**SPOILERS** If you aren’t interested in certain details of the movie because you haven’t seen it yet, then please read no further. I absolutely hate having parts of a movie ruined for me, but unless I go into some detail, I can’t make my points. Read on, with caution.
I was skeptical of this movie from the get go, but early reviews looked good. So a few days before the weekend, I started to gear up for a fresh mutant experience. Unfortunately, as the movie played out I just couldn’t help but poking fun at the dumb stuff. If you read other reviews, you’ll see the movie praised for good acting and a bold, new take on the hero genre. All I could see were the glaring problems. Here they are.
1. January Jones is bad and Emma Frost is stupid.
If you’ve seen AMC’s hit television series Mad Men and paid attention to Don Draper’s wife Betty, this next part will make total sense. It’s almost as if in X-men: First Class, you get more Betty Draper with less (much less) clothing. She’s the same stone-cold persona as in the TV show and her costumes are so silly that you just can’t take her seriously. In the comics, Emma Frost is almost always depicted wearing the skimpiest white outfits, but in the movie something doesn’t quite click and what you get is either a woman in her underwear or a laughably huge ushanka. Again, not a costume, but inappropriate or plain dumb clothes. And dang it, she’s just too skinny – it’s a bit awkward to look at.
Next, her power is lame. She’s a telepath (like Charles Xavier) AND she has the ability to turn her body into diamond. She can be seen cutting glass with the tip of her finger. This diamond form also allows her immunity from Xavier’s own telepathic power. So far so good. Then, in a confrontation, Magneto is able to subdue her by causing a metal bed frame to tighten around her neck and arms. You visibly see her protective, diamond shell (where the metal is squeezing her) start to crack. Considering diamond is one of the hardest materials on earth and a toddler can bend brass baseboards with his bare hands it seems unlikely that Magneto’s weak-sauce death grip would work. But it does. Then she seems to fully comply with the heroes instead of resorting to her more powerful technique…the telepathy. Can she be any more lame?
2. There are some terrible one-liners.
One liners are supposed to make you think a character is tough, or cool, or romantic, or funny. For example, in Die Hard when John McClane throws one of the terrorists out of a window of Nakatomi Towers onto a police cruiser to get the attention of Sgt R. Powell McClane shouts out, “welcome to the party, Pal!” This line makes you laugh because it’s funny and also makes your insides do a fist pump, because John has finally caught a break in alerting the outside world that terrorists are in the building. The one liner fits the scene perfectly. But a one-liner can easily come across too cheesy or just be in the wrong spot. So in X-men one extremely distraught bar patron (who is about to be shot) frantically asks Magneto, ‘who are you?!’ The line he gets in return? “Let’s say I’m Frankenstien’s monster…I’m looking for my creator!” Baaaaaarf. Cmon man! Or how about this. Mystique comes on to Magneto who is clearly older than her, and he brushes her off indicating that she’s much too young for him. And besides, he doesn’t like that she disguises herself as a normal human. He prefers her in her true, blue form. Then I guess he changes his mind and he swoops down on the bed next to her and says, “have you ever seen a tiger, and wanted to cover it up?” If you have the mind of a Jr. High boy, you totally went there and are now giggling. But besides the hilariously unintended double entendre, it’s just about the least romantic thing I could picture Magneto saying immediately after saying Mystique was too young for him. I think if they were simply having a serious conversation where he was trying to convince her of her natural beauty, it would’ve been fine, but as a romantic gesture? Bad.
Now normally I would excuse this kind of poorly placed one liner but the previous X-men movies were so terrible about this that I was hyper sensitive.
Do you know what happens to a toad that gets struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else!” *zap* -Storm (who is really stupid)
I wanted it to change, to not have lame one-liners, to set it apart from what’s come before, but my hatered for some of the stuff in those movies came rushing back in with the bad one-liners in First Class.
