Wednesday, 22 June 2011

"It's a very groovy mutation."

Another film post. Quite recently I went to see X-Men: First Class.
Now since, I've seen people were apparently confused beforehand about whether it was supposed to be just a prequel or a reboot of the franchise. And afterwards... well it's still not entirely clear. Certainly it contradicted some things from the other films, but for the most part, none of them were of much significance, certainly those from the first two films. Inconsistencies minor enough that they could possibly get away with them if they want to make it all be in the same continuity. Certainly if they want the first two and this to be in the same continuity. Inconsistencies, sure, but retcons are not completely forbidden. They can work. Especially if they're only minor details.

I'll just mention at this point that I do not know the X-Men comics at all. Well, I've read some stuff on wikipedia, but that's it. Never read any of the actual comics, so I don't know how much of what they included in the film is consistent with comics lore, and frankly I don't think I'd care even if I had read them. It's a different medium, things get changed. It's not like they're trying to reproduce onscreen events which happened in the comics, it's a whole new story which just happens to have a selection of the same characters.

Now it's really interesting to see Professor X/Charles Xavier and Magneto/Erik Lehnsherr in their younger days. You can see in them the seeds of what will become the characters we know and love, but they're not there yet. We see Erik as a child (Reproducing and then following on from the scene they already had where child Magneto bends a fence to try and get back to his mother) and then as a young man looking for revenge. And we see Charles Xavier in university. It's amusing seeing him like that, because you can see he's a smart guy, and he already has that serious side to him, but he's also a university student. He likes getting drunk and flirts with women (Albeit through the medium of identifying their genetic mutations, and saying "It's a very groovy mutation.")
It takes a little adjustment at least once. There was a moment when I thought "Wait, but that's made of metal, so Erik can just- oh, there we go, but he's not powerful enough? Oh, right, 'cause this is like 40 years before the first film."

So that was interesting.

One thing this film did very well was including a few little details early on which later come back with more significance and it's a great payoff. Also of course there are a few tongue-in-cheek references to future events which of course we know about due to having seen the other films (Like joking about how Charles is going to go bald). Also there's a rather amusing cameo at one point. Pointless other than for a quick laugh, but it should provide that laugh (At least, so long as you've seen at least one other X-Men film).

Another good point about this film - good and interesting superpowers. Including some interesting uses of superpowers. For example, of course we know that Magneto's superpower is not actually controlling magnetic fields, it's controlling metal. All metal, whether it's magnetic or not. But, in this film we see that it still behaves as if it were using magnetic fields - if he tries to draw something towards him, it's a two-way force and he is also drawn towards it. That sort of thing.

OK, and onto issues with the film. Minor issues - Michael Fassbender is fine early on when he's speaking first German and then French, but once he switches to English, his accent starts to sometimes slip back into his native Irish. Not his fault of course, but it's a minor issue. Child Erik's acting was also not entirely convincing.
Also, well I haven't mentioned yet - Beast/Hank McCoy is in this film. He isn't blue and furry to start off with, and when he becomes so (Mentioning that's not really a spoiler - you can see it coming a mile off), something about it seemed kind of off in my opinion.
Also also, I'm not so keen on the fact that by this, apparently the government knew about mutants in the 60s. In which case why was it only just becoming a big issue at the start of the 21st century? OK, so maybe it's not the same continuity, but it still feels like it is. Also also also, there may be some plot holes lying around (Can a hole lie around? Around, anyway)

But the big issue with the film for me is that I think it tried to do too much. From the trailers, I assumed it was going to be pretty much all about Xavier and Erik, their friendship, founding Xavier's school, that sort of thing. And that would have been enough. Instead they also included a big world-threatening villain situation, detracting a little bit from the important stuff. While the superpower fights are cool, really this film should've been just about those two men. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender absolutely could have pulled it off as well, they were brilliant in their respective roles. I'm not saying there couldn't have been any sort of external conflict. Just it didn't have to be something so huge.
Alternatively, if they had to have that big world-threatening plotline, then some of the character relationships stuff should have been extended. They could have stretched it to two prequel films instead of one, to give those relationships the time they deserved to be properly played out, rather than feeling they had to resolve every little detail by the end of the film (This also could have avoided some of the inconsistencies with the existing continuity, if they wanted to pay attention to that, but the character  stuff is the more important stuff).

All the same, that aside, the film is still very good. The character arcs are still interesting despite their brevity, and on the whole the story is very well constructed. I would definitely recommend this film to people.

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