X-Men has always been one of my favorite comics. These were the comics that got me hooked on comics. They were like a gateway drug leading me to harder comics (like Sandman) and more addictive comics (like Batman)—but X-Men will always be my first love. First, it was the animated series. Then, the comics cemented our torrid love affair, so when I heard about the upcoming movies, naturally I was very excited.
I thought the first movie was epic! I was surprised to hear people say that the first movie wasn’t very popular and didn’t make enough money, and I was worried that there would be no sequel, but by God, there was a sequel and it was awesome! There were some problems just like in the first movie, but overall it was amazing. I waited with baited breath for the third movie…. No one told me! I didn’t know!
Marvel has a pattern when it comes to movies. They either start out crappy and get really awesome (see: Hulk), or they start out really awesome and let it go to their head, get too ambitious, and start to suck (see: Spiderman). Now X-Men 3 wasn’t bad; it was pretty good, but by the third movie you sort of get annoyed that every movie is about Wolverine and certain characters, like Rogue, and never really reflect their awesome comic book counterparts. The main problem with X-Men 3 is that it did too much at once. Mixing the cure and Magneto, Dark Phoenix, and government politics was just too much. Plus, making Cyclops emo and then killing him was a big no-no. But despite this, the movie was entertaining and Hugh Jackman was shirtless, which is always a plus.
Then there was the Wolverine movie…. I don’t even want to talk about this one. It’s too upsetting. Let’s just say they ruined one of my favorite characters (Gambit) and I still think criminal charges should be pressed for what they did to Deadpool.
Anyway, so this was Marvel’s fail in terms of the X-Men movies, and usually when Marvel fails pretty epically they do a better job the next time around, so I was excited for X-Men: First Class. Besides, the relationship between Professor X and Magneto may be my favorite in comic book history! I mean, they basically act like an old married couple.
This movie was… it’s difficult to say. That wave of epic awesome and fail played throughout the whole movie, making certain things epic and others… not so much.
The characters of Magneto and Professor X, the two most important characters, are for the most part, portrayed really well. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender really become the characters to the point where you forget they are playing fictional people. You really become attached to both of them, but at the same time they never really fit together. I mean, they never act like they have been friends their whole life. In fact, that immediate connection you expect to see between Professor X and Magneto never really happens. Now don’t get me wrong, they are friendly, they seem comfortable with each other, but you never get a “best friends” vibe from them.
Then there is Mystique, who is played by Jennifer Lawrence. I may have to invent some sort of Lady Geek Girl and Friends Awesomeness award just for how Mystique is portrayed in this movie. She’s perfect. She’s interesting and well developed. Her character is constantly dealing with her appearance in a beauty-driven world. She’s one of the more three-dimensional characters in the movie. I’d go so far as to say that she outshines both Professor X and Magneto in their own movie. Furthermore, it’s thanks to her and another character, Angel, that we finally get a movie that passes the Bechdel Test. What is this test you ask? Well, it’s about how women are portrayed in movies. In order to pass the test, all a movie needs is three simple things.
- Two women with names
- They must have a conversation
- And it must be about something other than a man or men
Three simple requirements, and almost no one passes. Way to go, Hollywood!
Mystique’s character also makes you hate almost every male character in the movie. Not because of anything she does, but almost everyone with male anatomy treats her terribly throughout the movie. First, there is her relationship with Beast, which is weirdly romantic. I’m not certain, but I’m pretty sure that relationship never happens in the comics. I guess I shouldn’t complain, though. The X-Men movies are notorious for changing ages and sexual partners (Iceman and Kitty! What?). All things considered, this relationship wasn’t that bad. There is a reason that they hook up other than both being blue, but in the end Mystique decides that she likes the way she looks. Beast responds by rudely telling her that it doesn’t matter what she thinks because society will never find her attractive. He even goes so far as to tell her he only likes her when she’s blonde and well… not blue. He gets what’s coming to him, though, by ending up looking blue and furry. Ha! Take that, standardized notions of beauty!
Mystique’s relationship with Magneto is also weird because he barely talks to her or acknowledges that she’s there, except when he tells her to be herself. There is some sexual tension in their interactions, but that relies heavily on the audience knowing that they hook up in the other X-Men movies. Then after no build up—they have sex. Why? Their relationship has no build up, which is a shame because it really could have been awesome.
