X-MEN: FIRST CLASS

Overall Impression – Perfunctory storytelling meets lack of charisma.

THE FOUR QUESTIONS

Who’s your main character? – Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto).

What’s he trying to accomplish? – Professional: Kill Sebastian Shaw. Personal: Work with Charles Xavier to find and recruit fellow mutants.  Private: Create the family he was deprived of as a child.

Who’s trying to stop him? – Sebastian Shaw, the U.S. Military, and ultimately Charles Xavier.

What happens if he fails? – His mother’s death goes unavenged and he and his fellow mutants are reviled and killed.

THE FOUR ARCHETYPES

Orphan – Erik is a true orphan, losing both of his parents in the Holocaust and particularly his mother whom he witnesses being shot by Shaw.

Wanderer – After the war is over, Erik roams the world, looking for the man who killed his mother.  In the course of his travels from Geneva to Argentina and finally Miami, Erik finds Shaw and is ready to kill him, but fails.  He is rescued by Charles Xavier who has been recruited by the CIA to also help defeat Shaw.

Warrior – Erik teams up with Xavier to find and recruit additional mutants and take the battle back to Shaw.

Martyr – Driven by revenge, Erik is willing to go after Shaw on his own.  Successfully killing Shaw, Erik is now confronted by the full fury of US military.  Confirming his feeling that mutants will never be accepted, he is about to destroy the ships that are firing on him and his “family” with their own missiles, but gives that up only after Xavier is accidentally wounded by Erik’s own actions.

AND, IN THE END…

Trying to hit that all important superhero, sci-fi, bromance demographic, X-Men: First Class does everything mostly right on paper but is ultimately undone by both the lack of depth of the individual characters and lack of emotional connection between the characters.  Putting characters together into the same scene is not the same as characters coming together in a scene, and therein lies the problem with this film.  All the pieces are in the right places, but with the exception of Erik their inner lives are as bland as porridge.

Structurally, things are sound if somewhat unexciting.  The mutant teens are sound and unexciting.  The villain is sound but unexciting.  The settings are…well…you get the idea. Working with a lot less, director Matthew Vaughn really kicked our a**es with Kick A**. Moral compass unease aside, that movie had characters with no super powers, no political background to play against (X-Men: First Class shows us what was “really”  going on during the Cuban missile crisis), and a smaller canvas to paint upon, yet the hurt and depth and the complexity of the characters was much, much more than this motley group of mutants can put forth.

To quote Andrew O’Hehir from salon.com, “there’s something a little depressing about all the hype and excitement surrounding X-Men: First Class.”

— Jeffrey Alan Schechter

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