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« Distant Relatives: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and The Kids Are All Right | Main | Open Thread, Oscar Topics? »
Thursday
Feb102011

Yes, No, Maybe So: "X-Men: First Class"

The trailer has arrived.

Travel back in time with me to the late 70s. Yes, I know the movie we're about to discuss takes place in the early 60s. But I wasn't alive yet and neither were many of you. Wee Nathaniel was alive in the 1970s (shut up!). Jump forward to Christmas 1979. In Nathaniel's Christmas stocking, the greatest gift he'd known until that time: The Uncanny X-Men #129. He tore through the pages, died right on the spot from joy and went to heaven. The End.

The point is this: no matter how many bad superhero movies may come, no matter how glutted the superhero genre becomes at the movies, no matter how many bad X-Movies arrive (Hi, X-Men 3 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. You suck!) Nathaniel will always be susceptible to Charles Xavier and the School For Gifted Youngsters. He will always hope that the movies will ever capture the magic of those first comic books. He will always be glad that Bryan Singer's X-2 (the second or third best superhero movie ever made) nearly managed it in a few scenes.

To this point the X-Men movie series has ignored The Hellfire Club, who were all introduced in this very (personally sacred) issue that changed my young life. I was a junkie thereafter for mutants, comic books, and spectacularly-bodied superheroines like Storm & Phoenix and spectacularly-bodied ice queens like Emma Frost, The White Queen. Kitty Pryde was also introduced in this movie but she was only 13. (Even then I preferred the older ladies. Storm and Phoenix were probably only 20 or something but to me that was ADULT. anyway.... reign it in. geezus!

This time the movies are going there, Emma Frost (January Jones) and all.

X-Men: First Class trailer and further anxiety after the jump! Wheeeee

Even though we're an automatic yes (in theory) due to that childhood obsession, let's do our traditional breakdown anyway. The movie proclaims itself a prequel right away with its titles introducing us to Professor X when he was Charles (James McAvoy replacing Patrick Stewart) and Magneto when he was Erik (Michael Fassbender replacing Sir Ian McKellen), two very powerful young men starting their lives as the self-made leaders of the mutant world in the 1960s.


Yes. Superhero movies should be a bit outre given their fantastical nature but they're usually very earthbound and afraid of weird flights of fancy. This shot above featuring a character I'm not familiar with is so weird and I love it. It appears that James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are two pervy ambiguously gay (but only for each other) businessmen who like to visit Lynchian mutant strip clubs. I'm in!

Another thing about this image: CGI is the most pointlessly arrogant of movie tools. It always thinks its wowing you even if its uninspired, familiar and generic. Art direction, costumes, and basic frame composition, on the other hand... these tools of the cinema tend to be more humble; they know they have to work at thrilling audiences.

No. I can't remember when I first found out that the Emma Frost could turn into diamonds (I haven't read the comics in a long time) but I hate it. She couldn't do that back in the 80s! Back then she only had two superpowers to use: insanely powerful psychic abilities (telepathy, telekinises, the works) and the ability to fit her superfreak body into the tiniest sluttiest white corsets you've ever seen.

I hate this frame of the trailer for another reason: Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) looks very generic. In fact everything looks generic here. The trailer frames keep alternately convincing me that the movie is going to be very good looking or very bland. I can't decide which.


Maybe So. Prequels live or die, thrill or bore, based on how well they reimagine characters you think you know, retracing their earliest formative moments. If they connect too many dots, like This Caused This Caused That they generally suck. If they make you reengage with characters in surprising ways that don't contradict your familiarity, they are generally worth the effort.

In short, good luck! At least they cast well: McAvoy and Fassbender are very talented actors.

Your turn in the comments.
Are you a yes, no or maybe so? And why.

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Reader Comments (23)

oh my god, X-Men is Nathaniel's Harry Potter!

I just can't reconcile myself to James McAvoy as Charles Xavier. the trailer looked....interesting, i guess. it has that going for it.

February 10, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercici

X-Men 3 was awful and Wolverine was the same... but I'm just excited about this one. Like you, childhood memories and fanboy-ism means it's an automatic yes. McAvoy and Fassbender are like icing to the cake. Hope the cake tastes good too!

