Monday, June 13, 2011

X-Men: First Class (2011)

An Open Letter to X-Men: First Class Director/Co-Writer Matthew Vaughn and its Many, Many Screenwriters:

Dear Sirs and Lady,

I am writing to you as a long-time fan of both X-Men and films in general, with just a few follow-up questions/concerns regarding your most recent foray into big screen comic-book adaptations.

Now, I assume you've seen the first few X-Men films, especially those that the talented Bryan Singer worked on, considering he co-wrote the story for this version. Might I also assume you've read an issue or two of the X-Men comics? I wonder though, did you take anything at all from any of these efforts, in which the work was basically done for you and you had enough material to make a good movie? I imagine not, since instead you chose to ret-con the Cuban missile crisis and haphazardly throw in a tepid bromance (loathe as I am to use the phrase) and some dull-eyed super-powered teenagers and call it a day. Perhaps you guys were just all tuckered out after Kick-Ass and Thor. Poor babies. Poor X-babies.

My understanding is that your film is meant to be both a prequel and a reboot, but it seems we can't actually have both without everything being fucking confusing. Kudos for the Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Romijn cameos, but then how the hell is Alex Summers- Scott "Cyclops" Summers' younger brother- hanging out with Xavier in the 60's? And how are Scott and Storm shown as kids in the 60's while being in their 30's in 2000? And why is Moira an American CIA agent here but a barely-aged British geneticist in X-Men 3? Come to think of it, where did anyone's usual nationality go? I can deal with taking a few liberties here and there, but casting an American dude-bro to play the adorable and super-Irish Banshee WHO TAKES HIS NAME AFTER AN IRISH MYTH is just ridiculous. And Xavier: Not British. And Sebastian Shaw: Well whatever he can be what he wants I guess, Nazi superdoctor or nuclear war fanatic or Hellfire Club leader, it doesn't actually matter to me. It's still Kevin Bacon.

What matters here, sirs and lady, is that you have taken so much of the fundamentals of these well-developed characters and completely superseded them with your own stupid ideas. I understand that you're trying to do your own thing, make your own mark on X-Men's daunting prolific universe, and I'm all for that as long as you make it somewhat recognizable and true to the basic cores of these people. Mystique is not a bratty teen who goes gooey over Charles Xavier. Never. She is a badass, super-independent lady with her own agenda. Xavier is a dick, it's true, but he wouldn't be so dismissive towards those who have physical mutations. And he's just all over the place in this movie. And he's not bald? What? Emma Frost doesn't parade around in a bra and mini-skirt fetching drinks for Sebastian Shaw and speaking every word with emotionless blandness. I don't care how much January Jones looks the part. She needed to step it up. Azazel is like a demon-mutant from hell who's crazy-clever and loves impregnating human women, and you downgrade him to a low-level cronie with a Russian accent and some throwaway dialogue? Didn't you think his obvious resemblance to Nightcrawler would confuse non-comics people? Since it's not like any of you are ready to bring up that he's Nightcrawler's dad or anything, just like Mystique being his mom has never been mentioned. Whatever. Nerd territory here.

Matthew Vaughn, I think if you put your mind to it you can make a fun movie, and I think that's what maybe you were trying to do here. I don't mind the 60's setting and tie-in to real events, since you obviously found it just too tempting. I'm surprised you didn't throw in some Rock-Hudson-is-secretly-a-mutant line. I get the Bond references, I get the over-bloated action stunts, and I get the need for a dumbed-down storyline that caters to the masses. But... did you intend to make it so funny? Or is it really just so STUPID that it's funny? I gotta say, your movie made me and my friends laugh a lot. At first I thought you guys were being all wink-wink-nudge-nudge and self-aware with the lingerie party and "SECRET MILITARY BASE" literal locations, and I giggled knowingly. But as the film progressed, I became less and less confident that anyone working on this film realized how ridiculous and over the top it was turning out. I have actually been quoting lines with my boyfriend all week in a continuing effort to milk the awful script. I've been putting my fingers to my temple every time I want to control someone's mind because it's funny every single time.

You did right with Michael Fassbender, I'll give you that. Magneto is a goddamn badass and you pulled through on that one, giving him all the best action scenes and a more interesting storyline. Then again, Magneto as a character is always fascinating, and I know Fassbender to be a good actor, so I'm not sure just how much credit I can give you guys for this one, considering how much you fucked everything else up I assume this is just a fluke.

I wonder when this turned from "let's make a movie about the very interesting relationship between Xavier and Magneto and the surrounding context of civil rights/deeply-rooted prejudices" into "let's make a movie about a thing blowing up or something and also some people fly and JFK makes a speech and oh look naked blue lady". You really should have stuck with your first instinct on this one, I'm sorry to say. What could have been a truly thought-provoking but still exciting superhero movie is just hyped-up drivel that makes less and less sense the more one reflects upon it, and a depressingly homogenous cast. The black guy dies first? Really? REALLY?

