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My Thoughts (Dull) And Your Thoughts (???) On "X-Men: First Class"

by Tambay A. Obenson
June 5, 2011 10:18 AM
17 Comments
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I really don’t quite get why this film has been praised so heavily by critics. It currently enjoys an 87% Fresh rating on movie aggregator site RottenTomatoes.com, with 149 out of 172 critics giving it a thumbs up. Seriously, why? Sometimes I feel like I must be living in a bubble or something, because my reaction to many recent studio films has been mostly apathy; in some cases, repulsion even.

I'm clearly in the minority when it comes to X-Men: First Class because I thought it was laughable, and definitely one of the worst in the X-Men franchise thus far.

The writing was weak; the acting more uneven than not (save for the two main leads in Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy); I just didn't buy Kevin Bacon as a menace, although I won't say it's entirely due to his ability, as it was just a poor casting choice, and direction; January Jones as the most boring Emma Frost ever, pretty much plays the same character she plays in Mad Men, except she has superhero powers here. And the rest of the cast is mostly forgettable, unfortunately.

What the hell was the point in having Edi Gathegi's character in this at all? He does absolutely nothing, barely gets to show his powers, even though, quite frankly, his character, Darwin's abilities are really some of the more interesting of the group, and worth exploring on film; his body automatically adapts to any situation or environment he is placed in, allowing him to survive possibly anything. He can even transform into pure energy, which makes his quick, and rather easy exit puzzling to me! His death didn't really bring about anything of significance, so why kill him off?

I suppose the argument could be made that his murder at the hands of Kevin Bacon's Sebastian Shaw was the motivation for the rest of the team to launch into action and avenge him? Meh... I think they already had enough reason, without Darwin having to die.

Ultimately, it's very much Xavier and Magneto's story - the beginnings of their relationship, and eventual ideological and physical separation. And, as I already suggested, Fassbender and McAvoy, both revered thespians, do their best with the material they are presented with.

There were a few what I’d consider “cool” special effects sequences scattered about, unexpected cameos that made me smile, and even a funny line of dialogue or two; but, much of it felt really hokey to me; the special effects not always as impressive as they needed to be; a 2nd rate production that lacked much oomph, and, as I said, easily one of the worst in the franchise, with X-Men: The Last Stand and the Wolverine origin story, both competing for the title.

The repeated speeches about accepting their differences, and being comfortable with who they are, started to wear thin, and I had to roll my eyes the 50th time the words were spoken, or the sentiment expressed. It felt more like a Disney channel special. So, maybe I wasn't in the film's target audience.

I was really unimpressed with the material, and just don’t get why it’s rated so damn highly with both critics and audiences.

What did I miss folks? Help me out here...

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17 Comments

  • VichusSmith | June 7, 2011 12:00 PMReply

    Emma Frost always looks like she did in this movie, whether it's the 60s or now.

    I don't think anyone missed the sexist tone of the film, and I don't think it was hidden. By the end, you have a CIA guy saying McTaggert doesn't deserve to be an agent because she's a woman

  • Craig | June 7, 2011 2:06 AMReply

    I agree this film was an ok summer movie but it wasn't the X-Men. And while Fassbender was great I couldn't stand James McAvoy! Hopefully one day they'll actually make an X-Men movie, about the X-Men, and honor the source material.

  • mrmaiko | June 6, 2011 9:07 AMReply

    I think they made the only two roles portrayed by black actors/actresses in the movie look totally retarded. I'm pissed about Darwin dying so easily when he had the coolest power out of all the young mutants, and I'm also pissed that Angel (Zoe Kravitz) headed on over to the dark side like for nothing.

    And REALLY? Did she have to be a stripper too?

  • Jasher Scott | June 6, 2011 8:22 AMReply

    Good points, VichusSMith -- when I talked about Moira and Emma, I meant that their comic personalities should have at least carried over a bit to the movie. Emma does have a British accent, but she's also got a sharp tongue and a slick mouth -- two personality traits I didn't see in her movie character at all. (I recall an interview somewhere where both Byrne and Jones joined the movie only after hearing McAvoy was playing a lead...I'll have to find that.)

    And Beast! I tried to block out that bad prosthetic lip that made it so he could barely talk post-transformation. I think the original five Xavier Institute students (Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman, Marvel Girl) should've had the parts in this movie, not Banshee, Havok (before Cyclops?), Beast and Mystique. At least let's see a young, idealistic Cyclops instead of the sad sack wet blanket we were presented with in the first three X-films.

