MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on Movies: X-Men: First Class

(Two and a Half Stars)
U.S.: Matthew Vaughn, 2011

Maybe I’m getting tired of super-heroes and super-heroines. Or maybe X-Men: First Class just has too many of them. In any case, the latest Marvel movie, by my reckoning, puts a first-rate cast into a third-rate story, nearly saves it with first or second rate production values, but ultimately sinks into — by my count — second-or-third-rate entertainment.

I’m not trying to be snobbish here. I fully realize this movie will make a kazillion dollars, and that jillions of fans will adore it. Listen: Marvel Comics and Stan Lee‘s original comic-book-writing — from which the original X-Men derives — were actually among my early ‘60s favorites. But, let’s face it, for all the millions and zillions and cockamillions spent on these stories, they’re not Shakespeare. They’re not Dickens or Tolstoy. They‘re not even Elmore Leonard.

And this movie — directed by Matthew Vaughn of Kick-Ass, and assembled by six writers, including Vaughn and the first X-Menmeister Bryan Singer — isn’t up to Stan Lee. Lee’s best writing has a brashness, zing and nose-thumbing humor this movie doesn’t even touch. (To be fair, most of the other Marvel movies don’t touch it either, except for the first Iron Man. )

That doesn’t mean the Marvel movies aren’t entertaining, or even, in their own ways, ambitious. But there’s nothing very original or exciting about X-Men: First Class — an origin story that takes us back to the creation of the super-mutant group fussed over by Professor X aka Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellan) — despite its very expensive attempt to reboot ‘60s Marvel Comics and James Bond.

X-Men: First Class does throw around a lot of money and flex a lot of technical prowess, and it shows us, in great, dubious detail, how these young mutant super-supers were recruited and came together and how they got their names. (If you want proof that X: First isn’t first-rate writing, check out those naming scenes.)

For all of ice-babe Emma Frost’s (Jones) glittering diamond skin (diamonds are really her best friend), and Beast’s (Nicolas Hoult’s) weird feet, and Mystique’s (Lawrence) blue face and flaming hair, I also found it hard to warm up to these people — hard to warm up to anybody except, occasionally, the super-intense Erik, the brainy and bemused Charles and Bacon’s cheerfully odious super-villain, who at least seemed to be having a good time. I’m also a little amazed (though happy for his career prospects) at all the slavering over Fassbender for this movie and part, when he’s obviously so much better in lesser-seen films like Hunger and Jane Eyre.

“X: First” does try to ram some significance in by drawing parallels between the mutant kids and various outsider groups and victims of prejudice: Jews and gays and even intellectuals, as well as people with blue skin and silly helmets. “I‘m mutant and I‘m proud“ is one of the show’s signature phrases, and, one character says of his mutant gifts, “They didn’t ask, so I didn‘t tell.” Daring? Or trivializing? Or both?

Director/co-writer Vaughn — who made an amusing show out of Kick-Ass — does his job fairly well here. The movie is slick and fast and good-looking (not as good-looking perhaps, as it should be), and it has a genuinely exciting though dopey last act: that crazy three-cornered American-Russian-mutant battle off Cuba, with President Kennedy delivering the coda on TV. (That scene shows that JFK has more star power than either Fassbender or McAvoy. Or Kevin Bacon.)

Overall, it’s a good enough action movie with good effects and very good actors, in not very challenging roles. But I got little real pleasure out of it. For all the movie’s conspicuous expenditure and classy cast, the writers only come up with some vaguely memorable set-pieces and only a few sentences worth repeating. ( I won’t squander them all here.)

So there’s a limit to what even a ensemble like Fassbender, McAvoy, Lawrence, Byrne, January Jones, and Kevin Bacon can do for you, especially when the script is so ordinary — composed, among other uninspiring bits, of that questionable Holocaust prelude, a lot of inside Marvel jokes, homoerotic undertones, funny costumes, and that truly inane re-imagining of the Cuban Missile Crisis. For me, the new X-Men was hard to sit through. Others may and will disagree. That’s what makes Cuban missile races.

I never read the X-Men books in my Marvel Comics-reading days, back in the ‘60s, and I guess there’s even less chance I’ll ever read one now. (“X-Men” aficionados tell me this movie is a faithful reboot.) My loss, I guess. Proust and Musil and “Finnegan’s Wake” and a lot of Balzac are still on the shelf too. Still, I’m beginning to think there’s a limit to the number of big, expensive, technically spectacular movies I want to see based on comic book heroes, even the ones dreamed up by Stan Lee and his buddies.

Unless they bring back more comedy — which I think, is the best way to play a movie that has heroes and heroines with blue skin and stretchable feet, and villains and anti-heroines with diamond covered bodies and silly-looking helmets, and a Cuban missile Crisis remote-controlled by warring mutants, while the Americans and Russians — reduced to impotent bystanders — watch in addled confusion.

X-Men: First Class — not only a projected box-office smash but a big critical hit as well — may deliver the goods in its own special arena. It’s a movie that will make a lot of money and maybe please a lot of people. But it’s also a movie I found hard to sit through. A personal taste no doubt, but all taste is personal. And this “X” is not the kind of movie that got me excited about movies in the first place, and also probably not the kind of movie that should be sucking all the oxygen out of the room, especially when something as brilliant as Terrence Malick‘s The Tree of Life is around. (Neither are The Hangover 2 or Kung Fu Panda 2.) I pretty much forgot most of “X-First” as I headed for the exits, and I’ll bet some of the people praising it to the skies secretly felt that way too.

Be Sociable, Share!

One Response to “Wilmington on Movies: X-Men: First Class”

  1. I really like Halloween party! Their the best use of the season and beloved getaway. I enjoy being fashionable in addition to really getting into figure of my outfit and achieving a fun time.


awesome stuff. OK I would like to contribute as well by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some amazing and easy to modify. check it out at All custom premade files, many of them totally free to get. Also, check out Dow on: Wilmington on DVDs: How to Train Your Dragon, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Darjeeling Limited, The Films of Nikita Mikhalkov, The Hangover, The Human Centipede and more ...

cool post. OK I would like to contribute too by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some amazing and easy to customize. check it out at All custom templates, many of them dirt cheap or free to get. Also, check out Downlo on: Wilmington on Movies: I'm Still Here, Soul Kitchen and Bran Nue Dae

awesome post. Now I would like to contribute too by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some beautiful and easy to modify. take a look at All custom premade files, many of them free to get. Also, check out DownloadSoho.c on: MW on Movies: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Paranormal Activity 2, and CIFF Wrap-Up

Carrie Mulligan on: Wilmington on DVDs: The Great Gatsby

isa50 on: Wilmington on DVDs: Gladiator; Hell's Half Acre; The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Rory on: Wilmington on Movies: Snow White and the Huntsman

Andrew Coyle on: Wilmington On Movies: Paterson

tamzap on: Wilmington on DVDs: The Magnificent Seven, Date Night, Little Women, Chicago and more …

rdecker5 on: Wilmington on DVDs: Ivan's Childhood

Ray Pride on: Wilmington on Movies: The Purge: Election Year

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon