Class Dismissed

This week I’ll be discussing  the movie that brought the X-Men franchise back from the brink.  After the horror that was The Last Stand, and the debauchery that was Wolverine: Origins, X-Men: First Class really turned the franchise around. With it’s bright colors, 60’s setting, and jokes, it was a complete (and welcome) change. That being said, it was not without flaw. I think I really might change the name of this blog into “Dan Destroys The Things He Loves.” After all, I already talked about Matchbox Twenty, so it won’t be lying anymore. Matchbox Twenty. Gross.

First I want to address that I genuinely do think this is a great movie. There is so much that is right with it even if you aren’t just comparing it to previous movies. It is a very fun movie on its own merit. One of my favorite things about this movie is that it demonstrates the mutants having a real immaturity about their powers. They don’t have complete control yet, they haven’t given themselves the rules they give themselves later in life. Xavier is incredibly indiscriminate about reading people’s minds without permission and taking control of people. Banshee misses when aiming his sonic scream, and Havok has zero control of his power.

I also appreciate that these kids all thought they were unique, so they’re incredibly excited to find other people with powers. They were outsiders as kids and young adults, so they have so much fun when they finally get to play a little. So having them wreck the room by goofing off with their powers was a really smart and fun touch. Finally, the way Beast became blue and hairy was different from the comics, but I really liked it. Having his cure go wrong and manifest a deeper mutation was an excellent idea.

Those of you that think I’m too negative, I would like to point out that I’ve written about 300 words so far and only been negative once when calling Matchbox Twenty gross And that’s not even being negative, that’s just stating a fact. I’ve been almost completely positive so far and I haven’t even mentioned Space Jam. Until now. So that’s cool. But all ths feel good happiness aside, there are some major flaws to this movie. It’s not Space Jam, after all.

So let’s discuss some of those flaws. Please keep in mind that I do not think any of these are deal breakers in the grand scheme of things. I think the most efficient way to deal with this is to address them in groups. Up first we’ll discuss people not behaving the way they would in a world without mutants. Next, we’ll discuss the application of powers. Finally, we’ll address a few plot holes. Get ready kiddos, it’s going to be a wild ride.

First things first, let’s talk about the beginning of the movie, at a Polish concentration camp. In a world where nobody knows about people with powers, there is a zero percent chance that one of those guards doesn’t kill Erik. Even if they were under orders to bring anyone “doing something unusual” to Sebastian Shaw, the knee jerk reaction of a member of a prison guard seeing literal witchcraft would be to put a bullet in his head.

I was also confused by how much mutant related technology there was in a world that didn’t know mutants existed. I get that one CIA facility manager said “I’ve always known people like you were out there,” but no he didn’t. And he certainly didn’t know well enough to have Hank McCoy create a device to boost telepathic powers. Even with Hank knowing that mutants are out there, there’s no way he could have predicted a telepath of Xavier’s caliber. Hank’s mutations are intelligence and a slightly abnormal physique. On that same token, Sebastian Shaw says that his telepath-blocking helmet was a gift from the Russians. But then his primary Russian contact is so shocked and appalled by the appearance of three mutant that he stopped a call to the KGB to arrest Shaw. Even in a country as militarily and politically segmented as the USSR, I find it hard to believe the KGB wouldn’t tell their head general at least about the existence of mutants if not how to fight them.

I read an excellent blog recently ( breaking down the tactical failures of the raid in Star Wars Rogue One. In that same vein, I would like to address the extreme tactical failures of the first CIA assault on Sebastian Shaw’s craft. This mission was a failure on all fronts. The CIA sends gunships in to attack a completely unknnwn quantity of mutants with unknown power sets. While losing an unknown number of infantry troops and their equipment, they manage to reveal the existence of their own telepath. In short, they gain no intelligence or resources, but give up intelligence and resources. There is no world in which this mission is anything other than an abject failure, and any competent officer would have seen the likelihood of this well in advance. “You want how many ships? To attack an unknown number of enemies with unknown capabilities? In hopes that we can successfully apprehend one German citizen who has got to be pushing 60 and MIGHT be a communist? Forget it.”