  • cj | June 6, 2011 5:30 AMReply

    Hey Tambay,

    Did you notice the overt sexism toward women throughout the film.

    C.I.A. agent dressing down to lingerie to join women in club.

    Emma Frost was pretty much a prostitute even though she possessed one of the strongest powers.

    Angel stating that she would rather have men see her naked then look at her with disgust because she was a mutant.

    Professor Xavier being this wise mutant but cant seem to respect mystique and appreciate her for who she is, but instead preferred her as a hot blonde.

    C.I.A. agent making the statement that's why we don't let women in the C.I.A.

  • incredible dope | June 6, 2011 4:28 AMReply

    There was more "good" than "bad" with this movie and that's also in comparison to the absolute fuckery that we call X3-The Last Stand.
    Casting choices were pretty spot on in my opinion, but I think we all can agree that it was more a question of why certain mutants were in this film anyway (Angel, Darwin, Havok, etc)

    Kevin Bacon was only "ok" in his portrayal of Sebastion Shaw, January Jones as Emma Frost also was only "ok", but the film wasn't really about her, she just needed to be there as the plot deems her to be, but neither performers ruined the filmed for me.

    As far as Darwin dying...c'mon let's not kid ourselves here. The one black man you have in this picture who has a mutant power to adapt and SURVIVE anything dies...still didn't ruin the movie for me, but poor cliche foolishness non the less (honestly writers need to check themselves on shit like this)

    The cast as a whole are not as you say unforgettable, in fact this movie had the most character development of any X-Men movie that's been made so far, seeing how the previous franchise only care to focus on Wolverine (who's a one trick pony if you don't write him correctly)

    If you flat out didn't like the movie, then so be it, but everything that's mentioned in the critique is heavily off base. It's like not liking The Dark Knight because you don't buy into the fact that someone in clown make up can terrorize an entire city (And don't get you started on The Batman), the rules of this universe in which the movie takes place in are just what they are.

    The principles of being accepted in society vs being a social separatist movement is what the X-Men are based upon which was allegory for the civil rights moments of the 60's and still relevant today.

    A lot people who really enjoyed this movie are fans and readers of the comic and we are so glad that a decent job was done (albeit some of the choices of mutants, why not just do the classic first 5?), granted you shouldn't have to be a reader of the comic to enjoy the film, but damn.... the movie does stand on it's own.

    Was it flawless? Hell, no...they'll never make a perfect X-Men movie. Byran Singer who produced the movie is way to selfless for that. Okay, maybe the could've gotten a better choice for Sebastian Shaw, but Kevin Bacon isn't a complete hack, but they got the Xavier and Magneto right, right?

  • Kevin | June 6, 2011 4:27 AMReply

    The best part about Darwin's death is that he might not actually be dead.

  • Jason L | June 6, 2011 3:54 AMReply

    No you aren't alone. Though I have to wonder too. So many characters' decisions and actions seem so forced just to push the plot forward. Especially the opening with kid-Magneto.
    So many characters ruined:
    Moira - lame C.I.A. love interest
    Azazel - evil Nightcrawler thrown in because Singer loves his power.
    Angel - nonsensical heel turn simply to force a flying fight scene.
    Emma - Little more than eye candy and goes from power player, to Shaw's bitch.
    Darwin - barely there "victim" to make us hate the enemy.

    It's a good movie, it's just not a good X-Men movie. The people raving about this film couldn't give a shit less what or who the movie was about. They just wanted a stale plot peppered with crazy visuals for the summer.

  • jessie's girl | June 6, 2011 3:39 AMReply

    I agree with everything about Darwin. It just made no sense to have him in there. He has some of the most interesting powers and, race aside, his powers are worth exploring and expanding in the next two films (assuming this is the usual trilogy). I already knew from internet chatter that this wouldn't follow comic book continuity so I pretty much threw that out the window beforehand. But as my comic book geek brother pointed out don't call it "Origins" if you're going to completely ignore the continuity, duh! The two leads were excellent. I have a serious crush on Fasbender now :) But overall, poor story, ok effects, my 6 year old niece was happy so it wasn't a total waste of time I guess. I'm still pissed about the Darwin scene more than anything. And of course he had to die trying to save the sista so it's her fault ;) jk

  • Whitney | June 6, 2011 3:21 AMReply

    Didn't particularly like it. The effects looked cheap, and I thought several people were miscast. MacTaggert and Emma Frost appeared to both just be cast as "of the moment" actresses who didn't really bring anything to their parts.