I postulate that you were coming down to the wire and no one actually had time to watch the final product before sending it out, am I right? It's ok, I won't tell anyone. Or were you all just drunk when you previewed it amongst yourselves? That makes sense to me, because I bet this movie would be a hell of an entertaining time if drinking heavily.

In conclusion: X-Men: First Class failed on many levels. Please take every single one of my comments into consideration, and immediately re-make your movie until it's good.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
Alexandra Kittle, Esquire.

PS I'm not really an esquire, I just like the way it sounds. Nuff said.

PPS THE BLACK GUY DIED FIRST? REALLY??!!?!

So for those who skip to the end: I wasn't a huge fan of this movie. Eh.

As a movie: 2/5
As entertainment: 3.5/5 (imagined score if I'd been drinking; as I said, I did laugh a lot)

Watch Instead: Oh you know, X-Men and/or X2 for good X-movies, or OSS 117 and/or Austin Powers for fun Bond-ey 60's throwbacks. Better yet, just read some comics. Get educated.

16 comments:

  1. Ouch! I feel dirty for saying I really liked X-Men. Granted, I'm more of a DC nerd than a Marvel nerd so all the heresy committed to the characters didn't bug me as much.

    It was bothersome that Emma Frost is somehow older now than when she appeared in XM3 and the whole Summers brothers issues was strange. I was also annoyed that CIA agent Moira wore wildly inappropriate attire given it was the 60s. Miniskirts on Mystique, Angel & Emma, sure. But below the knee for Moira, please!

    First Class felt very much like a Bond film and I enjoy those immensely. Fassbender was awesomely kick-ass as Magneto. It did bug me when his Irish upbringing slipped in those end speeches.

    As a Marvel master, maybe you can explain exactly why Erik felt the need to don a red suit and purple cape after killing Shaw? He looked far less menacing when he pranced into Emma's cell with the traditional Magneto getup than McKellan ever did. A lead-in/explanation for the fashion choice would have been nice. Do you know what I mean?

    ReplyDelete
  2. God you and Sasha just rocked this. I'm not a stickler for continuity, having not grown up on X-Men or any comics, but even I ended up bugged by some of the issues raised. Sasha said in her (hilarious) radio bit that Wolverine's cameo was the best part, but that kind of stuff always irks me. It's there as cheap lip service just for a quick laugh, even though it raises so many questions about continuity and retconning.

    The whole movie feels like this. It's a pointless exercise that really doesn't offer any insight into how either Charles or Erik evolve. I mean, in fairness, Erik's POV is self-evident from the flashback we got even in the first X-Men: he'll never let anything like the Holocaust happen again. But Charles just veers between optimist and dick. I did like, as I said in my review, the chance to see him as a youth, where he hadn't yet experienced true hostility to his harmonic vision, but he doesn't seem to ever grapple with that as the film progresses. This is two hours of faffing about with just enough Fassbender to make it interesting and hints of humanity and a serious attempt to handle X-Men's themes of tolerance and identity to make it seem smart. But the rest is just so damn dull. Not even bad, just dull.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I had problems with this movie, too, though for different reasons (which you addressed - THANK YOU for pointing out the black guy dying first), but you actually answered a few lingering questions for me, like who the red Nightcrawler look-alike was (I figured they had to be related somehow).

    You also bring up a point I should've mentioned in my write-up: I had been treating this as a complete reboot, but that Logan cameo complicates matters - plus all the continuity screw-ups you mentioned. (Where was Rebecca Romijn? I didn't recognize her.)

    ReplyDelete
  4. I agree, it has a lot of flaws. Yet, I mentioned in my review that the only highlight in January Jones' awful performance was her cleavage. I was just looking at the tits as a distraction to the mediocrity of the film.

    I don't think it's that bad as both Fassbender and McAvoy did a great job with their roles. Particularly Fassbender who is so hot right now.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Sorry, I enjoyed it as well, and agree McAvoy and Fassbender were great in their roles. Felt Lawrence was miscast though. She was no Mystique!

    ReplyDelete
  6. wow, look at all the people who didn't like this movie. for a while i was thinking it had to be good if nobody was saying anything bad.

    top quality again alex, i will now put this on my don't pay to watch, let someone else pay list.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Mystique is Nightcrawler's mother forever and ever, and why didn't they acknowledge it in the movies? Might've been straight brilliant.

    How was Xiavier not British?

    ReplyDelete
  8. I buy the gripes about Azazel but I don't consider deviations from the terrible "X3" to be anything worth worrying about. I can't really say I mind alterations from Singer's titles either.

