Film #13: X-Men First Class (2011)

director: Matthew Vaughn
language: English with gratuitous Russian, German, Spanish, French
length: 132 minutes
watched on: 14 Jun

I don’t even know if this is meant to be one of those so-called franchise reboots that are all too common nowadays. But it kinda felt like one either way. It wasn’t brilliant, although it was fairly standard X-Men fare. It’s been a while since I saw the other films in the series, although I’m fairly certain it’s better than #3, which was a bit of a clusterfuck. I’d have to refresh my memory about #1 and #2, though.

Anyway, James McAvoy is pretty, and has nice eyes that we get a few lingering close-ups of, but I’m not too sure about his acting skills. I’m too aware that he’s putting on an accent, for instance, even though he does pretty well. I can’t quite see him as Professor X essentially transforming into Patrick Stewart, but this is pointed out sarcastically at the end of the film by the character.

Same goes for Nicholas Hoult’s character – I’m all too aware that his American accent is fake, despite it not being terrible. It was a bit of a surprise to suddenly see him turning up in something that wasn’t Skins, anyway.

The film does suffer from the sheer number of characters introduced, though, although again, it’s not quite as bad as #3 in the series. It could have done with a bit more focus in general. Among the younger characters, there is a lot of eye-candy; it’s another one of those films where everybody is just ridiculously attractive. We have the aforementioned Nicholas Hoult, for instance, and I personally quite liked the Banshee guy. But on the subject of the young’uns, it’s quite depressing that the black guy is the first to be killed off, followed pretty swiftly by the black/Latina girl defecting to the enemy side, leaving a set of very white X-Men.

I’m tempted to give them the benefit of the doubt on that, because it’s quite possible that they’re only following the source material of the original comics or something, but it then seems ironic that they’re using the X-Men as an allegory (as they always do) to preach acceptance and tolerance of people different from you – here the obvious one, given the civil-rights era setting (despite it actually being a Cold War plot), would be race. As always, the LGBT rights allegory is rather obvious as well (and there’s delicious sexual tension between the two adult protagonists in Magneto and Professor X).

One familiar conflict within the allegory of sexuality and racial tolerance that I’ve seen a bit in real life recently is the conflict between those mutants who have some kind of permanent, visible mutation and those who can, as it were, hide it from everyone else. And there’s hatred between them. And this depresses me because it reminds me that, taking the gay community as an example, there are masculine gay men who hate feminine gay men for being stereotypical, and feminine gay men who hate masculine gay men because they can ‘hide’ it. I just wonder why people have to hate each other.

They don’t really do that much with the Cold War setting, though – the Cuban nuclear sub blockade shows up as the scene of the final conflict, but I didn’t feel that it being the Cold War was necessary for the story to have worked. Besides, I’m starting to feel like the Cold War has been done to death.

Conclusion… well, more of James McAvoy’s eyes, less time-wasting next time!

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