First Class, Pass or Fail?

Before you read this there are a few things that any avid comic book fan needs to know. I won’t talk about these and the issues that arise from these topics in depth in the blog. But…

  • Havok and Cyclops are not brothers in the reboot (link)
  • This is a reboot and doesn’t have to stay within the boundaries set by the first three films (or maybe even W:O)
  • Every comic book movie changes things from the comics, so I won’t be concentrating on what’s changed

Ultimately, these did influence me when I watched the film but I tried to keep them out of my judgement so… here goes!

There are spoilers so… SPOILER ALERT!

I can remember when I saw the first X-Men movie. After watching it I remember a sense of geekiness unfortold in the trailers, a level that I have yet since to match. I’ve watched almost every major comic book movie since (Fantastic Four 2 excluded) and have yet to experience that feeling again. But, why?

Each comic book movie’s greatest strength is the backlog of comic books that it springs from and it is that infinite backlog that eventually causes the downfall. My opinion is that a comic book movie is only as great as the inevitable sequel can be. It’s that feeling that we’re left with after the movie is over, that hint at the next chapter. Even Thor wasn’t that great, but the hint that it left for the Avengers movie left me enthralled. X2, Iron Man, the Hulk and even the Dark Knight have their greatest moments when the movie is almost over and they give you a hint at what’s coming next. Not just that extra bit after the credits but the possibility of additional trials and tribulations that the character will inevitably have to endure.

Let’s face it, X-Men: First Class didn’t need that. This is the first class, this is the beginning and we know that there is more up ahead. A prequel, by its very definition will have had or have sequels. This movie could have ended on a high note and we would still be able to see storms on the horizon. But the story tries too hard to get there too fast and leaves too much unsaid.

No matter how good this film may be... you're still wearing that helmet crooked.

Don’t get my intentions mixed up, this is a great movie. It has a great story, seemlessly mixes historical events with comic book history and has more drama invested in the characters than we’d ever expect pre-Dark Knight. But this is a horrible comic book movie.

I can go completely nerd and tell you that the ages of the characters are wrong (Havok is too old, Mystique is too young); I can say that the First Class storyline has been changed too much from what is in the comics (who the hell is this Angel?) but that isn’t what it gets wrong. What it gets wrong is the story, not just bits and pieces from the comic or from the X-Men history but the story.

I loved the whole Mystique/Xavier relationship, the complexities and the differences in how they see mutantkind and how it shapes them later, no matter how different it was from the comic books. But for a world that isn’t confined to the one created by the first three X-flicks, it still tries to stay within borders. After all, how much does Mystique matter if you don’t take into consideration her character in the first three films?

Playing games against a mind reader, yeah that's a good use of your time.

In the end, while the Xavier/Magneto relationship is supposed to take center stage, the Mystique/Xavier relationship far overpowers it and this is the biggest problem most comic book fans will have with the film. The Xavier/Magneto dynamic is really what powered the first and last X-Men films but while this is supposed to be the main focus of the story here it really just takes a back seat. The ending which leaves Xavier paralyzed and Magneto taking Mystique into the Brotherhood, is quick and happens too fast to allow the viewer to notice what’s going on. While as a film (action or drama) X-Men: First Class is well worth a ticket price, as a comic book film the movie leaves too many holes and leaves too much unsaid.

This is just my opinion so I left it out of the review, but one of the greatest differences between Magneto and Xavier is that while Magneto pushes his powers to the limit Xavier has always stayed shy of actually using his powers to their fullest possibilities. Case and point, if you look at some of the old comic books (Uncanny X-men #304: Fatal Attractions pt. 3 – For What I Have Done…, X-Men #25: Fatal Attractions pt. 4 – Dreams Fade), Magneto’s helmet is about as effective as a tin foil hat against Xavier. I really wish they would have expanded on that more or at least planted the seeds.

Extra pages:

  • Alright I’ll admit, I squealed at the Wolverine cameo. But did anyone else notice Rebecca Romijn’s cameo in the bedroom or the Cyclops cameo (along with a few others, notably Storm) when Xavier hooks up to the prototype cerebro?
  • Azazeal + Mystique = Nightcrawler (who doesn’t see this happening?)

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