Monday, June 6, 2011

X-Men First Class is Matthew Vaughn's Love Letter to Nerds

For those too wired on the prospect of having a 'cool' mutant movie to see again, and for the earnestly stupid, let me make the following perfectly clear:


Ahem. Right.

X-Men: First Class is by far the best X-Men film in the franchise. When I say that, I'm including the original good two, the horrible third, and even the canon defacing Wolverine, though that last one doesn't actually make my earlier claim any stronger. This installment takes all the best parts of the characters we're familiar with, but so as to not officially mess with any of the prior installments, says, "Hey, let's just set the whole thing in 1962."

Of course, this means we get young and ambulatory Charles Xavier and young, bloodthirsty Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto), but this also means Cyclops, Angel, Iceman, Kitty Pryde, Rogue, Gambit, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Storm, Toad, Blob, and pretty much every other A- through D-lister is too young to be in the movie. There are no original mutants, just vintage characters.

Creative Fixes:

Cyclops is replaced with Alex "Havok" Summers; some kind of relation (possibly an older brother by a cool fifteen years), Havok shoots energy blasts from his body, but as they are uncontrolled, he requires a prosthesis–er, basically it's a stereo's woofer–to direct the effect.

"Angel" (Warren Worthington III) is swapped for Angel Salvadore, similar to DC's Wasp, but she was written first and can also spit fireballs. (She's also Hispanic instead of black and has 4 wings instead of two, but both switch allegiances and no one really cares what color they are with asses like that.)

Mystique ages at half the human rate, so she's biologically the same age as Prof. X, which is established very early on. Emma Frost fills in as adult, lead henchwoman.

Nightcrawler is replaced by … Azazel. Nightcrawler's demon dad. Who is essentially a 'baddie' version of Nightcrawler, just red instead of blue. Also, he has a killer goatee to heighten the devil-look. He still teleports, but he also wields crazy swords and wears suits.

Storm is replaced by a wind-based weather witch henchman, Riptide.

Banshee and Dr. Hank "Beat" McCoy round out the "First Class" since they are older mutants in regular continuity anyway, along with an old comics-based character "Darwin."

"Did someone call me? I thought I heard my name.
"Does anybody remember why I came in here?"

Geek-Out Moments:

Charles picks up a woman in an Oxford bar, likening her heterochromea (mis-matched eye colors [which I totally have so yay me]) to the evolutionary mutation which brought mankind out of the water to become the "dominant reproductive species on the planet."

Upon being called "Professor" for the first time after graduating, Charles finds it distasteful, as he doesn't yet have a faculty position and because he still has hair. (A joke he reprises towards the end of the film.)

Chuck also demonstrates his telepathy at a CIA chief named "Striker" and asks about his son "William." This character is officially credited as William Striker Sr.

Hank McCoy/Beast is played by Nicholas Holt, who despite anything he does for the rest of his career, will probably be best remembered for originating the roll of Tony on the BBC original series "Skins." So now I–and now you–have to think of Beast, all blue and furry, going down on his gay buddy during a school trip abroad because he's young and in another country and wanting to try weird shit, and then getting called out for doing it poorly.

Don't bite down.
Upon meeting government scientist and young genius Hank for the first time, Prof. X immediately outs him as a mutant in front of his boss, who has just been spending his entire career searching for mutants. Job security for the win.

Unlike in his admittedly wonderful portrayal by Kelsey Grammer, this Beast gets to go back to his real mutation of simply being a genius with large, prehensile feet. The blue and the fur and the cat-features come from exacerbating his mutation while trying a serum to cure it. This is especially awesome, as if you watch the news report on television in the bar at which Wolverine is drinking in X-Men, you'll see mutant rights advocate Hank McCoy sans-fur, even though by X3 he had fur and was "cured" of his mutation by proximity to the character Leach. (Actually my biggest problem with The Last Stand, aside from how generally awful it was in both plot and execution.)

Hank builds the prototype Blackbird, the team's Kevlar flight suits, Havok's chest piece and an early Cerebro unit so Xavier can locate potential teammates. During his first vision of mutants all around the world, he sees a little black girl with ice-white hair who is obviously Storm. There's also a chubby kid reading comics, but it might be kind of hopeful to think him Blob.

"La la la … totally not an orphaned African pick-pocket la la la."
Charles and Erik have a nice montage right after this, recruiting mutants for their strike force. The last of these potentials, exactly as rumored on the internet, is Hugh Jackman's Wolverine, albeit slightly younger, sitting at a bar with a glass of rotgut and a fat stogie. After hearing only their names and without turning around, he replies to both, "Go fuck yourself." It was masterful. [A guy I was with thought it odd both Prof. and Magneto immediately turn around and walk out without another word, but based on chronology, I posit that this was Wolverine pre-Weapon X. So he's about 80 years old with bone claws, an insane, murderous brother and a whole mess o' Canadian angst up in his noggin. I like to think Prof. X. took a closer look and turned tail.]

Best. Cameo. Ever.
The night before battle, Mystique–about 25 but looking about 20–surprises Erik in his bed, to which he tells her, "Maybe in a few years." She then immediately transforms into Rebecca Romijn (formerly Stamos).

It's not really a spoiler or surprise that, at the end of the film, Erik bails on the good guys to form a more militant 'Brotherhood' for mutant liberation, or that Mystique goes with him. However he also snags Azazel in the process. This combined with Mystique's slow aging makes it entirely possible that some time later they couple and birth Nightcrawler just as they do in the comics, combining Mystique's blue-and-yellow skin/eyes with Az's teleportation.

There is no post-credits scene trying to set up a second movie, despite the house lights staying dimmed the entire time because APPARENTLY I LIVE IN COMMUNIST RUSSIA AND WE CAN'T AFFORD LIGHT JUST FOR THE SAKE OF SAYING, "YES, IT'S REALLY OVER; YOU CAN LEAVE."

Matthew Vaughn has said, however, that if he gets to do a second movie (and how could they not let him now?), he thinks it would be a fun idea to open the movie with the Kennedy assassination, Magneto controlling the "magic bullet" explaining the weird physics at play there. All because he'd be pissed the government covered up mutant involvement and took credit for averting the Cuban Missile Crisis. How baller would that be? Hell, I'd by a DVD of just that scene to watch at the end of this movie's credits.

Also take a look for the half-dozen or so character actors playing minor roles. Oliver Platt is credited only as "The Man in Black" despite having a good deal of lines and positive character interaction, and a Russian general is actually Rade Sherbedgia, who has had a crazy career but whom I remember fondly as Tibor, the "Miami Wice" guy in Eurotrip.

"Ey, man! X-Men First Class iz numbah one new show!"

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