I should begin by explaining that I was predisposed to love this movie. The X-Men movies were my favorites when the superhero movies first reappeared, I love James McAvoy (sat through Wanted for him. And Angelina Jolie) and I thought Michael Fassbender was terrific as Rochester in the superb Jane Eyre.
X-Men First Class is the origin story: how Charles became Professor X and founded Xavier’s School for the Gifted, and how Erik became Magneto. McAvoy’s Charles is the charming Brit who picks up coeds in pubs by talking about mutations. As previously mentioned, I adore McAvoy, but the real scene-stealer is young Erik. Fassbender’s Erik is a badass, hunting down escaped Nazis and looking fine while doing so. The two cross paths in an attempt to apprehend Kevin Bacon’s Nazi character and join forces. Bacon’s schemer is responsible for the Cuban Missile Crisis, the MacGuffin of the film, and our heroes must stop him.
It’s a typical superhero origin story, with a good mix of action, comedy and not-too-serious dramatic stakes. I question the prominence of a female CIA agent, even if she does look as good as Rose Byrne in her underwear, but she offers a welcome dose of estrogen in a movie with few female characters.
It’s not quite the reboot of Batman Begins, and I think I enjoyed Thor a little more, if only because I spent so much of X-Men trying to figure out how old the characters are, and how far in the future the original trilogy takes place. It’s good fun, a great start to the summer movie season, a nice showcase for McAvoy and Fassbender, and best of all there are no homophobic undertones or gay jokes (I’m looking at you, Hangover sequel).
I give it a solid B+.
My attempts a interpreting the moral philosophies of Charles and Erik, and my relation to them, are after the jump.
I left the movie thinking about the moral philosophies of Erik and Charles, and how different personalities react to momentous events and trauma. Erik is a concentration camp survivor. His parents were killed by the Nazis and he’s seeking vengeance. He is distrustful of the humans and his beginning to develop the superior race theory espoused by Ian McKellan’s Erik/Magneto in the X-Men trilogy. Ironic, considering Erik’s experience with the Nazis, but Erik is fueled by rage and revenge and not inclined to see the irony. He’s survived unspeakable horrors and his mission is to ensure it never happens again.
Charles grew up in a mansion in Westchester, New York. There is some suggestion is mother was distant, but Charles discovered Raven (later Mystique), who became an adopted sister to him. He grew up with another mutant, (Erik thought he was the only one) and certainly a greater sense of security and safety than Erik. Charles looks for hope and peaceful coexistence. He is the type of person who can find the humanity in anyone. He also suffers some hardship (SPOILER: we learn how ended up in a wheelchair) but is not the type to be defeated. Charles is the optimist.
I relate more to Fassbender’s Erik. I don’t see myself wreaking havoc as some sort of avenging Angel of Death, but it’s easier for me to understand the rage and the anger than the eternal hope. I recognize these traits in myself, so I also recognize the importance of surrounding myself with people like Charles. I can play the supportive, encouraging, look-to-a-better-future Charles role when needed, but it is playing a role. Erik is easier for me.
It would be simpler to say Erik is darker than Charles because Charles has not experienced the darkness and the pain that Erik has, that only those of us who have suffered can truly understand the pain and anger we experience. But there are personality traits involved, too. After he ends up in a wheelchair, Charles could have become angry and resentful, but it’s not his style. He adapts to survive. Erik is a survivor, too, but his instincts come from a different place. In helping Erik to wield his power, Charles says he believes control lies between serenity and rage. It is easier for Erik to reach rage than serenity, while Charles is more in touch with serenity than rage.
This concludes the overly analytic moral philosophizing inspired by popcorn superhero movies.