X-Men vs. X-Men: First Class

Okay, I just had to re-watch Brian Singer’s original X-Men (2000) after seeing X-Men: First Class.  I wanted to see how these two movies played off each other.  Call XM:FC what you want–origin story, prequel–it still has to be a good movie.  And I think Singer’s original X-Men is a much better movie than X-Men: First Class.  Here’s why.

1.  XM: So much more character development of several characters–Rogue, Wolverine, Magneto, Xavier, Jean Grey.  This movie takes time with its characters and keeps focus on Wolverine as the “schill” or the “new guy” who gets to experience all the Xavier School like we do, for the first time.  He operates “as us” so other characters tell him things we need to know.  Their world is well-developed already and intricate and we get the idea that it’s solid and has been this way for awhile, and has stuff that we haven’t seen yet.

XM:FC barely develops Eric as a tragic, one-note, revenge-minded character, and Charles as a privileged fop whose compassion comes because of his blindness to others hardships (though occasionally, his mind-link helps him “understand” your pain).  FC Xavier comes by his compassion too easily; original Xavier seems much kinder, empathetic, a person I’d admire.

None of the minor characters in XM:FC are even developed.  They barely get screen time except to fight.  Sure XM has its share of background/throwaway characters who simply run through a door, or make an ice rose, but we don’t need to know who they are.  They aren’t pivotal to the plot.  XM:FC characters are, and it’s a shame they are never really developed.

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Mob Rules and the Art of the Team Movie— a review of X-Men: First Class

I saw X-Men: First Class last night.  It was a good, solid action movie with stunning special effects.  It moves and kept me interested.  It never had me on the edge of my seat.  It’s an origin story– it has to go through certain details to collect them all–but it doesn’t do it very interestingly, in my opinion.  It also has trouble with multiple characters, having a hard time giving them much development.  I thought the original X-Men did a better job at giving each character a moment.  While Wolverine, Rogue, Dr Jean Grey, et al have their moments to shine as characters pre-Xavier, we don’t have that in this movie.  Here, we barely know anything about Banshee, Beast, Raven, Angel, Darwin, Havoc.  They are more about what they can do than who they are–though they hint at something deeper.  In all, it’s a pretty good film, but not an amazing one.  Enjoy it as an action flick.

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Wolverine: You can’t hurt him, so you can’t hurt us

x-men-origins-wolverine-20090212020925195While Wolverine looked promising, it was a confusing mess of action with never a moment of tension. The problem was established early–in the credits–and this hindered us from caring about the characters.

If you make your characters indestructible, then you eliminate us from caring. It was the problem with Superman many years ago–he had no real vulnerability. So the writers rewrote him. Here with Wolverine and Sabertooth, they are given nearly immortal status at the beginning of the film. They don’t age slowly–they just don’t age once they hit their thirties. And they go through the Civil War, WW1, WW2, and the Vietnam War all in about ten minutes of screen time. They are always frontline, get shot at over and over, get hit, but never get hurt. There is no danger for these guys. None. That is established up front. So why would there be any tension in the film?

The film goes on to try and make Wolverine truly indestructible by giving him admantium bones. But since he was already invulnerable (yeah, he could get slightly bruised in a fight with his brother), the admantium claws gave him no discernible advantage. Ah, yes, in fights with Sabertooth, Sabe’s face was a bit more pained–but he was still walking tall after the fights. Spare me the argument that they can heal. 1) An ability to heal that quickly means there are no consequences. No consequences eliminate plot and choice–both essential to story. 2) Wolverine never healed that quickly in the comics. The point of Wolverine’s healing ability was to protect him in the long run, but he got beat up bad in the comics. Often, it would take him days and weeks to heal. And that’s good—it made him vulnerable, but gave him a slight advantage in the ICU. It made me care. But in this film, immediate healing meant that two shadows were boxing each other. I thought–so what?

The fights were scripted so that either Wolvie or his opponent should fall down so there could be a bit of dialogue, or a change of scene. If Sabertooth met up with any other character, that character was toast. It was just a matter of time. Because Sabertooth was established as indestructible.  Worse yet, I am now not sure what Sabertooth is really responsible for–since his main kill comes back to life.  The body count might have been high–but a viewer can’t care if the bodies spring back to life or never had much life to begin with.

Working against it too–the movie was a prequel. And if the survival of the main characters is the plot of a prequel, you’ve doomed yourself. The plot of a prequel needs to be another mystery–because their survival is assured. Here, we were told that we were going to learn the mystery of Wolverine’s origins–but there was no central goal for the main character, no puzzle to solve; just event after event happening to the main characters. No choices, no consequences, no mystery.

I was looking forward to Cyclops, to Gambit, Blob, etc. These characters were used more for the trailer than the movie. This movie had no arc, no plot, and characters who needed to wade through two hours of special effects to return them to X-Men 1, where they began.