February 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

"oh my god, X-Men is Nathaniel's Harry Potter! "

HA HA HA HA! Oh man, comment of the day! I love this.

February 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Reid

cici -- i've never made that parallel but maybe you're right. With the x-men i forgive too much!

February 10, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Another childhood X-Men fan here with mucho bias. I always felt like the problem with the X-Men films (and I agree that the 1st and 2nd were good) was that despite the X-Men's impressive villains gallery, the films have chosen to feature such bland baddies like Toad, William Stryker, Mastermind, Lady Deathstrike or Juggernaut or uninspired interpretations of decent villains like Sabretooth and Mystique. I must admit, Emma Frost (whose only selling point was really ever the outfits) and Sebastian Shaw don't get me excited.

I think part of the problem is that Magneto casts a large shadow and can't really be cast aside in any movie... thus all other villains become secondary.

Still, where's Apocalypse or Mr. Sinister or Omega Red? Okay done nerding out now.

February 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRobert

I'm interested in seeing Jennifer Lawrence in something else so I can fairly judge her acting. Winter's Bone easily could've been luck.

February 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJonathon

Lychian strip clubs...love it!

I am a bit underwhelmed by the trailer, considering the film is coming out in June I expected to see a little more...but that final shot is great and the lychian strip club frame is gorgeous so I have some hope

February 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTerence

I love X-Men :) a lot of different characters, there's always gonna be something/someone you like or connect to, the cartoon was pretty good too.

In a perfect world I would have Darren Aronofsky direct "The Dark Phoenix" and exploit the talents of Emily Blunt as a younger Jean Gray and then totally break ground with Cate Blanchett as the evil, mature, possessed by the Phoenix woman and make two parallel stories.

Should it happen, it can be a fascinating character study that can even overpower the dramatic Wolverine story from the comic book, but I can only keep dreaming they'll ever do this.

X-Men 3 destroyed everything the 1st two films had achieved, especially the near-perfect X-2. The Phoenix was never even shown.

The Wolverine film was bad but not as bad as X-3.

February 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

I'll definitely be seeing it because I loved the first two films and will be seeing all the major Superhero films this year. Unfortunately, I wasn't impressed with the trailer. I mean it looks okay - and could turn out far better than Last Stand and Wolverine - but It feels like its trying a little too hard to be hip and important. Also, after the last two X-Men related films, it's hard to see this being anything more than average (I hope I'm wrong, though).

As for CGI, I think it gets a bad rap. It's a great tool in the right hands (Spider-Man 2, The Lord Of The Rings, etc.) and a terrible tool in the wrong hands (Alice In Wonderland). The tool itself shouldn't be blamed, it's the people that use it - or overuse it - that are at fault.

February 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Armour

i've never seen any of the x-men movies or have read the books,
BUT
this makes me excited. i'm actually interested in starting with the prequel this time.

February 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmir

Ok so I loved X1 and X2, X3 was a major dissapointment, and Wolverine was just terrible. But as far as i'm concerned, that trailer was fulln of yes. I hope he movie lives up to it.

February 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBroooooke

Bryan singer on The First Class:
let’s just say there are some things that do adhere to the comic books and do so in a way the fans will get a kick out of. And those things can, perhaps, move forward into the future…. That’s one reason we wanted to call the film ‘First Class’ even though it isn’t the [Jeff Parker-penned story arc called] ‘First Class’ in the comics as fans know it. You couldn’t really tell that story without going even earlier and explaining how they got there and how it came to be. I liked the title, so we kept it, but this is a prelude in a way that will eventually lead to the [scenarios] that fit in more clearly with the ‘First Class’ comics and situations.”
http://herocomplex.latimes.com/2011/02/10/x-men-first-class-bryan-singer-talks-about-azazel-havok-and-mystique/
I guess that means fanboys should be prepared if the things you love in the comics aren't in the film.

February 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCha

I'm also a since-childhood X-Men fanboy (for me, it was the '90s animated series), and so my excitement has been slowly mounting for this. The trailer looks very pretty, and I'm liking the Cold War backdrop, so this could be good - plus the casting of Fassbender and Lawrence bodes very, VERY well.

