Monday, June 6, 2011

X-men: First Class - A Class Act Movie indeed!

Well it’s been a while, sorry of that. With spring in full swing and summer just around the corner, I’m been busy with other projects as well as the usual day-to-day living.

Speaking of the spring/summer, the line up of movies for 2011 is proving to be a pretty lively one. There are several films I would (and most likely will) see before this year is up, one of which I saw with my significant other just a few days ago, X-Men First Class. 

First of all, when I first heard that they were going to do a prequel to the X-Men series of films, I was a bit skeptical. I mean considering the anticipation and slight disappointment of X-Men origins: Wolverine, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see yet another prequel. However after looking at some of the earlier trailers, and finding out that Mathew Vaughan was directing this, I decided to give it a go when it comes out, but would wait until I hear what the usual reviewer and critics say about it first. Surprisingly pretty much all the reviews and critiques were all positive. Even the Toronto Star (which normally never gives any good reviews on any superhero or comic affiliated film (Christopher Nolan Batman films being the obvious exceptions) gave it 3.5 stars out of 4. So with all that positive reinforcement I opted to see it, and caught a late show.
First of all be warned, to those that like a lot of action right away. There isn’t much of it at the beginning of the film. In fact for those not familiar with the X-men characters or any of the previous films might find the beginning a bit slow. However there’s a reason for this. From my point of view it’s due to introducing all these characters when they started out, thus showing proper character development, something that if you really are a fan of the series, will appreciate. And if you aren’t as familiar, will come to realize where they are going with it. So very big props for that. Not too worry too much, the action, stunts and CGI pick up pretty quickly later on. 

Secondly considering that within the film timeline, the events all take place in the 1960’s they kept within the vibe and feel of what happened during that time period. I just don’t mean the fashion and technology (though both were represented well especially that original bomber jacket Erik Lehnsherr was wearing, need to get me one of those) but feel of urgency of the time, with the Cuban missile crisis and such.
However what impressed me most for this film wasn’t the CGI or fight sequences. It was in fact the characters, young Charles Xavier, and Erik Lehnsherr, and how the actors that played them (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender respectively) and how they played their characters to each other, was very well done. How they met unexpectedly, and how they were able to become friends and maintain their friendship, despite coming from very different backgrounds, and having very different points of view of being mutants. Both actors did a very good job at that. Then again I guess in a way they would have to considering the veteran actors that played the older versions of them (Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen) it’s no surprise they had to.
I won’t go into too much detail of the film (I don’t believe in spoilers and since this film is fairly new I won’t bother to) but I do recommend seeing it.
Oh and on one side note, one thing I found interesting and sad (not to mention ironic) was Erik Lehnsherr’s (aka Magneto) character. How in his own way ends up becoming like the enemy he sot so hard against. Guess there’s a lesson to he learned in that. I could go into more detail, but too much of a spoiler! Sorry, and do check out this film. Definitely the best one of the X-Men series so far.

Oh and one last thing. Be on the look out for a fair amount of cameo appearances of various mutant and soon-to-be X-Men as well..incuding a funny one with a very well known one...(not say who but many of you already heard of who I'm refering to). LOL


  1. Just saw this today. Agreed that it was one of the best eXecuted X-Men films to-date (har har).

    I have to say though that it doesn't deal with the elephant in the room. The mutants are, as usual, all angsty about other people not accepting them for being different. It is the major theme of almost all X-Men movies, and I think it is a rather superficial issue. It is not, IMHO, the biggest issue.

    They are trying to compare mutants to the new kid at school who nobody likes. The problem is, that new kid can dominate your mind, torch a whole classroom, or throw you down the hall with one arm. You simply do not mess with Superman, no matter what you think of how he wears his underwear. For many of these mutants, the bullying wouldn't last long. Either people would leave them alone out of fear, or mutants would become the worst kind of bullies themselves. It is simply implausible that they'd primarily be the victims.

    The people most likely to be victims are the "regular people". X-Men 2, 3, and First Class had hundreds of non-mutants die with relatively few mutants dying. In X-Men 3, soldiers shoot non-lethal darts at mutants to take away their power and neutralize them as threats. The mutants attacking them use only lethal force. The movie evinces ire at the concept of anti-mutagenic darts, when in almost all cases they are used in response to mutant aggression! Can you say hypocrite? The movie tries to make it into a worse thing than lethal force, which I thought was just stupid.

    I just don't find these movies to be believable.