3. Trying to explain something campy, only makes it worse.
So, where did those mutants come up with their nicknames? And why do they wear those goofy suits? If you pay attention to Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman you’ll notice that in order to have perfectly acceptable reasons for oddities in the movie you have to build on a foundation of perfectly acceptable scenarios. Pretty soon you’ve got an entire ecosystem that must remain perfectly acceptable or things start to come apart. This works for batman because he’s not supposed to have powers and as long as you reinterpret villains so they don’t have powers either, you can carry on with the silliness of a man dressing in an armored bat suit. The X-men movies require you to be OK with weird powers, supernatural abilities, and mutant deformities. The whole thing can be a little cheesy but you mostly ignore it because, hey, it’s a super hero movie and you expect it. You suspend belief. But then they go and try to reasonably explain something cheesy (like their nicknames) when the audience has already agreed to the movie’s ridiculous terms and accepted a scenario where a man manipulate metal using his mind.
So what’s the big deal? Well, I never really thought about how silly their nicknames were until the movie had a scene where the young mutants decided to start giving each other nicknames. “Hey I’ve decided to call myself Angel…oh and you should be called Magneto!” What begins as a silly thing that you’ve been ignoring all along is thrown into the spotlight and you think…yeah that’s IS dumb. Real dumb. Just let the weird be weird – it’s far too awkward to explore how these young adults decided to create and continue to call themselves these silly names for the rest of their adult lives. (or that their costumes are somehow related to their powers or protection – can’t they just have funny outfits because comics are funny like that?)
4. Mutant show-and-tell is lame.
Think about in X2 when you are introduced to a young Colossus. The school is being raided by some para-military operatives and in order to shield himself and the younger students from being shot by tranquilizers, Colossus takes on his metal form that deflects the oncoming fire. Note how his mutant ability was revealed in a situation that had to use it for survival. Or think all the way back when we were first introduced to Rogue. She’s going for her first kiss and almost kills the boy that touches her. She freaks out! Her mutant power of absorbing the life of anyone who comes into contact with her is revealed in a normal life circumstance where the power would prove problematic. These are both great ways to introduce the subtle and not so subtle ways that the mutants have to live with and utilize their mutations. But for some reason we get these scenes that are nothing more than mutant show-and-tell. It’s always lame. In X3 (the worst of all) Magneto is rallying new mutants to his cause. He enters and abandoned cathedral and just starts asking these mutants what their powers are. They take turns showing him what they can do. He’s flippin Magneto! He’s one of the most powerful and dangerous mutants alive! Magneto doesn’t go around asking mutants to show them his power – it made him look desperate and goofy. I hated it.
Enter First Class and the same stinking scenario plays out. All the new recruits are just sitting around in a room and they decide to take turns showing their powers. One by one, they go. Something gets destroyed, they all laugh, and the next in the queue repeats. It was so uninteresting I think I actually looked at my phone to see what time it was. Do you understand how showing the powers like that robs the characters of development, or background, or narrative? You won’t care about any of them because in the movie they have no story. They are just a power to deal with or deal out.
5. Odd and ends.
There are a few more weird things that don’t really fit a category. For instance, Charles Xavier is a telepath. His power is completely executed in his mind. So why, then, does the movie insist that Charles put his finger to his temple to indicate that he’s using his power. Patrick Stewart never did that.
The original first class of X-men in the 1963 Comic was Cyclopse, Jean Gray, Angel, Beast, and Iceman. Because the movie wasn’t supposed to be a reboot, but supplement the other movies already in existence, the only true ‘first class’ character they could fit in was Beast. I’m not a slave to the source material, but they didn’t have to be a slave to the other movies. Nobody would’ve cared. A few more well-known mutants would’ve been appreciated.
6. The movie ended short.
Yes, the biggest reason that I couldn’t enjoy the movie is that with only maybe 15 minutes left the movie screen went blank. They cried technical difficulty and said they’d fix it in about 5 min. Then they came back with only an apology and a free pass to another showing of any movie. Great. The problem is that I couldn’t (and still can’t) see myself sitting through all of it again just to see the final 15 minutes. I really want to like this movie and I’ll give it another shot but not until its on DVD. I’m going to use my free pass to see Super 8.