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X-Men: First Class movie review

stars-three-halfIf you’re not familiar with the X-Men movies from the previous decade (the three gay rights allegory films: X-Men from 2000, X2 from 2003 and X-Men:  The Last Stand from 2006, or, as I like to call it, X3:  What happened to Nightcrawler?), don’t worry about it – you can easily sit down and watch X-Men:  First Class (equal rights allegory) without any trouble.

Just so you don’t get the wrong idea, I don’t have any problem with allegory; and, aside from X3:  The Search For A Plot That Feels True Without A Ton Of Tacked On BS, I like the X-Men movies, and this newest prequel installment is no exception.  Sure, it confuses 1962 with other years that starts with 196 in an attempt to put more women in little skirts, but whatever.

spoiler alert

spoiler alert!

Summary: Like the first X-Men movie, we start at a Concentration Camp and see Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto discover his power, and is subsequently experimented on by Dr. Schmidt/Sebastian Shaw, who kills Erik’s mother in an attempt to motivate him.  Next, we meet Charles Xavier, who takes in the homeless young Raven/Mystique as a fellow mutant.  Then we time cut to 1962 and see Erik hunting Shaw to avenge his mother and the torture he suffered while Charles is finishing his PHD with Raven, who is along for the ride in England. Moira MacTaggert, a CIA agent, discovers Shaw’s plan to pressure US officials to install American missiles in Turkey, which she is unable to stop.  MacTaggert also discovers there are mutants involved and enlists Xavier to help, who reveals himself as a mutant and agrees to help the CIA track down Shaw.  Their first attempt at apprehending Shaw is a defeat, but they do meet Erik, who is also on Shaw’s trail, and they realize they’re going to need more mutants to help them take down Shaw, who has his own mutant team.  Oliver Platt (whose character seems to have no name and who cares, because he dies quickly anyway) introduces the still forming team to Hank McCoy/Beast, who himself is also a mutant and builds Cerebro, a tool Charles can use to find more mutants, which he does:  Sean Cassidy/Banshee, Armando Muñoz/Darwin, Alex Summers/Havok and Angel Salvadore – who are all fairly useless and underdeveloped, but not as underdeveloped as Shaw’s cast of flunkies.  Anywho, in Shaw’s final masterstroke to instigate a nuclear war that will clear the way for mutant kind to take over the earth, he has forced the Russians to instigate the Cuban missile crisis.  A showdown between the mutant teams keeps the missiles from crossing the line and averts nuclear war, but when both Russia and the US decide they are better off killing off the mutants (a power they can’t control), they mutants are torn between fighting for their place in society and killing those that would kill them.  They go their separate ways, some siding with Erik and others staying with Charles.

There was a lot to like about this movie; I’ve heard some argue that it’s difficult to decide whether you’re supposed to identify with Erik’s philosophy of militant resistance against those that would oppress mutants and Charles’ philosophy of working together, but I don’t think you have to choose, because depending on the situation, they’re both right.  It’s easy to see Charles’ point about it being wrong to kill, but on the other hand, Shaw is a Nazi mass murdering fuck head, so FUCK SHAW!  Push the Nazi coin through his head again, just to make sure he’s dead!  Hell, separate his head from his body, Deadpool style!

The movie has an easy, likable way about it, with great performances and directing, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say this is the best of the X-Men movies, including Origins:  Wolverine.  Sure, it would have been nice to get to know Banshee, Havok, Angel and Darwin better, but I guess they were introduced too late in the movie for there to be that much development for those characters.  And really, the only black mutant in the movie dies shortly after he’s introduced?  And he’s Darwin; can’t he adapt to survive anything?  Whatever.  They should have dressed him in one of those red shirts from Star Trek.

january-jones-emma-frost

Whew.

I only have a few other complaints about X-Men:  First Class:
The Music is boring
It’s repetitive – the same theme is used over and over, and it’s not a great theme.  It makes the theme from the new Batman movies sound like a thoughtful masterpiece – need I say more?  I guess everybody can’t be John Williams.

The Bad Guys Aren’t Well Developed
So for bad guys, we’ve got Sebastian Shaw (aka Dr. Schmidt… same last name as the Red Skull, Johan Schmidt…  their both Nazis… hmm…), who is pretty two-dimensional;  Emma Frost, whose ever-present rack I did not find intimidating (not to mention the fact that January Jones isn’t the world’s greatest actor) and two other guys… the red one who teleports and one who makes tornadoes…  didn’t catch their names.  Thanks to the internet, I know they’re Azazel and Riptide, but whatever – I guess they’re just mutant bodyguards who don’t necessarily need to be fleshed out.  I would, however, have liked to have learned how Shaw and Frost got together, and why everyone is so loyal to Shaw in the first place.  And what is the purpose of the Hellfire Club?  Pretty sure that was important in the comics.

Azazel could Have Teleported Them Out Of There Before the Missiles Hit
Just saying…  He didn’t have any problem teleporting the group away after the conflict was resolved…  aw the hell with it!   Oh, and when Magneto stopped all of the missiles, did anyone else think back to Ian McKellen in the very first X-Men, when he took control of all of the cops’ guns and warned Charles, “I don’t think I can stop them all!” in reference to firing all the guns at once and catching the bullets… again, just sayin’.

For all my complaining, this movie has a lot going for it.  Charles and Erik have an interesting Martin Luther King and Malcom X sort of thing going, which is interesting to watch develop about the movie.  Essentially, they’re the only two characters who really matter (well, Mystic matters as much), and the movie is really a nice character story about how two guys meet, bond, and grow apart, with some nice action thrown in.  Good directing, good dialogue, good overall story telling – X-men First Class is worth seeing for comic book and movie fans alike.

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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About Jamie Insalaco

Jamie Insalaco is the author of CreativeJamie.com, BomberBanter.com and editor in chief of ComicBookClog.com

Posted on July 7, 2011, in comic book reviews, movie review and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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