto was concerned about bringing anyone back alive – they made that perfectly clear with several gratuitously violent scenes. So while the vision of a sub floating above the water and tossed up onto dry land was very impressive, it was also very, very stupid. Please don’t give me visual effects at the expense of rational thought. It’s possible to do both, unfortunately it requires *planning* and *thinking*, which I know can be so *hard*.
The cold-war stuff was just awful. ‘Nuff said.
The members of the First Class themselves weren’t particularly notable. Hank’s foot issues hardly put him in the same class as Mystique, so their bonding struck me as forced, if kinda cute. Angel should obviously have been named Dragonfly, though maybe that was a comic-book thing. Banshee was pretty cool – air-power is always crucial and he had a fun sort of hippie/headbanger vibe. Darwin had such a complex mutation, and was taken out so early (though heroically) it was hard to know what to think of him. I liked the actor who played Havok, but they didn’t do much with his power, other than to use the same control-issue ploy as his (brother? Son? 2nd cousin?) Scott Summers.
This really was a movie about the friendship between Magneto and Professor X, and in that sense I feel it succeeded. Mostly because they cast really good actors in the roles. The rest of it was pretty much nonsensical action-oriented filler. And how the *heck* did they get off Cuba? Float through the 7th fleet to Florida on a homemade raft? Fine, whatever, hmph.
Okay, so for my next writing project, a telepath and a master of magnetism walk into a bar… 🙂