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Monday, June 06, 2011

X-Men: First Class (spoilers)

So my review of X-Men: First Class was going to go something like, Michael Fassbender is threatening people in French/threatening people in German/threatening people in English/wearing a black turtleneck/wearing a wetsuit/wearing a Panama hat/wearing sweatpants where you can totally see his junk/wearing the classic X-costume/holding a gun/saying "Kinky!"/crying a single tear/wearing the Magneto helmet ALL MY DREAMS HAVE COME TRUE.

But that's not real interesting, is it? Nah. So. I am going to disagree with Rob Bricken right off the bat and say that I thought January Jones did a good job as Emma Frost. Please note that Emma is my favorite Marvel character and I was quite excited to hear that she was finally going to be on the big screen, and I was pretty pleased from the get-go with Jones' casting. She certainly looks the part to a tee, and I can easily imagine her really bringing Frost into her own in a second film (I hear the maker have the cast signed on, so if this first go does well, I'm hoping for more). Yes, Emma has no business being in a film about the "first class" of Professor X, but the continuity of the X-Men film 'verse is so jacked up that it's hard to care anymore. Yes, there is something a touch unbelievable about the White Queen getting Sebastian Shaw (and oh my Jesus could Kevin Bacon BE more pimp?? Velvet suit, lines in German, the command for some alone time with his nuclear reactor...) more ice for his drink--but on the other hand, Emma Frost is a fucking subtle bitch and I thought it was pretty clear that she was playing everyone around her and biding her time. That she got as much screen time, as many lines, and as many demonstrations of her powers as she did, I was impressed with, because frankly, this film belongs to Erik and Charles.

And that is not a bad thing, either. The "first class" of the title is present, of course, and none of them do a bad job (Lawrence and Hoult are particularly good as Mystique and Beast), but really the people getting their learn on are Erik and Charles. Their relationship was very well developed, realistic, and moving. Magneto was not always a large-as-life-and-twice-as-evil villain and Professor X wasn't always a benevolent god. In fact, X is kind of a dick (portrayed excellently by McAvoy) and Magneto loves his momma (see notes on Fassbender above). This Xavier doesn't have all the answers, and this Lensherr is far less calculating and far more spitfire than the villain he will become...but it's easy to see exactly where both are headed.

The film has issues, of course: the black man (Armando Munoz/Darwin) is the first to die, one ethnic character ("Angel" Salvadore) goes evil at the drop of a pimp hat, and the other (Riptide) does not have a single line. The X-Men are notable for being pretty groundbreaking in terms of race and gender inclusivity--hell, the entire conceit is steeped in the language and pursuits of the Other. It is too bad that this film didn't cash in on the wealth of diverse characters in the X universe.

Overall, X-Men: First Class is another entry into the summer's canon of well-made action films: solid acting all around (excellent on the parts of McAvoy, Lawrence, Hoult, Bacon, and Fassbender), hat-tipping to fans while still being welcoming to newcomers, good CGI and interesting settings. It's definitely shaping up to be Marvel's season; hopefully Captain America delivers as much as Thor and X-Men have.

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