X-Men: First Class
Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, January Jones
There’s something about the 1960s which just strikes me as being sexy and cool. I remember as a kid being exposed to a lot of Get Smart, Rat Pack movies, the old school Batman TV show and of course Sean Connery as James Bond. The music, clothes, style and attitude will always be associated with a certain kind of cool. The Beatles were rocking the chart, London was the fashion capital of the world and JFK was in the White House. And in America, a small comic book company called Marvel Comics was beginning to make it’s mark. They already had hits with characters such as the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Thor and Spider-Man. And then came the X-Men.
The X-Men was a book truly ahead of it’s time. The X-Men was about a group of outcasts who were hated and ostracized just because they were born different. They stood up to protect a world that hated and feared them. This is what made them special. This is what made them unique. And the new movie X-Men: First Class takes us back to the beginning of the X-Men. Super powered mutant vs super powered mutant with a 1960s backdrop.
And the results are groovy.
X-Men:FC begins the same way as the X-Men movie from 2000. Magneto is a young Jewish boy experiencing the horrors of the Nazi internment camps. He also happens to have been born a mutant, a superhuman with the ability to control magnetism. The camps are an experience that will haunt him forever. He knows first hand what it means to be hunted and killed for being born different. When we meet Magneto as an adult in 1962 (played by Michael Fassbender), he’s managed to track down the man who experimented on him in the camps to study his abilities. And it turns out that this man Shaw (Kevin Bacon) is also a mutant. A mutant with a plan to start World War III and then take over the world.
Magneto joins forces with a young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), a mutant telepath, and together to recruit a team of mutants to take on Shaw and save the world. But does the world want to be saved by mutants? Will the world see mutants as potential friends or just a threat that needs to be eliminated? The decisions made here will affect mutant kind for decades to come.
X-Men:FC is a great movie that works on so many levels. The 60s setting has a lot to do with this. For one thing, the Malcolm X/Martin Luther King Jr vibe that is inherent in the Magneto/Xavier relationship is enhanced by being set during the era these men are most associated with. This real world setting also provides us with the basis of climatic event of this movie: the Cuban Missile Crisis. Here the stakes are high yet surprisingly grounded. There are a bunch of people pushing the special effects budget to the limit with their super powered conflict, yet because this is set amongst a historical event, this doesn’t feel over the top. And the sets and costumes are constructed out of pure awesome. Shaw’s submarine just screams Swinging Sixties. Emma Frost’s (January Jones) costume choices look like something Emma Peel would have worn in The Avengers (the old TV show, not the upcoming superhero movie). Everything feels like it’s been ripped straight out of a 60s Bond movie with modern, big budget special effects thrown in for good measure. These are all fantastic things.
That doesn’t mean that there are no areas of concern. The 60s sensibility may be distracting for some, especially seeing January Jones spends most of the movie in her lingerie. The women in this movie are portrayed as being sexy and powerful, yet their choice of clothing may find some struggling. On a different note, some scenes may be too intense for some, as there is a certain element of horror in Magneto’s experiences in the Nazi camp, as well as his subsequent actions. However, these are minor cautions.
The X-Men, at their core, are a metaphor for being different and seeking acceptance. Over the years, the X-Men have represented anyone who feels like they are on the outside and persecuted because of their gender, race, sexual preference, disability. The Xavier and his X-Men call us to unite, stand strong and fight for acceptance. That even though you are attacked for who you are, prejudice should always be opposed. On the other hand, Magneto stands for something different. He believes that those who are different should unite and separate themselves. Form their own communities and live in seclusion. Or destroy anyone who opposes them.
What is the message here for Christians? Should we follow Xavier? Xavier would have us live amongst those who hate and fear us and seek to win them over with our good deeds. Or should we follow Magneto? Magneto would have us withdraw from the world and only associate with other Christians. And if the non-Christians make life too difficult for us, attack them.
The Bible calls us to live in this world. We are to live amongst those who don’t understand us. Those who are hostile towards God. Those who hate us because of who we represent. And we are to live in a way that honors God and points people towards him. “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.”But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (1 Peter 3:13-16) Live such good lives amongst non-believers that they will want to know God. The Bible wants us to be X-Men.
I really enjoyed X-Men:First Class. It’s a movie I was really looking forward to and it certainly delivered. I’d even go so far to say it’s my favourite movie of 2011 so far. If you want to see an action movie that tries to do more than just blow things up, go see this film.