So I'm a YES almost all the way. But that might just be wishful thinking. (In my ideal world, ALL superhero movies would be great. But as the trailer for Green Lantern proves, that just can't be the case.)

February 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndreas

McAvoy, Fassbender, Hoult- HELL YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

February 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNikhat

PART OF ME: YESYESYES! X Men 2 and the first one too.

ANOTHER PART OF ME: NONONO! X Men 3 and the Wolverine movie!

I'll say yes bordering on maybe so because it has Mystique, one of my favorite comic book villains. I want her superpower.

February 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew R.

Been an X-Men fangirl since I was five years old - yes, five! My family moved into a house in 1976 where the previous owner left a ton of old comic books. I learned to read from the X-Men, Archie, Betty and Veronica, Iron Man, Daredevil...etc.

Anyway, a definite yes just because I love the X-men so.

"Emma Frost (whose only selling point was really ever the outfits)"

That use to be the case, say back in the 80s. But in Grant Morrison's relatively recent X-men comic book run, he reinvented the character, adding emotional and psycological depth, and a secondary mutation of a diamond skin. When Emma is in her diamond mode, she's virtually indestructable, but she also can't access her telepathic abilities either. Indeed, when in diamond form, she's colder than ever due to her emotions being in "lock down mode."

As for the wierd lynchian strip club scene and the mutant with the fairy wings, I think that's another character taken from Morrison's run on the comic. I think that's Angel Salvatore.

BTW, I think that McAvoy nails it, arching his eyebrow and putting his hand to his head was such a classic gesture used in the comics when Xavier was using his telepathy.

February 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBlinking Cursor

I agree with Robert about the "bland baddies." I've always felt that way about this series (remember spikeface from X3? what was that?). Although I certainly don't agree that the film interpretation of Mystique was uninspired. They really improved that character, at least visually. Jennifer Lawrence's brief transformation scene was one of the better parts of this trailer for me. And yes, I am a total childhood X-geek who's inexhaustibly drawn to these movies...for better or worse.

February 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKurtis O

@Nikhat-Ditto.

@Nathaniel-"It appears that James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are two pervy ambiguously gay (but only for each other) businessmen who like to visit Lynchian mutant strip clubs." Spot on.

As you can see, I don't have anything new to add to the conversation. I'm a yes! :)

February 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDimitra

Well I thought it was a terrific trailer. I thought there was something bad happening with this film when the trailer was delayed for so long and everything seemed to rushed. But I remain firmly on board.

Beast looked like shit though...

February 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJim Wilson

My heart wants to say yes, but head says no. I find Vaughn's direction such a mixed bag of bland framing and spurts of imagination, that I can't help but think this will be the same. Equally, the CGI is terribly uninteresting (look a floating submarine).

February 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrianZ

Yes: I like James McAvoy way better than Patrick Stewart. The cast sounds interesting, and I've seen all the other X-men films, including the sadly disappointing Wolverine. I've never read the comics though.
No: I prefer Anna Paquin as a lead to Jennifer Lawrence. Paquin has more depths and unexpected twists. Although Lawrence was good in Winter's Bone, I found her a little flat, and think, oh no, she's going to be shoved at me for the next 2 decades regardless of the quality of performance.
Maybe so: If I'm busy or doing something else and miss the movie, I'll just think see it later instead of being disappointed.

February 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteradri

I agree that the films greatly improved the character of Mystique over the comics. She wasn't just a villainess, she was a freedom fighter, a bad-ass anti-heroine. One of the biggest problems I had with X3 was the way that she was unceremoniously discarded.

I'm curious to see how the prequel presents the younger Mystique as a student at Xavier's, as well as what they do with her relationship with Magneto.

February 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBiggs

Biggs -- i LOVED the Magneto/Mystique relationship in the X-Men Movies. McKellen and Romijn Stamos had such a great bitchy bffs chemistry. it was a really unique read on the characters. I'm hoping this film won't forget that you have to find a way to reflect that that relationship might flowerr in that particular way.

February 11, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R
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