I’d been extremely vocal with my criticisms about X-Men: First Class ever since the lineup was announced, and even more so when the cheesy teaser poster surfaced. I couldn’t help it – I’m an X-Men fanboy completely and utterly in love with the lore. When I tagged along with Lauren for a screening of the movie, though, I did my best to remain objective. Rather than treat it as an X-Men movie, I would see it as just your average superhero flick.
I realized, though, that being a comics nerd is pretty much core to my being; even if I stop following comics every so often, I eagerly back-read on everything I’d missed out on. We’re talking five years’ worth of missed storylines read within the span of a month, and trying my best to get digital copies of comics printed before my parents hit puberty. Because of my inherent dorkiness, I couldn’t distance my inner fanboy enough to leave my impressions of the film unaffected. In this regard, please take my evaluation movie with a grain of salt: It’s a pretty good film, but there are glaring changes to the material that’ll distract viewers who are familiar with the X-Men mythos. In short, it’s a 4.5 out of 5 for casual X-Men fans, a 3.5 for fanboys watching it for the first time, and a 4 for fanboys who watch it more than once. Read on for the in-depth stuff! 😀
1. It Captures the Themes of X-Men Better than the First 3 Films
One thing that makes Stan Lee great is that he experimented with superheroes’ position in society, in regard to their public image. Back in the day, most superheroes were seen as humanity’s mysterious benefactors – publicly loved individuals who we can’t identify when they’re not in costume, saving the world. With the Fantastic Four, he went against the grain and made their civilian identities known to the public, catapulting them to celebrity status. With Spider-Man, he created a hero who was a polarizing media sensation, yet was just like everyone else behind closed doors.
With the X-Men, Stan Lee created individuals who were hated and feared by the people whose lives they saved, because they were born different and pose a threat to the status quo. It was this element that seemed a little lacking in the first three movies, with the anti-mutant sentiment mostly relegated to legislation and secret sub-government plots. X-Men: First Class manages to bring the “specism” to the level of the Average Joe, and every mutant bears the burden of back-talk and prejudice. They go from being born special to becoming a freak show to a security risk better off eliminated.
Another thing that the movie skillfully adapts from the comics is the philosophical dilemma this specism presents. Professor X and Magneto have always served as two ideological extremes butting heads both figuratively and literally; I’ll leave the details for the next two parts.
2. We Get to See Magneto the Way He’s Meant to Be
And that is as a motherfucking badass. Ian McKellen is a marvelous actor and brought with him the gravitas so important to Magneto’s character, but he always seemed a little frail, as though age were catching up with him. The comics Magneto can probably kick John Cena’s ass in hand-to-hand combat, even as a septuagenarian. In fact, when I grow old, I want to be as buff as Magneto; that’ll make those fucking kids think twice about stepping on my fucking lawn.
Magneto’s true passion, of course, would always be dance.
Michael Fassbender is simply marvelous as a younger Magneto, capturing the rage and drive that shaped his philosophies early on. He’s cold, calculating, and heartless to his enemies, yet shows genuine concern for mutantkind. His militaristic methods are extreme and questionable, but humanity only proves him right, reinforcing his us-against-them perspective. He’s been on the short end of the oppression stick twice – as a Jew in World War II and as a mutant – so it’s pretty understandable why he sees homo sapiens sapiens as assholes.
Also, he takes out military squads all by himself, speaks 4 languages, and has the best use of a coin I’ve ever seen.
3. Xavier is Deeper Now; Lauren Thinks He’s Pogi
Everyone knows Charles Xavier as a tree-hugging hippie who wants nothing more than to be embraced by normal people. In the comics, though, he can be a bit of an asshole, having bastard kids and wiping minds and all that. James McAvoy depicts Xavier perfectly as a youth, with idealism tempering his irresponsible nature. We see Xavier use his telepathic powers and SCIENCE to hit on a girl, down a beer bong, and teach mutants how to control their powers for a mission to save the world. That’s about as accurate as you can get for young Professor X.
