Monday, June 6, 2011

X-Men First Class: A Review and Reflection (of sorts)

Call me a sucker for punishment but we went and saw X Men First Class on the weekend as a family. It was good family entertainment and yes we had watched all the other four movies in this remediation of the Marvel Comics X-Men characters. It is hard at the moment to find a movie that is acceptable to the wide rang of age groups represented in our family (from 18-8) and I should add the very diverse range of likes and dislikes.

The movie is the second  prequel to the original movie trilogy, the first origin's movie dealing with the back story of the only character played by the same actor in all five movies (Hugh Jackman) Wolverine. Having an indestructible, almost immortal character when you are shifting along time lines does make casting easy.  This movie deals with the back story of Charles Xavier and how he came to put the X men together and start his school for the gifted. Of more importance perhaps is that it tells the story of his relationship with Erik Lensherr (Magneto) how the two become friends and how they also part ways and pursue different visions of what a mutant future will look like. Both of course very much crafted by their childhood experiences. Micheal Fassbender does an exceptional job of fitting into the Magneto character that had been portrayed excellently by veteran actor Ian Mckellen. James McAvoy almost pulls off doing the Charles Xavier role, however perhaps it is that movie goers have a long association with Patrick Stewart in the role and in a very similar role as the captain of the enterprise in 'Startrek; Next generation' that it is harder to relate to him.

While the special effects and mutant powers on display in this movie and its tempo make it enjoyable it does have several flaws. The character  Mystique comes across as rather weak and her transition from one side to the other is not all that convincing. It does however leave the door open for her rejection and death in the finale of the original trilogy. There is a problem with timing in the X-men universe and my kids and I were left trying to establish a viable timeline between this origins movie and those of a later time that ironically have gone before. There are also some plot issues. In the first movie Charles Xavier says that Magneto (Erik) had helped him make Cerebral (hopefully spelt correctly) that helps amplify Xavier's mind power and also the X-men's super amazing jet. However in this movie we see that they have been created by Hank McCoy (AKA Beast). With the help  Likewise in the third movie Xavier and Eric are still working together when they both go to interview the emerging talent that is Jean Grey. Sadly I feel myself disappearing down a hole that is labeled geek and trainspotter and I am sure there are more dedicated fans of the series that will point other issues of logic out to you.

In the end the movie did what it was supposed to it filled in some gaps and showed us how things became the way they were in the original series. At the heart of the disagreement between Magneto and Xavier was and remains how do people with exceptional talent react to the world around them. yes they will is the danger that they will be misunderstood and persecuted and with such amazing and different talents being shown as mutations there will be fear (explained in the movie by Xavier's thesis as one species reacting to a evolutionary development). The villain in the movie Sebastian Shaw (well portrayed by Kevin Bacon)  sees the place for these people of talent as being a place of dominance, maybe coming from his origins within the ranks of the Nazi party. Erik to protect the mutants sees that they must set up a separate society and as will develop in the other films once he is pushed to resort to wanting to kill all humans (does this mean that Shaw actually won). Xavier rather sees the mutants as needing to be protected but also there to serve humanity.

I usually finish my film reviews by linking it back to a theological reflection and it is on the point of these three different approaches to how to express their differences is where I think this movie has a lot to say to the church and to society. The church down through history has had to contend with all these three approaches as they have wrestled with how to be God's people in the world. radical separation, living as an alternative society to varying degrees. Domination, exerting political power, like in the Christendom for a thousand years in Europe and we can see in the moves of churches in that last bastion of Christendom the US. Or being called to be in the world to serve. Gifted with God's spirit to do the things that are the heart of God, without the trapping of power or prestige (often being feared and misunderstood) and being radically connected with the world to be able to help where it is most needed. Sadly like in the movie great friendships have been split over such differences and conflicts develop. In the end the church is like this emerging mutant population finding itself full of people who are willing to go these different ways.

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