Saturday, 11 June 2011

166: Review - X-Men: First Class (WITH Spoilers!)

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

X-Men: First Class poster

X-Men: First Class (SPOILERS!)
08 June 2011. Location: Cinema

^^ You read that bit, right? Contains spoilers? Good.

It appears that Marvel have forgotten they've made four other X-Men movies...
Let the bitching about inter-movie continuity commence...

Beastly Behaviour

I can handle Beast's transformation. In X3, Kelsey Grammer plays the older Hank 'Beast' McCoy, in his blue form. We don't see his transformation, and it's not needed as he's living openly among the humans, working for the Department of Mutant Affairs. But if you skip back to X2, there's a scene with a TV on in the background, featuring a human Hank McCoy.
The idea was that in X2, when Stryker manipulates Xavier into using Dark Cerebero, the shock-waves the machine blasts into the mutant community cause Hank's transformation into the blue form of Beast. This was scripted, but not shot; so the process (for the audience who were watching the films and reading the things on-screen), evidently took place between the two movies. No problem there.

In X-Men: First Class, we see the young genius Hank McCoy, with his superior intellect and crazy-feet. And we see him labouring for a solution that will cure the physical aspect of his mutation. As is to be expected, this formula actually accelerates the mutation, and he takes on his blue form.

So does he find a way to become human again before his appearance in X2? More than likely, yes, I reckon. It's conceivable that over the years, he continues his research, finding 'cures' that are either semi-permanent or flat-out temporary, and is frequently struggling a way to stabilise his appearance.

While it made me raise an eyebrow, I can explain it away to myself. It's not a big deal.

Set in Stone...

I can handle the shifting loyalties (and age, apparently) of Emma Stone. In 1962 in X-Men: First Class, she's sided with Sebastian Shaw, and later Magneto. While she doesn't appear to kill anyone on-screen, she's flying her colours, and it's pretty clear which side she's on. No problem there, she's a new character. Oh, hang on…

…Emma Stone is Kayla Silverfox's sister in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. She's the one that Stryker has been keeping captive on the island, and the one we see in the final act, helping the young mutants to escape. In Wolverine, her diamond-appearance is like the half-way-mark of the one in First Class; a kind of sparkly white iridescence, rather than the fully transparent version.

Anyway, apparently she switches sides between 1962 and 1979 (more on that later), as she's a wholly sympathetic character helping the kids to escape the nasty man.

But again, I'm fine with that. Incarceration under Stryker is likely to make her bond with the 'good' mutants, and she wasn't that evil to start with, just a little misguided. It's not a big deal.

Ageless Beauty…

So apparently there's been a bit of a shift in Moira McTaggert's character. I'm not here to compare the X-Men movies with the comics (they've rarely matched up, and often to their credit). But it is an established fact that Moira and Charles Xavier are firm friends. In X3, she's shown at Xavier's funeral, and again in the post-credits scene. Originally, Xavier and McTaggert are meant to be contemporaries, who work together during the formation of the X-Men. The idea is that she's the same age as Charles Xavier. In X3, she's played by Olivia Williams who, while she's not a teenager, can hardly be described as old. Certainly not the same age as Patrick Stewart. Still no matter...

…although in X-Men: First Class, her age is portrayed more accurately where Rose Byrne is closer in years to James McAvoy. If anything, they're doing it right in First Class, but X3 was only made in 2006. It's not like there's no-one around who can remember it. Maybe there's an anti-ageing thing I don't know about with Moira?

But you know what? She was an incidental character in X3, and a main character in First Class. Like Ms. Stone, it's the portrayal of the character that counts, not the appearance. It's not a big deal.

This is Spinal Trap...

Now generally speaking, the X-Men films have been careful not to name actual year-dates in the storyline. On-screen captions have said things like "in the near future", or "around 20 years ago". Which is fine. With the exception of mobile phones etc, it avoids dating the film too much. But two of the films in the series are set at a specific time.

