X-Men First Class is in
Culture / June 15, 2011
By Mike Shames
There have been several Marvel comic movie adaptations in recent years like Spiderman, Iron Man and Fantastic Four – all with very mixed results. One series that has been consistently good, with its talented and strong cast, is X-Men.
With so many different characters, each with their own back story, X-Men succeeds at the difficult feat of creating a solid connection.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine was the first to dive into the mythology of the X-Men. It was an excellent movie, and a promise of things to come.
The two most intriguing people in the X-Men universe has always been Professor X and Magneto. There have been many different variations on their story throughout the comic series, and now there is a film, X-Men First Class.
We start where the original X-Men movie starts, a Nazi concentration camp 1944, but now we get to see what happened after the young Magneto is knocked out.
The rest of the movie is building up to the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the evolving conflicting ideals of Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender).
While Charles and Erik gather fellow mutants, they hunt for Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) aka Dr. Schmidt.
James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender deliver powerful and believable performances in two very different roles.
Charles is born into privilege, wealth and is very different from the stoic and monk-like Professor X.
Where X seems to carry the fate of human-mutant relations on his shoulders, Charles is more care-free, likes to let loose, flirtatious, and somewhat naive.
McAvoy suits the younger role perfectly, show a broad range of emotions.
Most of the role is the down fall of an idealist as the world and humanity shows him it’s cruel and fearful nature.
Erik’s view on the world was shaped by the hands of the Nazis. He was tortured in experiments by Nazi doctors, scarring him emotionally and physically.
As a mutant and a Jewish survivor he knows exactly what humans will do to mutants, regardless of what they do to protect humans.
He fears another extermination, further persecution, and misery with every fibre in his soul and will do anything to stop it.
Erik is an incredibly heavy character, full of sorrow and wrath, all show beautifully in the physical performance without using much dialogue. There is a desire to sympathize with him, and although Charles is a strong character, Erik is the stronger, more developed character by far.
Though both Erik and Charles want a better world for mutants, their desired methods of achieving that goal evolve from two very different childhood experiences. And as the movie progresses, their views being to conflict.
McAvoy and Fassbender show the audience all this in believable performances. There is a sadness to this movie as the two friends start their battle for the future. The other characters grow along side Charles and Erik, none more then Raven Darkholme, aka Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence).
Raven is unique since her mutation has a physical component. Like most young women, she wants to fit in, but also longs to just be herself. She struggles with this throughout, and argues about it, mainly with Charles.
More then the rest of the mutants, she encompasses the personal struggle of acceptance, rather then the world. In many ways Raven also represents the struggle many teens and young adults encounter daily. Lawrence’s portrayal of Raven differs from the all out warrior of the original trilogy. She makes Raven timid, insecure, conflicted, loving, and eventually determined to be free.
The other characters are well thought out even if they don’t get much screen time. Even the kid actors have an impact, and not just because they are kids, because they are well written.
The Cuban Missile Crisis is the background on which the rest of the story is built. The writing is brilliant, mixing the anxiety, anger, confusion, self discovery, and humour into a true tour de force. Every main character is allowed to develop with a few exceptions.
The writing is comparable to X-Men Origins.
The supporting cast members are strong as well, which is unusual in these kind of movies. It shows the level of commitment and time the writers have put into this summer flick. However, there are some areas that are problematic.
The writers committed a great deal of time holding true to the original trilogy and Origins. But there are some continuity issues.
In this movie the split between Charles and Erik happens, and Charles loses the use of his legs. Yet in the third movie, Erik and Charles are friends at Rogue’s house, and Charles is walking. The same in Origins, he isn’t in a wheel chair. There are other issues, like its seemingly rushed ending, but in all it’s a very engaging movie.
X-men First Class is a well developed, all around good movie. It still has the curse of not enough time to truly create an impact with certain characters. There is so much to tell, and two hours isn’t enough time. But the main points come across very well.
It’s a very entertaining movie, regardless. And it can provoke thought, portrays the struggle between to friends turning to enemies, and the struggle with self acceptance.
Even if you aren’t a fan of the original X-Men movies or comics, this is a movie almost anyone can enjoy and identify with.