Yesterday the nefarious Action Ash and I made a trip to our local picture house to see X-Men: First Class, and the verdict is that despite some terribly cheesy moments (Moira's gifts the CIA didn't give her, "Mutant and Proud") it really is a fantastic romp and a jolly good attempt to make a great X-Men movie. I'm going to give you a few thoughts on the film and a bit of a spoiler-free geek's eye view. Listen up punks!
The first X-Men film came out in 1999, and was instrumental to bringing the worldwide audience to the possibilities of superhero movies. It discarded much of the details of the books, and the colourful costumes preferring to reimagine all the details, stick ‘em all in combat leathers, and focus on the core concept of the team. Since then we've had more faithful adaptations of the 4 colour wonder of comics, like the Spider-Man films and Iron Man, and the audience's increased willingness to suspend disbelief is certainly played upon here, with a rather colourful globetrotting adventure. We even get traditional blue and yellow X-costumes and a rather spot on rendition of Magneto’s signature headgear. This doesn’t detract from the faux-real-world angst, or inventive violence of the earlier movies, and in fact reminds us why we liked them too. This is a very nice mix. As I said, there are some naff bits so be warned, the odd line here, the Bond-esque unnecessary sauciness there (your mileage may vary), but nothing that really detracts from overall enjoyment. If anything it fits together nicely. The 1960s setting is a masterstroke. As with the rest of the series don’t expect anything but the occasional scene to come directly from the source material –this is very much the filmmakers’ own creation.
In terms of fitting in with the previous movies, it amazes me that within the space of 5 films they've managed to create as many continuity discrepancies as they have in the comics, which is a nice bit of meta commentary I’m sure. I won’t delve too far into these for fear of spoilers, but suffices to say ignore X-Men: Origins: Wolverine, which is arguably a good rule of thumb to stick to anyway. One baffling choice, not a continuity problem per se, but damned silly, was to portray Moira MacTaggart as an American CIA Agent when she has already been established as a Scottish Doctor in X-Men: The Last Stand. My advice is just go with it, you won’t regret it.
The film largely focuses on the Xavier/Magneto relationship and it can be argued that this is really Magneto’s movie – he certainly gets all the moments of anti-heroic badassery. It’s possible that they even went a bit too far with Magneto as I found myself liking him a lot more than Charles, who sometimes comes off as a bit of a berk. Perhaps that says more about me than the film, but I cannot stress too much how fucking cool Magneto is in this movie. His journey across the globe hunting Nazi war criminals is an underused but established comic book fact, and leads to some of the film’s more memorable scenes.
I enjoyed Mystique's story arc in this film, I found her more likeable than Charles even, despite some seriously hokey lines (try not to cringe when she says "Mutant and Proud" I dare you) she's quite an engaging B-character. I am surprised though by how wildly she differs from her comic book character, I realise they are using her as an audience POV character, much like Rogue in the first movie, but when you compare her to the older, ruthless globetrotting assassin turned terrorist of the comics the charming young friend of Charles is quite jarring.
Interestingly, the Hellfire Club itself is very much how one would imagine it, although its membership is entirely different to the source material with the exception of Emma Frost and Sebastian Shaw. I liked Emma’s characterisation; I'm not a big fan of the modern, reformed, toothless tiger Emma that appears in books these days, so it was nice to see her as her old formidable self. Curiously, Sebastian Shaw’s character seems to be a bit of a mixture of his comic book self and that of Mr. Sinister, certainly in terms of motives and history. I won't go into it too much for fear of spoilers, but it’s very well done in my opinion. It goes without saying that movie Azazel is better than his comics because a dogshit on a baked potato with pop tart legs and the voice of a Dalek would be better than the comic book version.
I could go on, but I won't. Words don’t grow on trees you know! Go see the film, it's good.
Well, what are you waiting for?