Sunday, June 5, 2011

X-Men: First Class

I saw X-Men: First Class this weekend, and I think it may be the best of the x-films (it’s been awhile since I’ve seen the first and second though, so I can’t say for certain). It’s certainly the best since the second. Still, my primary reaction to the film is to wish it had done a bit more

(Which I suppose was similar to reaction to Thor, admittedly, though for different reasons. Neither rank as my favorite film of this spring--which was Hanna, for the record).

So for those unaware, First Class is a prequel to the earlier X-Men movies, mainly telling of the story of the rise and fall of the friendship betwixt Charles “Professor X” Xavier and Erik “Magneto” Lensherr. Much of the film is character set-up: Xavier living it up in college and being super-enthused about mutation, and Lensherr playing super-powered badass Nazi hunter as he goes after the sadistic doctor who first noticed his mutant power.

The main action of the film takes place in the sixties--specifically around the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Xavier and Lensherr must train a team of young mutants to take on Sebastian Shaw and his gang who’ve got a wonderfully mad science plan to touch off a nuclear war, spreading radiation to create more mutants, so then Shaw can rule in a post-apocalyptic mutant world.

Strangely for a film with a group of young mutants, it doesn’t attempt to tap any of the Twilight teen energy--which would have seemed a good way to go in a marketing sense (if not any other!). Instead it focuses on Xavier and Lensherr, yet all the doings don’t give us as much on the philosophical/personality differences (other than a facile "don't kill!" from Xavier) as I would have liked. Also, it largely kind of short-hands the development of their friendship. One can only do so much in one film with a lot of characters to introduce and a lot of set-up to do, but it would have been nice if the script had focused more on some drama stuff rather than exotic locales that don’t really feel particularly exotic.

And maybe its because I’ve recently been burning through 4 seasons of Madmen, but the sixties of the film doesn’t evoke the era much beyond the hippie Halloween costume sort of way. The Hellfire Club is cast as a swank Playboy Club-type night-spot, but what music do they have playing? “Palisades Park.” Now, why not something more apropos to the setting and the age of the people in attendance--and cooler--like maybe “Mister Kiss Kiss Bang Bang?”

Those complaints aside, the film did make me think about how the superhero genre could be combined with other genres in the rpg context. World War II is an easy one, but this film suggests how supers could be done with a splash of swinging spy-fi--or swinging spy-fi with a supers chaser like Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD. A grittier supers game could probably be done around super-powered Nazi hunters. Kim Newman’s alternate history short-story “Ubermensch!” might be instructive here , as well.


Lagomorph Rex said...

I think it sort of is the genesis of the abandoned "X-Men Origins: Magneto" that had gotten talked about back around the same time they started on Wolverine.

It's a shame the franchise took such a dip with X3 and Wolverine. But I'm glad they seem to have picked up with this one. It gives me some hope maybe the Wolverine Sequel (set in Japan, If it still gets made) and the Deadpool movie (I doubt this will ever see the light with Reynolds doing GL now) could really flesh out the X-Universe. It's a good idea for fox since they only have the X-men and Fantastic Four to play with.

The Angry Lurker said...

Hearing a lot of good things about this,thanks for that.

Needles said...

Any review that touches on “Mister Kiss Kiss Bang Bang?” is swinging in my book!

bliss_infinte said...

I saw it this weekend too and agree with much of what you said. I thought it was a great movie and hope they continue with these earlier stories. Though it mostly took place in the 60's, you are correct, it didn't quite capture that feeling like say MadMen. But I did like the 60's style submarine set. It reminded me of something from the Our Man Flint movies.

I think these Marvel movies are really being knocked out of the park. I'm really enjoying what they're doing with them and where they're going.

good times ahead!

Trey said...

@Lagomorph - I think you're right about the genesis of this film as the aborted Magneto movie.

In regard to a Deadpool film, I certainly can't say I'll miss it if it doesn't happen.

Unknown said...

This one is high on my list even though I still feel burned over X3 and Wolverine. I think 60's supers would be a lot if fun and I'm sorry yo heat that didn't quite get that Mad Men perfection. But if they are at all close I'll be happy.

Anonymous said...

I really liked the movie overall, except for some liberties with history.

Sadly, Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang did not release until 1965 and would have been anachronistic. Remember, much of what we think of of the 60s, is really the late 1960s. In '62 the 50s are just ending, the Beatles are just getting famous and so on.

My light review and history nitpicks here.

Trey said...

@seaofstarrpg - You missed my point, I believe--which didn't really have anything to do with what people think of as the 60s. My point was the music they picked was inappropriate for the setting and the age of the people present. Adults at a swank nightclub in would have been listening to jazz of some sort, not a pop tune from that year.

NakiaPope said...

I saw it as well and agree with your review! I immediately thought of a low per supers hunting Nazis!" with the scene in Argentina.

Anonymous said...

Ah, true. They might have even had live music, especially in Vegas. That would have been a nice way to do some cameos.