The climactic battle at the end of X-Men Origins: Wolverine is an alternate take on (or even exposé of) the Three Mile Island meltdown of 1979. The idea is that the viewer remembers the accident (if they're old enough), and is presented with a 'what really happened' scenario. Three Mile Island is mentioned by name in the film as the home of Stryker's research facility. XMO:Wolverine's set in the 1970's. There's a whacking great meltdown at the end. It's 1979, and not very ambiguous about it. Which is fine.

The main story-arc of X-Men: First Class is set at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. We see Kennedy on the TV giving his address to the nation, and the missile crisis itself is integral to the plot of the film. It's 1962, and even less ambiguous about it. We get an on-screen caption at the start which says 1962. Which is also fine.

Still with me? Lovely. Now, you remember the bit at the end of XMO:Wolverine, where Logan helps the friendly Emma Frost break out the captive kids from Stryker's prison? Yeah, you remember, because young Cyclops is with them. Well unless I'm very much mistaken (and I'm not, because I only watched it a week ago), the kids are liberated when a helicopter lands to take them to Professor X's School for Gifted Youngsters. A kindly (and frankly creepy looking) Professor Charles Xavier steps from the chopper to welcome the mutants into his care. Professor X is walking in 1979.

You know where this is going now, don't you?

I understand why it makes narrative-sense to have Xavier's spine damaged and him be confined to a wheelchair in X-Men: First Class. Especially the way that Magneto is implicated in the incident; it sets up an excellent dynamic for their relationship in the later X-Men films. It also makes great sense from an audiences point of view, as at the end of the film, Xavier and Magneto are essentially young versions of what we see in X1. Erik's final "I prefer Magneto" is a little laboured (as is Charles' "next thing you know I'll be losing my hair"), but I appreciate the high civilian percentage of the audience who'll need that.

But do Marvel honestly expect me to believe that Charles Xavier found a way to repair his spine over the next 17 years, then had a massively ironic accident that reversed the process and left him back the wheelchair he thought he'd escaped?

Even in the Marvel-verse that seems unfeasible. To lose one spine is unfortunate. To lose two, looks like carelessness.

Maybe it's a reboot, I thought to myself? In all honesty, I sat through (and enjoyed) Batman Begins, not realising it wasn't jiving with the previous four films until about half way through. I hadn't read that is was a fresh start. I'm not that huge on Batman, what can I tell ya?
But although there are definite pointers towards keeping X-Men: First Class in line with the other movies, what if Marvel had decided that this is the definitive history of Charles and Erik?

No, apparently not.": "will X-Men First Class use the same timeline and be 'an official, in-continuity prequel'?"
Director, Matthew Vaughn: "Yeah, I would say absolutely so"

Please bear in mind I'm not comparing the movie to any comics-history. I'm not even comparing it to the first X-Men film from 2000. I'm comparing it to its predecessor from two years ago. It doesn't 'spoil' the film, and I'm not outraged about it (really, I'm not). I just think it's sloppy, and comes hot on the heels of the Wolverine/Sabertooth conundrum from the last film.

Even taking the above into account, this is still an awesome film. Wall to wall entertainment and beautifully made.


• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

1 comment:

  1. Craig Southworth21 June 2011 at 14:52

    I hadn't picked up on the Moira one (partly because it's been years since i saw the other films) but i did spot the rest.

    Also Emma Frost being a teenager in 1979 but a 30+ year old nightclub owner in 1962 is a bit out of whack. And to respond to your puzzlement of her switching side, like Elektra she has a history of playing both sides in the comics (i know you said you weren't comparing but i feel it's important to mention) and she later married Cyclops after Jean Gray died and became Phoenix.

    I also thought it was interesting that they hinted at the (true) reality that Mystique and Azazel go on to parent Nightcrawler from X2.

    I prefer to ignore the existence of Wolverine Origins as that makes most of the continuity errors go away, asside from the beast one of course, oh and Charles actually meeting Logan for the first time.....twice. Takes me back to the time when Dave Lister had his appendix taken out....twice.