  2. Good points Lancer, though I think you might be overlooking some intial points made in the film in comparision to bullying and acceptance in soceity.

    First off there are diffrent reasons for those that bully, yes if theres a physcial diffrence to the bully and the "victim" then yes, chances are they will use that to their advantge. That said, Sometimes it has nothing to do with physcial strength, when it comes to bullying. Theres verbal intimadation, mental conditioning, psychological mind games, or good ol fashioned blackmail. The only common denominator with all bullying has been and always will be is FEAR.
    In the cases in these Xmen films...(espically this last one) thats epsically indicated. Yeah it would be pretty stupid to pick on someone that can spit acid, or can toss heavy object at you with a simple thought. But keep in mind, that if the bullies are that easily taken aback by the victims ablities, there would be far less bulling altogether. 9 times out of ten, the bully is doing the bulling out of his or her intimadation or ablity that the victim is able to do that they cant, they see it as a threat, and try to find a way to turn what they see as a advantage to you, as a disadvantge via bullying.
    Yes in the case of abilites you see in films like this one is a tad too over-the-top in the bullying factor....the intial fear is pretty much the me, take it from someone even my size (which Im told is quite intimadatting to those that dont know me though persoally dont see how) was someone that was bullied before.

    "Theory of Man: Fear what you don't know, hate what you dont understand." Sadily this old say seems to work well with bullies too.

  3. "The only common denominator with all bullying has been and always will be is FEAR."

    No. Some people bully because they think it's fun. They choose targets for whom they feel no fear.

    "9 times out of ten, the bully is doing the bulling out of his or her intimadation or ablity that the victim is able to do that they cant"

    I doubt it. Verbal bullying can often be about making jokes on a consistent basis at a particular person's expense. Treating a particular person badly may also elevate your status with a group of people you admire. These are examples of self-promotion and self-indulgence that have nothing to do with jealousy of the person bullied. I really doubt that these and all other examples constitute just 1 out of 10 bullying cases.

    But let's, for the sake of argument, accept the likelihood that bullying might be an element in some mutant's lives...

    In almost all of the movies you hear some element of a superiority complex in mutants. It's usually evoked by Magneto, but certainly a lot of mutants buy into it. Their powers come from their genetics, so they isolate themselves as a race apart and above from the rest of humanity. Even the X-Men talk about mutants being an evolutionary "step up", or at least a new one.

    In the last 500 years, what notable tragedies have been the result of people claiming to be genetically superior? If someone came to you, and said in a matter-of-fact way that they are more advanced evolutionarily than you, what concerns might come to mind?

    I think the elephant in the room is that this thinking is never denounced in X-Men movies, and it has the potential to lead to dehumanization and human tragedy. Such thinking does not require a history of being bullied to treat other people like crap. In fact, I find it much more liable to be an existential problem for society.

  4. So let me get this straight, you're comparing the mutants in these films (and techicly the comics their based on) to the Third Reich? Now granted the additude of some of the mutants (Magneto espically)do end up having very radical feelings of superiority in the film. Many of which I do not agree with at all...That said, considering what had happend to him as a addolescent in Europe during the start of WWII (with ironicly the Nazi's) and what they did to himself and his family (remember his character is from a jewish herrigate) well it does become apparent on how he became so bitter with mankind..adding to the fact of him being a mutant as well. Where he made his mistake, is even when his good friend (prof X) tried to help him let go of his bitterness, he couldnt. He instead instiuted a "us vs. them" motif, and became the enemy he orignally fought against, (sound familur?) This isnt the first time Hollywood has used this method of storytelling and it won't be the last..

    But back to the topic of bullying, I still say that fear, or in other cases, ignorance, leading to pigeonholeing and sterotypes can lead to some forms of bullying. I'm not saying its the only reason why there is bullying, I'm saying that fear (whether it comes from reactionary defsenes from the bully or the end result of the ones being bullied) is a common part of bullying. Yes some bully for the sake of being mean, or being a jerk. But Im sure there are plenty who act that same way and not directly bully anyone...some just want attention, or they feel they can get away with it..but i'm not going to spit hairs with this..

    All Im saying that bullying isnt nearly as black and white as your implying...that there can be many underling issues that are the reasons for it. And dont get me wrong, I'm not sympathizing with bullies. You know as well as I do I have always had an intense dislike for any form of bullying. And as a christian, dealing with bullies makes it all the more difficult while trying not to resort to more un-christianlike methods of dealing with them..