Mystique, in the movie, is Professor X’s adopted sister. And their relationship is really awesome for the most part, but Professor X does the same thing as Beast. He gets really down on Mystique about how she looks and pushes her to disguise herself. This is not at all like the Professor X of the comics, and each time he was really out of character was when he was around Mystique. Another majorly out-of-character moment was at the very end when Professor X just tells Mystique to go with Magneto. Yes, he sends a whole team after Rogue and does everything in his power to convince Wolverine to stay, but his own sister? It’s no big deal if she joins with terrorists. Ugh!
Speaking of terrorists, let’s talk about villains. There were a lot of them in this movie, so I’ll try to move quickly.
First, there is the main movie villain, Shaw, played by all-star Kevin Bacon. Though I find Kevin Bacon amusing, I usually always see him as, well, Kevin Bacon. He has become the type of actor that plays himself because that’s what he’s famous for, but in this movie that was not the case. Kevin Bacon was Sebastian Shaw, leader of the notorious Hellfire Club. He was every bit as evil and cunning, and his powers were portrayed to perfection. His timeline compared to that of the comics is a little screwed up, but then whose isn’t in the X-Men movies anymore?
Despite Shaw being the main big bad guy in this film, I confess that I didn’t care much about him. Not because he wasn’t interesting. He was, but probably the most famous member of the Hellfire Club is the beautiful and deadly Emma Frost. She is a powerful telepath, can make her skin diamond hard, and in the later comics, even shows signs of developing telekinesis. She is extremely intelligent, has acquired multiple degrees, most notably ones in science and business. She started Frost Industries, a multinational conglomerate that rivals Stark and Worthington Industries. And this doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the things Emma Frost has done and is capable of. So does the movie portray her as the multifaceted woman that she is?
No, she is sparkly, pretty, and uses her sexuality to get what she wants. Which are all things Emma Frost does, but really only a small part compared to everything else. Even in the sixties, when women were not treated fairly, nobody in the Hellfire Club messed with Emma Frost. The most disappointing moment in the movie is when Emma gets ice for Shaw’s drink. Emma would have never been so demeaned by Shaw. Sure, he had his fancy telepath-blocking helmet, but he doesn’t wear it all the time. Insulting Emma is the surest way to make her plant a nightmare so deep in your brain that you never wake up from it. Yet in the movie she is reduced to eye candy that fetches drinks for the supposedly cooler villains. She even wears less clothing in this movie than she does in the comics. Great job, movie….
Riptide and Azazel are two other henchmen working with Shaw and neither talk nor have any sort of a part. To be fair, both are very minor characters anyway, but there is one major problem here. People who know nothing of the comics wouldn’t notice, but those of us who know that Azazel and Mystique are Nightcrawler’s parents were waiting for something to happen between the two of them, but nothing does. To be fair to the movie, though, other than both being blue, there is no indication in the second movie from Mystique that Nightcrawler is her son. On the other hand, there is no indication of any familial bond between her and Professor X either, so this could just be one of the many continuity errors.
And Lord, are there continuity errors. There is so much in this movie that doesn’t add up with the other X-Men movies that it deserves a Top 10 list. So here we go.
10. In the third X-Men movie, Moira MacTaggert is a doctor (the same as in the comics), but in this movie she is an FBI agent. That must have been a dramatic career change at some point in her life.
9. Alex Summers, aka Havoc, is Cyclop’s younger brother. There is no mention of Cyclops, and Alex would be way older than him if the continuity in the Wolverine movie is to be believed.
8. Also in the Wolverine movie, Emma Frost appears as a teenager around the same age as Cyclops (unless there is someone else who is a telepath that can turn her skin to diamonds), but in this movie she is a full-grown adult back in the sixties.
7. In the first X-Men movie, Xavier states that both he and Magneto built Cerebro. In First Class, Beast builds Cerebro.
6. Because Magneto helped build Cerebro he was able to make his helmet to stop Professor X from reading his mind in the first X-Men movie. In First Class, he just takes it from Shaw and paints it magenta.
5. No relationship between Mystique, Professor X, and Beast is ever brought up or addressed.
4. In the second X-Men movie, Beast has a cameo on TV where he isn’t blue, but in First Class he becomes blue right away.
3. Storm’s cameo in First Class, though clearly fan service, would also make her about fifty years old in X-Men 1, 2, and 3.
2. Professor X and Magneto were still friends and working together at the beginning of X-Men 3. In First Class they split at the end of the movie.
