06 June 2011

First Impressions: V-Men: First Ass

See, they're V-Men because they're Virgin Men. It's their first ass. Meaning homosexual sex.

So this was X-Weekend, in addition to the okay premiere of X-Men: First Class (2011) F/X played the entire trilogy all weekend. The only thing missing was X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), which I think everyone was perfectly fine with. First Class was an excellent film though, very well balanced between intelligent character drama and dumb blockbuster.

First Class is pretty interesting right from the start because it's really the first major Superhero Franchise flick set in a different time period. It seems like we're almost more obsessed with the style of the 1960s more than the 1980s lately from the crossover fashion of Mad Men to um...that movie, X-Men: First Class that just came out. The result is some sleek looks and actually a couple blue and yellow tights that don't look as ridiculous as they would have in X-Men (2000).

This is one of the better-cast Superhero Films in recent memory. Everyone gels, from character actors like Michael Ironsides and Boris the Blade in bit parts to the obviously inspired casting of James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr respectively. Jennifer Lawrence adds some dignity (and speaking) to Mystique and Kevin Bacon owns Sebastian Shaw.

Shaw is an underrated X-Men villain. For the fifth movie in the franchise, X-Men tends to suffer from Superman Villain syndrome - with a few wrinkles here and there the antagonist has primarily been Magneto with the occasional evil human like Senator Kelly or William Stryker thrown in. The X-Men comics however, have such a huge library to choose from, with options like Apocalypse, Juggernaut, the Shadow King, Mr. Sinister and Sauron there's no shortage at all. Shaw fits the 60s motif, he's a classier kind of sophisticated villain that Bacon really slimes over. He's also practically the same as Magneto, albeit a crazier version, but their ideology is very similar. First Class is all about competing ideologies, mostly centered on Magneto's eventual path to claim the anti-Human throne from Shaw.

The Magneto/Charles dilemma is really the core of this film and it's interesting that this film really develops their friendship. It actually has some callbacks to the main X-Trilogy - the chess games, the cordiality, the mutant/human debate. It's important that by the end of First Class (SPOILER?!) and Magneto is accidentally responsible for Xavier's paralysis, he has some true deep regret, not at what he's become but at the fact that Charles just can't view humanity in the same negative light as Erik. Magneto has never been an insane villain, he's not like Norman Osborn or Red Skull who have aspirations of world domination through crazy selfish reasons. He always sees himself as justified, fighting for Mutant Rights the same as Charles, merely willing to take a few more lives along the way. By the films' end the sides that all mutants present choose is very interesting, most notably Mystique.

Mystique throughout the rest of the X-Films is really this Magneto Lackey. She barely speaks in her natural form and exists as eye candy more than anything else. It's nice that the movies have kept her slutty comic book nature intact, and she really tries to put the moves on Xavier at first and Beast later in First Class. Her character is much more developed here than anything Rebecca Romijn has ever done with her. It's cool to see her as Charles' buddy for most of the flick while eventually siding with Erik. In some part this shows out fine the line between their ideologies really is.

Young Charles is also awesome. Patrick Stewart's Xavier is so dignified and eloquent, it's fun to see McAvoy's Xavier drunk in the bars, using his powers to hit on chicks. Because that's what a young Xavier would do! Erik's upbringing is so drastically different, there is so much more pain and poverty, it's not a struggle to see why their close friendship eventually falls apart.

I'll also praise First Class for finding ways to actually use Xavier's powers in battle. It's a tough call because he is really only advantageous on the mental realm, which seems anathema to cool fight scenes. On the other hand, his powers may also seem too great to find a worthy opponent - this is a little Superman Syndrome. The X-Trilogy deals with this in a few ways. In X-Men Mystique sabotages Cerebro, which puts him in coma; he's drugged, kidnapped and trapped in an illusion in X2: X-Men United (2003) and finally they just kill him off in X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). First Class doesn't balk at this at all and actually shows how important Xavier is as a coordinator of battle and a truly empathetic teacher to his students. It's one of the only treatments of Xavier in recent memory that renders Professor X as pretty cool instead of boringly reading minds in the background.