According to the girlfriend, he’s also girl eye candy.
4. Eye Candy
The movie just looks good. Director Matthew Vaughn has proven himself to be rather skilled in translating comic pages to the big screen. Everything I saw was miles better than those crappy-ass claws in X-Men Orgins: Wolverine, anyway.
1. Emo-emo Boo-hoo Whiny Shit
We get it – the X-Men are teens and they’re different and shit, but do they have to be such bitches about it? Beast’s main issue, for example, is his monkey feet and how they make him feel like a freak. He wears shoes all the freaking time. No one ever notices his feet until he uses them to hang from an overhead pipe. Mystique is tired of shapeshifting into something beautiful and wants to be wanted in her true form. Angel – who is hot, by the way – doesn’t like the way people look at her when her tattoos turn out to be actual wings. These kids can by all means look normal whenever they want to, but they’re still crying about how different they are. They’re lucky they have a choice, but they’re too busy bitching around to notice.
OHMAHGAHD SHE’S HIDEOUS
2. Cheeky Fan Service is Cheeky
There are a couple of cameos that generate a few giggles, but there’s a running gag with Xavier that really should’ve been a one-of joke. Espionage in this film is especially cheeky, but that’s more of a good thing, really. *wink wink*
3. Major Continuity Issue
I can look past the fact that Angel is supposed to be a young lady in the 2000s, rather than a 50-year-old by the movie’s timing. I can also look past the fact that this is not THE first class (that’s Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman, and Beast). But Emma Frost is an adult in X-Men: First Class, and that’s especially weird when you consider she’s a teen in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Professor X has already aged into Patrick Stewart by then. I assume Emma can delay her aging when she shifts to diamond form, but reversing her age? That’s off.
And you can’t argue that this is completely separate from the first three X-Men movies, since those cameos I mentioned earlier, plus a character reference in an early scene makes it clear they all exist in the same universe.
The Nitpicks (mostly for comics nerds):
1. Moira MacTaggert isn’t Moira MacTaggert
I used to love reading Moira MacTaggert’s lines from the comics out loud. “Och! I dinnae expect that!” How stereotypically Scottish can you get? Apparently not so much in the movie, since she’s suddenly American. She’s also a CIA agent rather than one of the world’s foremost authorities on genetic research. I’d rather they didn’t use her name, especially since the character they wrote already exists in the comics as Val Cooper.
She’s cute, though. NOT LIKE ANGEL OHMAHGAHD
2. Beast isn’t Beast
One of the few things I liked about X-Men: The Last Stand was the brilliant casting of Kelsey Grammer as Beast. Hank McCoy in the comics is smart, bubbly, and theatrical – basically, he’s Frasier. Grammer was simply perfect.
Hank McCoy in X-Men: First Class, as I mentioned earlier, is a whiny bitch. He’s also incredibly timid, like the kid everyone loved to bully back in elementary school. What’s more, he’s apparently smart enough to synthesize a potential cure for his wonky feet, convert a radar dome into Cerebro, build the Blackbird, create a flying suit for Banshee, and design a focusing unit for Havok’s powers. He’s basically what you would get if you combined every genius who’s ever existed into a single person and kicked him in the nuts everyday just because.
3. Azazel isn’t Azazel
Don’t get me wrong – he’s cool and all, but they only showed his teleportation powers. No pew-pew lazor lazor or anything else. Also, he’s Russian. I never knew demons had Russian accents. Most importantly, his name is apparently pronounced “ah-ZEY-zel”, not “AH-zah-zel”. That makes him more fabulous than I thought.
4. Banshee isn’t Banshee
He screams, yes, but he’s also an American Ron Weasley in this flick. I used to read his Irish-accented lines out loud, too. 😦
4. Havok is a One-Man Strip Club
All in all, it’s a pretty fun watch. Even the most hardcore of fanboys will find more than a few things to like.Photos from here, here, here, here, here, and here.