Monday, June 6, 2011

X-Men: First Class Farce

I've seen X-Men: First Class twice now. Not because I really had to revisit the movie so quickly after my initial view... in fact it was quite the opposite. As soon as I walked out of that first screening I dreaded the realization that, because I work in a movie theatre, I would have to go see it two more times for friends. But c'est la vie.

It's not that I hate the movie. There are certain elements that work perfectly.
When McAvoy and Fassbender are on screen it's almost too perfect. They're each so hypnotic in their abilities to hammer the script into their own purposes. And that script had to be hammered. One of the most obvious signs of a great actor is the ability to make clumsy dialogue sound interesting and real... and I could cite at least five times that McAvoy was forced to do this and still somehow came back with a charming variation on the words that at no time felt clumsy.

However, in other members of the cast it was clear as January they could not whittle through the wood.
She's really bad... she's really really bad.
Kevin Bacon still managed to bring fun to the screen and I enjoyed this Sebastian Shaw. It would be nice for him to have other goals. And in that early sequence where he brings young Erik to his room, I doubt I was the only person in the theatre who wondered why the boy didn't target his rage at the man who had actually wronged him considering there was all that metal around.

The inclusion of Havok was a massive misstep as well. The character has no purpose if he doesn't have Cyclops around. And the actor underperforms to the max. Actually, all of the side mutants (Havok, Darwin, Riptide {who?}, Angel Salvadore, Azazel)* all fell short of the mark. It's one thing to introduce new mutants. It's quite another to force them upon us, reiterate the same conversation fifteen times in hopes we think this means they care about something and then leave us without any arcs. They learned how to use their powers? Okay. Do I actually care? Nope. Nice work.
*For some reason, I was okay with Banshee.

And when I say they repeat that same conversation fifteen times I'm not exaggerating. I get it, it sucks to be different from other people. But that's really just because you're all a bunch of whiny kids who can't seem to come to grips with how cool your powers are. I think everyone would agree if they had a mutant power like any of these guys... somebody commenting on how weird they are really wouldn't even place in their mind. The point of X-Men is actually deeper because that conversation is not on the surface (maybe once or twice even is acceptable) until we have gotten to understand these characters motives... their history. Something we only truly get out of Magneto... and even then it could have been written more sensibly.

This isn't to say I don't like the movie. It was fine. If the next one has more Magneto/Xavier and builds on that I will probably enjoy it very much. But I'm still looking for a movie with balls like the first X-Men. It took the mutant argument and made it real, fleshed it out, made it interesting. Any time Ian or Patrick were talking something wonderful was being said. And the action was pretty damn well thought out. Lots of practical effects went into that movie and the movie succeeded for a million and a half of those reasons. X-2 was awesome as well. Even more so I'd say. We saw more of characters we loved and learned to better understand them. And at the end of X-2 we were given a promise...
a very specific promise. Then the third X-Men came along and destroyed every decibel of our hopes and dreams that that promise would every come to the screen. Then Wolverine was a joke.

So I guess I'm just glad this was better than those last two... but, honestly, that's not saying very much at all. From a wayward fan to a wayward producer, couldn't we just agree that since people are still coming out to these flicks it's okay to take more time and allow more interesting people onto the project? Start with plot and revamp it all with a writing team that proves they care. Cast some actors like McAvoy and Fassbender... people who know their way around a camera... who don't halfass their way through every line (I'm looking at January). These can be so great. And you're already putting the money into them, so why not be proud of the content as well?


  1. It's like I saw a slightly different movie. I thought the writing was very strong, about as strong as the other films at least. (Because, really, are we going to defend "At least I've chosen a side" and "You know what happens to a toad when it's struck by lightning"?) For me, First Class brought us back to the serious fun of the first one. It deepened my appreciation for the Xavier/Magneto storyline...and dare I say it actually enhances the moment in X-Men 3 when Mystique loses her powers and Magneto abandons her? That was the single great moment in that movie, made all the more poignant by her arc in this one. My favorite character, Beast, finally got his due with a great storyline/performance, so that was neat. January Jones was perfect, playing the ice queen with a diabolical relish that reminded me of a more controlled version of Rebecca Romijn's Mystique, and I do not understand the criticisms lobbed at her. KEVIN BACON IS SO MUCH FUN IN THIS MOVIE. German? Russian? ENGLISH??? Is there any language this God among Men has yet to master? And he manages to have a good time without undercutting the seriousness of the rest of the film.

    I agree that Angel's arc was not sold particularly well, Darwin was done away with too quickly for me to "get" him (though I was shocked that they killed him off), and Azazel and Riptide were Toad-level lackies. As for Havok, the character as written was fine, but the actor didn't sell it as well. I see everyone's going to give Banshee a pass, probably because the actor playing him conveys a boyish zeal for his powers; I'm giving him a pass, too, because it's Caleb from The Last Exorcism and he was awesome.

    I can't tell if the "whiny kids" paragraph is serious. You've seen all the movies, you've watched the show, you've read the comics. You know why they don't think it's awesome to have these powers. People commenting on their weirdness *is* a part of their history. Maybe I'm misunderstanding what you're trying to say.

    Score was awesome, too. And Fassbender and McAvoy are so superb in this! Dear Heavens! Worthy heirs of McKellen and Stewart.

  2. I love the three leads and the score... but I can't get on board with January Jones.

    And I guess I'm getting sick of these movies having to focus on that so much... they rely on it far too heavily here.
    "Remember, Mutant and Proud!"...ouch.