Let’s talk about the mess that is the powers in this movie. First of all, Shaw’s powers don’t make any sense. Ignoring the nonsense of “absorbing the energy keeps me young,” I think . . . No. You know what? I’m not going to ignore that. Shaw takes in energy, then turns it into physical force. The only way that translates to “it keeps me young” is “Look, Kevin Bacon doesn’t want to put on the old person makeup and his contract says we can’t make him.” It’s nonsense. Now we can talk about how erratic Shaw’s reapplication of force is. Sometimes he can punch really hard, sometimes he can compress and control energy beams, and sometimes he can stop and create huge explosions like he’s in Saints Row 4. Also, if you haven’t played Saints Row 4, I really endorse it.  It’s a great game. But that’s beside the point. This movie needed to pick a power set for Shaw and stick with it, not just give him whatever looked cool in the moment and was convenient for the story.

Xavier’s mindwipe of Moria McTaggert is inexcusable. She’s been on his side from the beginning. She’s the reason he knew about any of the conflict. She’s even the one who introduced him to the concept of other mutants. To wipe her mind and leave her at the mercy of the CIA is both incredibly out of character and was a serious misstep in terms of the story. He just destroyed her career. Her boss and the entire CIA leadership knew she was with the mutants, and they know Xavier’s name, so it’s not like he was really even protecting anything. All the CIA has to do is look for properties owned by the Xavier family and they can find him. And furthermore, it left the CIA terrified of the capabilities of mutants. They already knew he could read their minds because of his flashy display of obtaining classified information from their minds, now they know he can change minds and even wipe them clean. This was a mistake on the part of the writer of the movie.

The most egregious example of misplaced powers is Darwin. Darwin’s powers are some of the coolest in the comic book universe. His power is literally to survive anything. In the comics, he survives an extinction level event because his body transforms into pure energy. In another comic he’s about to fight Hulk, and his powers decide the only way to survive it is to just not be there anymore, so he involuntarily teleports away. That is a super cool power set, glibly described in the movie as “adapt to survive.” All we see is him growing gills when he’s underwater and turning into stone when you hit him with a chair. This is an incredibly unique power set, and they essentially use this character as the guy they kill to show the bad guys are serious. Shaw places some energy in his mouth and says “adapt to this,” then teleports away. Darwin’s response should have been “cool, no problem.” If they were truly that desperate to have Darwin die, there should have been a post credits scene where his body reconstitutes itself, or where Xavier makes contact with his psychic form. But instead we have both a powerset error and a waste of a character. Follow the rules you create, guys. If you say his power is to survive, he can’t be the first mutant you kill.

I think it’s important to address a major plot hole next. Sebastian Shaw has been around at least since the 40s. He isn’t stupid. And his big plot to start a nuclear war to create more mutants is very stupid. Shaw wasn’t created by a nuclear weapon, he wasn’t created by radiation, he was born a mutant just like all of the other mutants. It is common knowledge in the X-Men universe that their powers come from a genetic mutation present at birth. Why would someone smart enough to understand both basic genetics and how to train mutants to effectively use their powers, be dumb enough to think that a power source only discovered in the past two decades is what created mutants. It would be more accurate to Shaw’s character to have him read Xavier’s dissertation and agree that mutants are the way of the future, and that nuclear war would wipe out the humans and allow mutants superiority. None of this “nuclear war will create more people like us even though that’s not how we were created in the first place” nonsense.

Finally, let’s talk about rules of engagement. During Shaw’s recruitment raid on the CIA facility, they kill close to 30 CIA facility guards. After the chaos, Shaw is giving his sales pitch to the mutants and a lone surviving agent gets the drop on them. From across the courtyard he shouts “freeze!” In response, Azazel teleports over and kills him, and Shaw continues with his business. I don’t claim to know the CIA’s rules of engagement, but I feel like if you’re facing an enemy who just killed 3 dozen men, you don’t have to announce your presence and attempt to detain them first. You can just shoot. The only reason to have him shout first is because you want to keep Azazel alive for the climactic final battle. But even then, you could have had the bullet hit Shaw and do nothing just like the time he got shot earlier. There was no reason for there to be a lone survivor, it did nothing for the story except reveal that he was a very stupid agent who had clearly survived up until this point on sheer luck.

That’s it for now gang. Thanks very much for reading, see you next week. Love and kisses!

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