This Is a Blog: Summer Comic Movie Update: X-Men: First Class

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Summer Comic Movie Update: X-Men: First Class

I'm convinced now that every comic book movie this summer is going to be varying levels of awful mixed with varying levels of enjoyable. To that end, I'm going see every, single one (that I want to see) and rank them. By virtue of being better than "Thor," the new X-Men is definitely the best movie of this summer.

#1 - X-Men: First Class
#2 - Thor

While it may be the best comic book movie since "The Dark Knight," I really wish I hadn't heard everyone call it that. I'd go as far as calling it the second best X-Men movie, falling well behind "X2." There was a lot of good stuff going on in there, but it falls into so many traps, I'm having a lot of trouble really loving it. It suffers from a lot of prequelitis (yes, that's inflamation of a prequel), it fails to maintain its own universe, and it makes leaps in logic we're supposed to be okay with because it's just a comic book movie.

Before I get into tearing it apart, I do want to lump a lot of praise in this film. X-Men has always been a universe that doesn't shy away from the big issues, and this movie follows suit. The characters are very well drawn, and they all embrace the world they inhabit, moral ambiguity and all. When Beast hands Mystique the mutant cure, it's as though the filmmakers are looking right in Brett Ratner's face and saying, "See, this is how you deftly handle a morally grey plot device." In stark contrast to "X3," which tried desperately to be a movie about something and failed, this new X-Men story effortlessly achieves a story with more depth than people expect in a summer blockbuster.

Unfortunately, it is a prequel; therefore, we must endure what have become tropes of every franchise prequel. Every single character that showed up in the original movies must show up or be somehow referenced. The guy sitting across the table can't just be Stryker, Charles must reference his son. Jennifer Lawrence morphs into Rebecca Romijn, and Hugh Jackman has his cutesy cameo. Every detail must have its place, from how much we're hit over the head with the damned helmet, to Xavier's cutesy reference to going bald after, that's right, we see the moment he becomes paralyzed.

You can't entirely blame this film for its prequelitis. This is what a prequel has to be now. It's as though we all saw the Star Wars prequels and simultaneously decided we despised them but every other prequel has to be as cutesy, tongue-in-cheek as they were. Thank you, again, George Lucas for ruining everything about everything.

I wish this movie could have existed as more of a reboot than a mere prequel. I wish Hugh Jackman hadn't shown up because at least then we could ignore all the inconsistencies with the first movies. I truly don't give a damn about comic book canon. I feel like the movies should be allowed to be their own stories, with their own independent universe, but when the movies can't even maintain their own universe, it's time to start over. I think the helmet stuff was cool, and would have been if this was a total restart, but in the first "X-Men" movie, Magneto shows up with the helmet, and it's as if Xavier had never seen it before. Charles never treated Mystique like his sister in the original movies. In "X3", Moira McTaggert was a doctor, not a former CIA agent. Overall, it seemed as though the original movies were mutants' coming out to the world, but now it would seem their existence had been known for 30 years. Most egregious is how Xavier and Magneto keep calling each other old friend, as though they were friends for more than the length of a Kevin Bacon scheme before they turned on each other.

If this movie existed without the others, it would have me pretty well drawn in. There were, however, some glaring (hilarious) leaps in logic. Xavier wants to use Cerebro to pull together a team of mutants to stop a team of highly trained bad guys. He can scan the entire planet, and he can only find a handful of immature twenty-somethings? (Oh also, way to kill off the black guy first. Original.) After a pretty awesome training montage, Mystique tells Beast they've managed to master their powers in just one week. She calls it out, just like that. This feels like a detail they should have tried to gloss over.

If you ask me, this movie would have been better served by drawing out the timeline. Kevin Bacon has been hatching this plan for years, so the movie should track alongside him. Xavier and Magneto should meet and decide together to train young mutants, with no government involvement and no intention of having them fight. We see them, over the course of years, form this little community where they learn to hone their powers and sing campfire songs. Then in tracking Shaw behind Charles's back, Magneto uncovers this huge plot and they have no choice but to take a bunch of kids into battle. Finally face to face with the forces against them, Charles and Erik realize just how differently they see the world, and it splits their little world in two. Then Erik can shoot Charles in the back, just for good measure.

So yes, very good movie. I enjoyed every minute of it, but it's not on par with "The Dark Knight." I really wish, again, I hadn't heard that before going to see it.

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