X-Men: First Class, featuring Magneto, Emma Frost, Angel, Mystique, Professor X, Banshee, Moira MacTaggert, Beast, Havok, and Nightcrawler's dad.

X-Men: First Class, featuring Magneto, Emma Frost, Angel, Mystique, Professor X, Banshee, Moira MacTaggert, Beast, Havok, and Nightcrawler's dad.

Today marks the worldwide release of X-Men: First Class. Helmed by director Matthew Vaughn (last known for his work on Kickass) and former X3 scribe, Simon Kinberg, the movie takes a stab at breathing new life into the franchise that launched a thousand comic book films. With a promising storyline and a solid cast featuring James McAvoy as Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender as Erik Lensherr, I had hoped this would be the X-Men film I was waiting for.

I was dead wrong. (Psst! Spoilers on!)

Now let me preface my nerd-rant with a little backstory. As a kid I grew up on the old X-Men animated series on Fox. I watched the show every day before heading off to elementary school listening to my dad gripe about how these “weren’t his X-Men.” (“Who’s this Rogue and Gambit!?! And why’s Beast blue!?!” he’d exclaim.) I’d just laugh at him and continue merrily watching the cartoon because it was so freaking amazing. Today I experienced what he must have all those years ago.

They didn't do what I think they just did!

Overall, I didn’t have a problem with Professor X and Magneto. Seriously, gold stars to James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. The character portrayals were almost spot on – despite Xavier acting a lot like Austen Powers from time to time. I just wish we’d been treated to a Magneto movie instead of this. Magneto was the highlight of the movie and almost outdid Ian McKellan in the original.

The film’s main offenses lie in how it treated its female characters, most notably Emma Frost, Moira MacTaggert, and Mystique – though the storyline is also pretty bad.

After watching the animated series all those years ago, I moved onto the comics. I read every Chris Claremont issue from the ’70s and knew of the Phoenix Saga and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants… It was a really solid run. So when I see the Hellfire Club brought to the big screen as a poor man’s imitation of the Brotherhood, I’m miffed to say the least. The Hellfire Club never cared about mutant vs. human, they just wanted power and had no qualms about how they got it. Sebastian Shaw ran the Hellfire Club alongside Emma Frost, but First Class tries to recreate the same relationship we see between Magneto and Mystique in the later films. It’s just insulting to make Emma Frost a simple henchwoman when she’s so much more – I’M DEFENDING A CHARACTER I’VE NEVER LIKED!

Another issue I had was with how Americanized the cast was. It’s always been clearly defined that Banshee and Moira MacTaggert were from Great Britain and when they were introduced it was to make the X-Men more of an international presence. The way they were written in the comics and the way they spoke in every single medium has been Scottish/Irish with a touch of leprechaun. Her name is Moira MacTaggert for Christ’s sake!

And since I’m on the subject of Ms. MacTaggert, why was her backstory changed?!? In the comic books, Moira has always been the genetic expert. She played a big part in the mutant community because of this, but in First Class she turns into this Lois Lane/CIA agent hybrid. Why even use a character if you’re going to change it so much!?!

Mystique‘s portrayal also left a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t know why her history had to be established as “Xavier’s kid sister” who grows up hating herself. Granted, I don’t know if this is current-canon, but it sure as hell wasn’t when I read the series. Mystique had always been a vagabond-type, moving from house to house and experiencing abuse from humans. That’s a big reason why she doesn’t care for them all too much. Having her grow up, sheltered by Xavier, and flip-flopping between killing humans and saving them wasn’t a very convincing transformation based on what little we see of her. She’s basically relegated as a background character in many of the action sequences who stands there crying.

The plot of the movie itself wasn’t terrible and it wasn’t amazing. I’d compare it to the plot of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. It had moments where it was pretty good and more moments where I wanted to gouge my eyes out. Some of the dialogue was pretty rough – like having Mystique and Beast say lines at the same time and blush over how awkward that was. And the ending seemed rushed, like the movie had spent the first hour developing the characters, the next hour creating the conflict and then POOF! Magneto’s team goes one way and Xavier’s team is all, “It’s cool we’re letting a potential terrorist organization waltz off.”

So when I hear from others how this is “the best superhero movie since Dark Knight” or look at the Rotten Tomatoes score of 87% I’m flabbergasted. Did we see the same movie? Sure, Michael Fassbender nailed the Magneto role, but his story was only part of the whole movie. What about the plot? What about the director rehashing the first 10-minutes of the very first X-Men movie?

</nerd rage>

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