    Loved McAvoy and Fassbender, though.

  • Vanessa | June 6, 2011 2:01 AMReply

    *I meant siding w/ Sebastian*

    I wanted to add that I did like Kevin Bacon. Ditto on everything else for the most part Tambay.

  • VichusSMith | June 6, 2011 1:49 AMReply

    Jasher, you would be surprised how few people know that Emma Frost has a British accent. I only learned of it very recently.

    Also, the general public really does not care about comic continuity. They are not reading the comics. It may matter to you, but for people who have only watched the films, McTaggert's background matters little.

    I disagree that something like accents are what makes these characters. Especially in the case of Emma, who really doesn't need a British accent.

    May i point out that you have zero problems with Beast being the only true original X-man to make it to the movie, while other X-men stood in for the actual ones. So does change mean bad things for this film, or not?

  • Vanessa | June 6, 2011 1:45 AMReply

    The performances by Fassbender and MaCavoy elevated the film a great deal. I was really ticked off by the death of the black mutant. He had one of the most interesting powers.

    There were many cheesy moments. I didn't get why Magneto didn't kill Emma Frost and Angel at the end since they sided with evil Erik.

  • Jasher Scott | June 5, 2011 12:58 PMReply

    Heh, I was waiting for the S&A review on this movie, and I've gotta agree with Tambay -- I was extremely underwhelmed by the movie (especially given the hype behind it).

    While the X-Men movie franchise has been going down the crapper, I doubt this movie did much except circle the bowl in terms of expectations and profits. I know the movies kinda play fast and loose with the X-men canon, but I was surprised by how much, especially with casting and characterization.

    In the comics, Moira MacTaggert is a Scottish geneticist, on par with Xavier. In the movie, she's some whiny CIA agent.

    In the comics, Emma Frost is a curvaceous British-accented socialite armed with witty one-liners. In the movie, she's a trophy blonde with a padded bra.

    I just couldn't get over those kinds of details because they're so much a part of who those characters are. Without that, they're just props.

    Casting-wise, I think Kevin Bacon was a bad choice for Sebastian Shaw (Julian McMahon would've been *much* better), but I think everyone else gave good performances, particularly Fassbender as Erik/Magneto. I was disappointed by how quickly the two characters of color (brown, not blue) were snuffed out or otherwise relegated to the background. Darwin's powers could've proved an interesting counterpart to Shaw's kinetic energy absorption if he hadn't just vanished off the screen in a white flash. I expected more out of Angel Salvadore (played by Zoe Kravitz), but...eh, I don't know. It didn't seem like she fit in the plot except to as an enemy flier to counter Banshee as VichusSMith noted.

    Overall, the movie was just OK for me, and Fassbender really really sells it as Magneto. His performance alone is worth a repeat viewing for me.

  • Brian | June 5, 2011 11:16 AMReply

    I think the two great performances by McAvoy and Fassbender make-up for the flaws in the movie and thats probably why most people are raving about it. Honestly, I loved the movie and I would have loved it more if it was just about professor X and Magneto.

  • Mark | June 5, 2011 10:42 AMReply

    VichuSMith,

    Angel is also black. She's portrayed by Zoe Kravitz, the daughter of Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz.

  • VichusSMith | June 5, 2011 10:38 AMReply

    (I really wish I knew what was crashing my firefox on this site)

    County me amongst the people who really liked it, even after thinking about it two days after seeing it.

    I think that the overall criticism I have is that the writing is unpolished. Since this film was rushed into creation, I can forgive that, at least somewhat.

    Fasbender is dynamite, with James McAvoy holding his own as well.

    A lot of the chatter over the internet involves poor, poor Darwin, who, um, I guess disproves Darwin's Evolution of Species? As someone who knows that the character is basically the most un-killable character in the ENTIRE Marvel Universe, the death (allegedly- no body no real death) was stunning. Add to that the fact that he's literally the only black character in the whole film, and it leaves a bad taste.

    Now onto Angel. Like Darwin, she was plucked from another, later point in the X-men stories to just be used. Her purpose was to make a weak heel turn so Banshee had someone equal to him to fight. Why he couldn't fight tornado dude (Riptide, another anachronism) is beyond me.

    Anyway, I really liked it, and I feel absolutely no shame for it. Unlike X3 and Spider-man 3, which I both forgive, I feel this film is fun, interesting and had some great casting.

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