    This film seems to share a relationship with the last "X-Men" trilogy similar to that between Singer's "Superman Returns" and the earlier flicks - neither simply a sequel/prequel or an outright reboot.

    Comic book characters and plot lines change as often as a new story arc is introduced (constantly) and, as evidenced by Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining," making an enjoyable picture is always trumps exact adherence to source material.

    With excellent performances from McAvoy and Fassbender, fun cameos, and more heart than any other "X-Men" title short of "X2" this picture was a great save for a franchise that was nearly destroyed by the efforts of Brett Ratner.

    Don't get me wrong, Alex, I concur with most of your beefs. I simply found no fewer faults with any of the other pictures and appreciate the flair Vaughn brought to "First Class."

    Let's all admit it: Yes, "X-Men" was a decent film but Singer's direction on that picture was about as bland as they come.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Aww so sad you didn't approve. I loved it. And I'm a marvel geek. I know there are some inconsistencies but most of it worked with what has gone before in the movies (except moira, but they did that with hank as well)

    ReplyDelete
  10. I was underwhelmed by the movie. It was entertaining enough while it played, but I had completely forgotten it within a half hour of leaving the theater. Disclaimer: I'm an X-MEN outsider. I never read any of the comic books or saw any of the previous movies. I'll try not to let this installment effect my view of the entire X-MEN universe, but I'm in no hurry to check any of the rest of it out, either.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I had a great time with this film and I thought that the casting of Fassbender was a smart decision on Vaughn’s part because he just has that look and feel about him that is so mysterious, yet just so amazingly breath-taking. Good Review!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Reel Whore: I cannot speak to Magneto's costume preferences. In the comics he designs the helmet himself to ward off Xavier's mind powers, but I don't know about the cape and everything. And yes jeez all the lingerie was just ridiculous!

    Sasha: THANK YOU

    Jake: So glad you agree with us, it's nice to have someone not crazy around here!

    Rich: It's trying to be both a reboot and a winking prequel, but it can't really be both without confusing audiences. Rebecca Romijn was there for a second when Mystique was like "Would you rather I be older?" and transforms into an older blonde.

    thevoid: Michael Fassbender IS hot right now! And yes January Jones did certainly have some cleavage.

    Alex: yeah I really like Jennifer Lawrence but the casting seemed strange, then again I think a lot of it had to do with how Mystique was written.

    Toby: Yes if you have to see it, don't pay for it!

    Simon: Xavier (in the comics, anyway) is from New York. But I know with Patrick Stewart setting the precedent in the films that's how he'll always sound. No big deal, really.

    Stu: I don't mind deviating from the source material, I understand that's a necessity, but it's frustrating to see characters that are clearly fleshed out on paper so completely altered on screen. They might as well just change the names if they want to go so far with it. And I personally prefer Singer's direction to Vaughn's here, though for FIRST CLASS my biggest issue is the script.

    Katie: Yeah I know several other Marvel fans who loved it, but it just really wasn't my thing!

    366: Of the X-Men films, I like the first two a lot, but really if you have any interest in the franchise at all I would just recommend the comics!

    Dan O: I enjoyed Fassbender a lot too, would love to see him do the role again.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Well, see, here's the problem: You people keep paying to see FOX versions of the X-Men, and therefore FOX has no reason to give a damn about continuity, loyalty to the source material, or anything else. They also keep the film rights out of the hands of Marvel Studios, who would almost certainly do their mutant characters a lot more justice than FOX does.

    And you're going to repeat this mistake again when the new Sony Spider-Man comes out. You know it. You'll go to the theater, pay Sony some money, and give them every reason to remake, reboot, and screw with the character again and again, keeping the film rights away from Marvel Studios and ruining our chances to ever see Spider-Man interact with Captain America, or any other Avenger.

    You COULD stop paying to see non-Marvel Studios versions of Marvel characters. But you won't. You'll keep giving Sony and Fox reasons to hold onto those film rights, and as long as they produce a movie every few years they don't have to give them up.

    So by all means, pay to see the next X-Men movie. Pay to see Spider-Man again. Feed the beast and then just whine about it online. That will ensure that we're NEVER going to get a proper Marvel Studios presentation of any of those characters.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Anon: Oh my god you're right, it's MY fault that Hollywood keeps making sexist, racist, poorly-written superhero movies! And it's MY fault for wanting to see a film based on a comic I love that's been getting pretty good reviews and had been recommended to me by friends! What a fool I've been!

    I understand why you're frustrated with the state of Marvel movie adaptations, but don't direct all this anger at me, please.

    ReplyDelete
  15. i finally saw this movie alex, wow, you really were right on everything.

    ReplyDelete