1. Professor X is paralyzed at the end of First Class even though in the beginning of X-Men 3 and at the end of the Wolverine movie he could walk.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s move on to the lesser known heroes of our movie, Havok, Angel, Beast, Banshee, Moira, and Darwin.
Most of these characters aren’t that well developed. You get glimpses of their personalities, which is nice, but like in the other X-Men movies, certain characters aren’t developed as well in favor of spending more time with some of the more major characters.
Other than being kind of an ass to Mystique, Beast is his usual nerdy awesome self with the added problem of being really insecure about his big feet. For some reason, he only has big feet. In the comics, he was a really large guy with big hands and feet. This is what made him awesome. He looked like someone who would be a pro-wrestler, but ended up being the science nerd. Beast’s character is interesting but lacks something… he doesn’t seem as elegant and sophisticated as he does in the comics or the later movies. To be fair, he is only a teenager, but on the other hand, Beast was like that as a teenager in the comics.
Moira, who could potentially be an interesting character struggling to make it in a male-driven profession fades quickly into the background by the middle of the movie. The movie starts with her seeming to be the second female lead after Mystique, but that is sadly not the case. I have heard rumors that she had a larger story arc that was cut from the movie, which is a shame because I was really interested in her. Hopefully, there will be a ton of deleted scenes with her on the DVD.
Havok, Angel, Darwin, and Banshee are all characters of which you get a little taste of their personalities, but never enough to really get to know them. Havok and Angel, you can tell have tortured pasts, while Banshee seems more wise-cracking, and Darwin just comes off as an overall nice guy. The movie does make you interested and care about them, but it never really develops them.
However, the two biggest controversies in this movie, in my opinion, come from the treatment of Darwin, Angel, and the female characters in general.
When Shaw and his bad guys break into the government facility in order to recruit the X-Men to his cause, an obvious fight breaks out, but not before Angel decides to join Shaw. Angel and Darwin were the only two characters that were of different nationalities from white European. Angel joins the bad guys with very little persuasion from Shaw, I might add. Not too long after Darwin and Havok come up with a plan to attack Shaw and get Angel back, Havok blasts Shaw with his energy and Darwin grabs Angel. Shaw absorbs the energy, and instead blasting it back at Havok for attacking him, he grabs Angel back, and kills Darwin.
This makes no sense. Darwin is one of the most powerful X-Men, he can adapt instantly to any situation. He actually survives being thrown into space in the comics! Shaw essential feeds him a fireball and it somehow blows him up from the inside out, which makes no sense considering his powers.
But the biggest issue here isn’t the limits of Darwin’s powers; it’s a racism issue. The first main character to die is the black guy, who’s powers are severely misrepresented seemingly so they can kill him off. The first character to go evil is the Hispanic girl (who, by the way, seems to not care at all that her friend was just killed by her new boss). I’m sorry, isn’t this 2011? I thought we were beyond killing or making evil characters of different ethnicities.
Furthermore, there is some major sexism in this movie. I have already discussed the treatment of several of the main female characters, so I don’t feel the need to repeat myself, and some of the sexism is excusable. Moira being treated poorly by other agents in the FBI makes sense for the era this took place in, but the end of the movie is really the icing on the sexist cake. Every female character joins the bad guys. Emma Frost was a bad guy from the beginning, every viewer in the audience knew Mystique was going to join Magneto, and then Angel joins Shaw, making every female character evil. Furthermore, the fact that Darwin died and Angel still joined the villains effectively makes the remaining X-Men all white males…. What are you trying to say, movie? Again, this is 2011. The audience expects better than racial- and gender-based stereotypes. Marvel should remember that before making their next movie.
The end of X-Men: First Class is filled mostly with the continuity errors mentioned earlier. It almost seems like the writers and director thought they needed to wrap everything up immediately and quickly at the end. Because of the seemingly rushed ending, all the continuity errors occur. This movie really could have benefited from several sequels, allowing more detail for Magneto, Mystique, and even Angel going bad. I’m not sure why the writers and director felt the need to tie everything together at the end of this movie. In fact, having at least two more movies could have solved almost every problem in this movie.
Overall, this movie is enjoyable and entertaining. It’s definitely one of the best X-Men movies, but it has so many problems that many of the good things are overshadowed. If you can ignore the racism, sexism, and the many continuity errors, you will like this movie. I just try to treat the whole film like an alternate universe—it makes me feel better.
Brilliant article. You articulated with perfection everything that I felt during and after watching this film.
Thanks so much! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I had so many feelings about this movie they just needed to be shared.
Thanks for commenting!