Monday, June 6, 2011

X-Men First Class - You Are Not Alone

There are many things that have been associated, metaphorically, with the X-Men. It could be about race, gender, sexual preference or just being a teenager, but overall, the heart of the X-Men is about finding acceptance (from others and from yourself) for what makes you different.. X-Men First Class captures this, and more, beautifully, in what I have no problem declaring as the best of the Marvel movies, by far. Possibly one of the best comic book movies of all time, period.

Focusing on the origins of  the most complex pairing of fictional hero and villain that I can think of in Xavier and Magneto, the movie manages to give us a conversation with a lot of gray. I've always argued that Magneto is not a villain. He's not wrong. Seeing his story told in this movie, I would be surprised at any disagreement with that. And it is through Magneto's story, more than any other character's in the movie, that another great thing about the X-Men comes through: the idea of learning to live with emotional pain. Whether the pain comes from loss or not fitting in or what have you, the pain is palpable in these characters. The fact that these characters can use that to focus extraordinary powers is a perfect metaphor for what we all ultimately wish we could do. And I think that's a big part of the appeal of the X-Men comic book. For the movie to capture the complexity of that is an achievement I don't think many other comic book adaptations have accomplished. What we usually get in these movies is style or a character that we can't ultimately relate to and that's fine, but here we get what attracts us to any story: the humanity of it. To me the line that sums it up best is "You are not alone." Whether it was spoken verbatim or not, that is the message of the X-Men, and every single "you are not alone" moment, starting with the very first one, involving children, was moving.

There are tragic characters in this for sure (Magneto, Mystique, Beast). There are also great action sequences and humor. Young Xavier as a suave pick up artist is fantastic. Nazi hunter Magneto could easily be a whole movie unto itself. A certain brief cameo in a bar was played perfectly. Azazel was badass. Basically, I can find no fault with the movie. I couldn't tell you how much of it was accurate to comic book continuity, and if you know me, you know I don't care about that anyway, but here, I think it matters less than ever. Because here, they captured the heart of the X-Men and that's what matters.

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