X-Men: First Class–A Second-Class Film (Orion’s Take 2/5)
This movie review is late. Part of the reason for that is the sheer disbelief I felt when leaving the movie theater after the credits—I needed time to process my horror over the destruction of a beloved brand. Perhaps I exaggerate: after all, the lead characters did their job admirably. I just cannot comprehend why the producers of this film thought it a good idea to return to the era of kitschy, campy, superhero movies, when The Dark Knight proved to anyone with a brain that superhero movies could be done seriously, and done right.
As noted above, the rapport between James McAvoy as Xavier and Michael Fassbender as Magneto is quite electrifying. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t give them enough room to grow: though it’s clear that the two characters respect each other (Xavier and Magneto go as far as to call each other “brother”), there is no real interaction between the two that explains this connection. Sure, the two play some chess, and talk about the nature of revenge, and of mutant rights—but that makes up maybe 10 minutes of a two-hour film. There simply isn’t enough material to go around.
Thus, despite excellent performances by both McAvoy and Fassbender, the relationship seems stilted somehow, strangely misplaced. This is all the more problematic because the two characters share an extremely complicated relationship in the other films and in X-Men canon. Magneto is no simple villain, and Xavier is no simple hero, but without a lack of development at the end of the film these are the positions each character holds.
And if that weren’t bad enough, the rest of the cast is at best lackluster. I don’t blame them. Playing such second-rate mutants as “Banshee” or “Angel” can’t have been exciting. The only characters the casual fan will recognize are Beast, Mystique, and maybe Havok. I don’t understand why these were the X-Men chosen to make up the “first class” of X-Men—obviously the movie doesn’t stick that closely to canon (everyone knows that the real reason Xavier is in a wheelchair is because of Lucifer, an obscure villain), but why use random X-Men nobody has heard of? Also, the first few X-Men also run into the same problem as Xavier and Magneto, getting so little screen-time that when one character is removed from action, the audience doesn’t feel a thing.
My feelings are captured in the last scene of the movie. Erik Lehnsherr has put on the mantle of Magneto. His cape is red. He’s wearing gloves. I’m excited for this moment, the beginning of the next chapter, the unveiling of one of the best comic book villains ever. And then the camera cuts to Magneto’s face. The helmet, which was cool before in silver, is now spray-painted a gaudy red. There are two horns on the front. He looks and obviously feels ridiculous, but he takes a deep breath and delivers a line that makes me smile in embarrassment.
See also: Apple’s Review (4/5)