Friday, June 3, 2011

X-Men: First Class, Remedial Edition

Yeah, I see why they named it that. It seemed like it was written for a ninth grade English assignment. The Rotten Tomato meter is pretty high on this one. Yet I remain ambivalent.

The special effects in movies at this point are so high quality there's no point in griping about them. If you love you some CG, go have a good time. If you are bothered by random remarks that seem out of place in the context, consider seeing something else. These random remarks are what makes me think it was written by a group of ninth graders. One of them insisted they cut to the black guy when they say the word slavery. And that was probably the same one that thought it was a good idea to say women don't belong in the CIA. Probably heard that's what people were like in the '60s and thought that would make it seem AUTHENTIC. Well it was so far from being authentic for the time they should have avoided to the urge to do those things. It just pointed out how bad they did at capturing the feel of those days.

Maybe that weird split screen editing in the part of a movie where they have a montage was supposed to seem period appropriate, too, but it was just corny. Not good. If the editor didn't know better than that I'm inclined to blame him for many other complaints. Why would they stick in an infantile explanation for the name X-Men yet not bother to explain how a blue girl about age 8 ended up in the kitchen of an English mansion raiding the refrigerator? I can't see the ninth graders leaving that out of their screenplay. It must have gotten cut along with their parents. Apparently the only one with parents is the one we already knew about from the other movies, Magneto from Poland.

January Jones as Emma Frost was poorly used in the movie. Her character would hint at having some, I don't know, character, then she would turn into a chandelier with tits (coined by @JhonenV) and that would be it until the next scene featuring her milky white cleavage and blank facial expression and the turning into a chandelier again. I guess all the time she was off screen she was shopping for those amazing outfits. I came along at the end of that decade and all I remember was double knit. Did they really have slub silk coats and fox fur bikini cover ups and goat skin boots in 1962? Neat!

They liked having people change into something else. Emma Frost did it and the blue one, Rascal? Rodent? Raven! They were fond of an effect that looks like those old clocks with the numbers that flip. So it was like she would just change time all over and look like somebody else. Yeah whatever, it got old. Especially when the clothes would flip too then be clothes again right where they were already.

Some of the acting was not bad, but the directing was. Kevin Bacon got really excited when he first got Erik to show his power. It was one of only two times somebody got excited in the whole movie. The other time was when Oliver Platt got to act for a few seconds in a CIA meeting. Then he got edited out I guess.

Wanton destruction was wanton. The effects were so good I actually felt myself worrying about the damage to the beach and the trees in this one Caribbean scene then I remembered the reason those trees were arranged in a perfect Gaussian distribution was because it was all rendered, not real. If you like watching things get torn all to hell, this is a good one for you.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the 30 meter satellite dish in the yard of Professor Xavier's house. He leased some land to the long distance company for a repeater? I've seen antennas like that in those places. I have no idea what they meant for it to be. Back in the cold war they did have a lot of fast moving smaller dish antennas to follow the spy satellites as the went by overhead. They were low satellites so they zipped by. That dish in Xavier's yard was not that kind. They have seen some similar to that at the cold war satellite linkup installation in North Carolina (Pisgah Astronomical Research Association) that I've been to, so I'll buy that it existed.

They tried to have an authentic looking radome back at the CIA facility over the thing that amplifies Professor Xavier's telepathic abilities too. The radome at PARI is similar to that but it had pseudo-random shaped panels to reduce natural frequency interference. But in the middle there's a 12m dish. Not one of those things beauty queens lean against on a float and a 1950's permanent wave apparatus. That's what they had in their radome in X-Men. Whatever. At least it was more believable for the era than the thing in the later movies.

I found the mutant abilities silly and the fact they even talked about evolution was preposterous. That's not evolution. That's just ridiculous. Have a ridiculous explanation. Like they went forward in time, evolved over thousands of years to some specific natural circumstance, then got sent back to freak out the humans as a prank or punishment or something. Maybe to even stop nuclear war. I don't know. Just not evolution. Never getting wisdom teeth is evolution, not being born blue with flip-clock skin that can mimic clothes and hair bone structure and everything. Even the chandelier with tits was more believable than the blue flip-clock.

I did like the Cadillac the CIA agent had. I liked that it had no pillar between the front and back doors. A death trap in a roll over, but that's what made it seem good for this film. I did not, however, appreciate that they wet down the floor in the parking garage so it was all shiny. Maybe it was CG shiny. Either way, it completely threw me off. Why? What? How? Just no! That's like a trick real estate agents do to take a picture of a house and make it look better, wet down the driveway. I've done it. But in a parking deck it's just gratuitous and distracting. Stuff like that just ruin it for me worse than a kid who can fly by yelling at the ground. One is suspending disbelief and the other is trying to ignore bad taste. Can't do that.


  1. When they cut to the black guy at the mention of slavery I was taken so far out of the movie I found myself standing outside the cinema momentarily. Yes, this movie gave me a mutant superpower! Which will act as a metaphor for fitting in and being beautiful no matter how badly I'm written. I managed to control my new abilities until the end, when the Jewish guy said, "Never again!" when I once more found myself standing outside wondering what I was watching and why. I did learn that I was beautiful and that fitting in is important. Or something.

  2. Excellent review. Although now I actually want to see this movie, which I formerly had zero desire to see, just because of what you've written! I want to see all of the silly crap you've mentioned, especially the 36 DD chandelier.

  3. Have you not watched the first few X-Men movies?

    The "blue flip-clock" effect is well established for Mystique (the name she chose after Raven). She can mimic and form, including clothing, so she generally walks around naked so she can look like anything. This movie showed her transitioning from a normal person who generally wore clothes into the mutant for whom they are actually a hindrance.

    The earlier movies also make comments about evolution making big, random jumps. Sure, evolution won't give you amazing powers that violate the laws of physics, but this is a comic book! Like transporters, warp drives, light sabers, and force fields, writers add a veneer of science jargon so we can pretend it's not just "magic."