Needless to say I really liked this movie, but it has its fair share of problems. For one, the CGI was terrible and much more outrageous than it needed to be. The stakes are actually pretty huge here, the X-Men are literally saving the world, which is a bit more drastic than some other Superhero films. Wait, this is fun, let's go over some stakes of other Superhero Movies:

Spider-Man (2002): Peter Parker must save his busty classmate from the Green Goblin
Hulk (2003): Bruce Banner must save San Francisco from himself and his father
Batman Begins (2005): Bruce Wayne must save Gotham from going nuts on Scarecrow Fear Poison (Batman actually half-fails at this)
Fantastic Four (2005): The Fantastic Four must save themselves from Dr. Doom attacking them
Superman Returns (2006): Clark Kent must save North America from flooding after Luthor steals his own technology. Actually Superman never knows this is Luthor's plan
Iron Man (2008): Tony Stark must save innocent brown people from his own weapons
THOR (2009): Thor must save his Realm from the Bifrost Gun Thing. Right?

I think I've mentioned this before, but you ever notice that every single Spider-Man movie ends the same way? Mary Jane is kidnapped by whatever crazy costumed idiot is ticked at Spidey that week and Pete's gotta go save her. In Spider-Man 2 (2004) he's saving the city from Ock's Fusion Experiment (tho it's not Ock's intention to destroy the city), by Spider-Man 3 (2007) he's basically just fending off people he's pissed off and are coming after him with no other evil plan.

Actually you know what, in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) they actually do save the world from Galactus so the stakes are pretty high but that movie is so unspeakably bad it really doesn't warrant mentioning here. Anyone notice that sandwiched between airings of Doubt (2008) and The Wrestler (2008) on F/X? I feel like I'm taking crazy pills.

So First Class has some important stakes but the CGI is still terrible. There is also some weird flirtation with 60s issues like Racism and Sexism but it barely takes notice. The shot of African-American Darwin when Sebastian Shaw mentions slavery is just over the top. He's also the firs to die. How is the black guy STILL the first to die?! Didn't we learn anything from Deep Blue Sea (1999)?! There's totally a moment in that Shaw temptation scene (which by the way, it is nice to see these Young Mutants actually acting like rowdy young mutants, Bobby Drake and Rogue were so maudlin during the whole X-Trilogy, c'mon, Iceman is hilarious) when it appears as though all the Brown People are turning to the evil side, leaving the X-Men nice and white. What the hell?

January Jones' boobs deserve their own article but Emma Frost was not as developed as she could have been. It's nice to see that January really can't move on between these identical 60s roles. It seems like there were points when the men around her suddenly remember they're supposed to be in the 60s and treating the women like shit so Shaw starts ordering her around. Later, Moira MacTaggert (who I don't really care about not being a Scottish Scientist, her role fit the story, tho what the fuck was she doing training with the mutants at the Mansion for that week?) get some anti-feminist mouth from her superiors that's the same kind of "Oh yeah, I'm supposed to hate women in this time period" tone. Can someone else remind Fassbender he should have a consistent German Accent? I mean, German or American whatever, but why the hell is it bouncing around to Irish, English, what is going on, dude. C'mon.

I will add that this movie does have some fantastic cameos that should never be spoiled, just watch and see. If you're a big continuity fan and get mad that Cyclops' brother Havok is here in the 60s, as is a Young Mystique somehow (explained with a throwaway line that her cells age differently. She's also real old in the comics, actually, which is how she is able to be the mother of half the X-Men). The ages of Patrick Stewart-Xavier and Ian McKellan-Magneto actually correspond pretty well to First Class (The credits list a 24-yr old Charles, placing his birth in 1938, Stewart was born in 1940, McKellan in 1939).

The film had one of the worst openings for an X-Men film since the first installment, ten years ago. Do people like Wolverine that much? Wolverine had been done to death by X2, every fucking film was about him. Why can't anyone like something else in this universe? Why is getting a movie about Apocalypse as tough as a Superman movie with Doomsday? I mean, when this is the staple of 20-somethings everywhere it shouldn't be tough to come up with doable stories, especially with characters this well-established now.

Maybe not.


1 comment:

  1. http://www.movies.com/movie-news/x-men-movie-continuity/3227?wssac=164&wssaffid=news This helps a bit in tracking the continuity of it all. Or lack of.


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