  5. Reminds me of the Gilligan's Island schtick, to whit:

    Mr. Howell: blah blah blah
    Gilligan: You're right, Mr. Howell.
    Professor: yadda yadda yadda
    Gilligan: You're right, Professor.
    Skipper: Gilligan, they can't both be right.
    Gilligan:....(wait for it...) You're right, Skipper.

    I think you're both right.

    From Lancer's point is the curious phenomenon of not liking how someone does something, but being okay when you do it yourself!

    The mutants became the thing they were railing against. That happens in society. We don't like stereotyping...and then we stereotype the stereotypers. We don't like being treated we treat people unfairly. Why do we do that? It's a natural ("carnal"?) expression of protecting one's own before worrying about others.

    As a black person, it's one thing to fight against racist ideologies that say I'm not as good as someone else just because I'm black...but should I go to the opposite extreme and act like I'm better than others because I'm black?

    Cultures generally "like themselves more" than others, else what would drive them to preserve their culture and hand it to successive generations? That's why Italians think Italian food is "the best," while Greeks think Greek food is the best, while Jamaicans think Jamaican food is the best, while Trinidadians think Trini food is the best, while...

    That's in part why young people don't understand old folks, and old folks don't understand "this younger generation"... and why women don't understand men and men don't understand women...

    We get "we" (whoever "we" are), we don't get "they" (whoever "they" are). The social psychology textbook calls this ingroupism.

    The entire movie illustrates vividly the conflict when there are sympathies on both sides of the discourse. How do we pursue balance and equity in a communitysociety/planet of diversity?

    Paul begs for balance, "each one not looking to one's own needs, but also looking out for the needs of others," in Philippians 2:4. And that speaks to culture, gender.

    On to M. Wanderer's point in the next comment.

  6. Further to previous, re: M. Wanderer's point, I agree that bullying may include a number of complex and legitimate causal factors. If you want to attempt to roll them all up under the banner of "fear", or if Lancer wants to attempt to suggest that doing it "because it's fun" isn't still just a rationalization for "fear of someone different being cooler than you", go ahead and do that, too.

    Either way, whatever the reasons people bully others, the reasons are not unreasonable.

    When a lion kills a hyena and does not eat it, or ousts an old male and then goes ahead and kills his cubs, is that an interpretation of bullying? Or, is human bullying behaviour an interpretation of this behaviour? And, would we in calling it "fear of food source competition" or "fear of not reproducing the strongest offspring" dismiss that fear as irrational or illogical?

    Or, when a pride of lions surveys a herd of zebra or gazelles, their instincts make them focus on the small and the weak. Big strong lions picking on a weak little zebra! Do we not share any similar instincts, and what drives such instincts?

    Fear is a preservation mechanism. It's good to be afraid to walk into traffic without looking; it's good to be afraid when I hear a rattlesnake's rattle; it's good when kids let their parents check Halloween candy before biting into a carmelized apple with razor blades inserted...

    But, fear can be expressed both defensively, a "flight" approach; or offensively, the "fight approach, even taking a pre-emptive action to neutralize what appears to be a potential threat before it realizes its potential and actually becomes a threat to us.

    Bullying can easily be understood as manifestations of these instinctual issues. However, once we do that, we must continue the conversation, accepting that, as reasonable as bullying may actually be, we as a society have decided it's not an appropriate behaviour.

    So, we attempt, best we can, to deal with situations rationally and hope to detect irrational plans for a "perfect society of people who look just like me" that must mean subjugating all those who don't look like me.

    However, not appreciating the "survival drive" that fear supports is to defrock us of our humanity, imperfect as it is. Even God has pity/compassion for us, for he "knows our frame, and remembers we are dust," Psalm 103:14.

    Again, this is not an excuse to sin; just an appreciation for God's "understanding" and invitation for us to also "love one another as God has loved us."

  7. M.Wanderer: "I'm not saying its the only reason why there is bullying"

    Your statement "The only common denominator with all bullying has been and always will be is FEAR." made it sound like you *were* saying that, which is why I gave the response that I did. I can accept fear as a reason for some bullying, but I also see a complete lack of fear being the reason in many other kinds. Definitely not a 9:1 ratio.

    My original post was that the movies make too much of a point about bullying, and not enough of a point about the temptation to superiority. Yes, the Third Reich saw themselves as a fulfillment of Nietzsche's Super Man. They felt a need to keep the aryan race "pure", and the Jews, and other minority groups, were seen as an obstacle to this. Yes, Magneto, being a Jew, ironically takes on their mentality in his "us vs them" philosophy, and he rails against what was done to his parents while doing the same to others.

