X-Men: First Class

The main thing I knew about this movie going in that it was slashy.  And hoh boy, was it ever.  Which made the attempts to shoehorn heterosexuality into Charles & Erik’s characters kind of annoying(okay, the whole Mystique thing was in the series already, but couldn’t it have waited those few more years?)  I’d also heard it was good, which it was.  I was also vaguely aware of continuity contradictions, but the only big ones I identified while watching only contradicted X3, which they probably figured most of the fans had disowned anyway. 😉 Well, except that Hank’s story follows more his X3 version than his X2 version…  But really, if they were more concerned with making a good movie than anything else, you can pretty much respect that.

What I didn’t know was how dark it was.  Obviously anything involving Erik’s early history was going to be ugly, and I think fans had pretty much assumed he was taken to Mengele’s lab in the movieverse after that gate-bending incident, and substituting the fictional villain for the historical figure doesn’t really change that much.  But the way the Americans and Soviets forget their differences to try to kill the main characters like that?  The way everything in the movie pretty much supports Magneto’s argument, and the only viable argument Charles is left with it “We’re better than them”?  Such a movie certainly wouldn’t have been made in 2000.  Maybe not even in 2003.  It’s only now that general faith in humanity has sunk this low.

The biggest problem with this is what it does with Charles.  Because he’s the kind of character you have to be careful with when it comes to ethics.  He shouldn’t be controlling people’s minds at the drop of a hat, definitely not as much as he does here, and his last action in the movie shouldn’t be wiping Moira’s memory in such a way that her prospects are left permanently damaged.  You can say he’s young and thoughtless, but even then there should be something in the movie to make clear he’s not doing right, and instead the audience gets the impression most of what he does is just fine.  Only with Raven/Mystique do you get a myopic feeling he needs to limit his powers, and his relationship with her is as well done as his relationship with Erik.

In fact, the relationships between all of the characters is probably this film’s best quality, if only as something I think the writers knew they had to nail.  After all, the fans might enjoy all the explosions and the mutant powers and the cameos of a young Ororo and an unaging James Howlett, but that’s not what we came here for.  We came here for the mythos come to life, for the backstory we knew already, and that backstory is the story of Charles and Erik.  As I said, this movie is slashy, so much so James McAvoy acknowledges it, which is largely because the writers recognized they couldn’t hold back; they had to develop this full blown bond between these two men that would rip their hearts apart when it was broken.  For the building of Cerebro and the development of the other older characters-as soon as Hank comes up with his cure you know he’s going to take it and just what it’s going to do to him, and the movie piles the pain on thick with a build-up during which the audience mentally begs Hank not to do it even though they know he will.

The audience in the theater I was in applauded at the end, and several of them sat through the whole credits.  This movie’s making an impact.  And after floundering for a bit, I think this franchise might be headed in the right direction.

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