    The other example I was thinking of was the slave trade. Slavery has been around for millenia, but there was something about the slave trade in the last 500 years that was particularly bad. It was the dehumanization of a race of people, largely supported by the belief that they were "savage" and "primitive". People even tried to justify this view scientifically. The slaves did nothing to warrant this regard from the slave owners; it emanated almost completely from pride in a society's own cultural, economic, and technological achievements. So the irony is that while the slave owners thought their slaves weren't fully human, they themselves became less than human in their treatment of slaves.

    In both the Nazi and slave trade analogies, the core problem is pride! Even in bullying, I think pride is more essential to the equation than fear; and the mutants in the X-Men movies have no shortage of it. Some if it is benign, but you see the pride there in almost every character (except the ones who look upon their power as a curse).

    Professor X uses his powers in benign ways, but look at how he commandeered Cerebro and rejected any accountability from the institutions of normal people in First Class. He didn't trust the CIA, but he didn't feel obligated to answer to anyone. Those people whom he didn't trust basically all got massacred shortly afterwards by only 3-4 mutants. Only one of the perpetrators pay for this atrocity in the end, with the X-Men basically letting the rest go. The X-Men movies don't seem to take mutant crimes against normal people seriously, and that is symptomatic of a superiority complex.

    Contrast this with Superman, or Spiderman. One is a super-powerful alien who is legitimately not human, and the other a normal-guy-turned-mutant. Each is committed to the value of other people, and the responsible use of their own powers. They struggle with the temptation for their powers to turn them into monsters. At the end of the day, they also tend to turn villains over to the justice of the law. They are not acting apart from society, but on its behalf. Even if there is something scary about their powers, people's reactions to them are much more believable; a mixture of praise and suspicion.

    I can only chalk-up the difference to the authors of X-Men wanting to tell a different kind of story. Unfortunately, that story appears to require a very narrow-minded view of the world through the eyes of just one side, with a one-dimensional view of the other side. If there's anything wrong with our cultural debates in this day-and-age, this is it. When someone consistently plays the victim card, I worry that they are trying to get you to ignore something. There is an elephant in the room, and I think the focus on victim-hood is telling us to ignore it.

  8. Hey Lancer,

    "The X-Men movies don't seem to take mutant crimes against normal people seriously, and that is symptomatic of a superiority complex."

    In Terminator Salvation (which I personally think was a bad movie), one of its redeeming points speaks to your comment here. John Connor's appeal to ignore the order that would have caused the death of human beings was based on the argument that, if we kill people to advance our cause, we're just as bad as the machines, and have lost the justification to fight at all.

    There remained, therefore, a morality, even at the brink of annihilation. The ends do not justify all means.

    In X-Men, it seems the mutants believe "hey, whatever it takes, even if it means doing to them what we said was wrong to do to us."

    In other news, "pride" is a term we use to describe a sense of self-worth (individual, communal, societal, etc...). Both "fear" and "pride" drive people to do things for self-preservation. They are, again, two sides of one self-preserving coin.

    A call to a higher morality is a call to rationally act beyond the drives of both fear and pride. 1 John 4:18 reads "There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out all fear," and 2 Timothy 1:7 reads "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound ("rational") mind." And, of course, "pride goes before a fall."

    These ideals, these appeals to a higher morality, are a challenge to (carnal human nature; but to not rise to the challenge is to risk descending to the ugliness we see as depicted in movies like X-Man, or in real life as in the examples you mentioned. Clearly, X-Men succeeded in demonstrating this ugliness; hopefully those who viewed the movie didn't leave just talking about the special effects - the story speaks to the human condition.

  9. Just adding a little something to this debate. Anyone here notice that new movie thats out now called "Chronicle"? Heres a trailer for it:
    the basic profile on it is this: "Three high school friends gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery. Soon, though, they find their lives spinning out of control and their bond tested as they embrace their darker sides."
    I think one of them, (Andrew whom ironicly was bullied in the past) is particulary blatant on using his newly found ablilites for his own personal use, does more damaging things...and you can guess the rest. I can see if someone with those ablittles stared using them to this degree where they are breaking laws and hurting people that they should be obtained or controled to some if possible...just judging from the trailer, don't think that will be easy for the local law enforcement to do that...O_o
    At any rate, the film though independent, has gotten a fair amount of good reviews...of course its better to see the film for yourselves, which I plan to do later on..just thought I would bring it up with this conversational debate..:)


What do you think?!