I love X-Men. Ever since I was a wee lad, I devoured all the X-Men-related merchandise I could. It started with the X-Men animated series in the 90’s, which led to the comics (my first big ‘event’ was the Age of Apocalypse), which led to, of course, the movies.
Now, while I have my issues with the film franchise (stay tuned later week when I take them on), they still hold a special place in my heart for better or for worse. When I’d originally heard about X-Men First Class being a reboot featuring the five original X-Men, I was ecstatic. Needless to say, that feeling didn’t last very long once more news started trickling in. Read on to find out why, despite surprisingly good early reviews, I will spend most of this film gritting my teeth with the purest form of nerd rage.
Author’s note: Do bear in mind I haven’t seen this film yet and am basing said rage primarily off of the trailers.
Continuity: Is it a prequel or is it a reboot?
I start by picking on continuity because it will come up several more times in this article. If X-Men: First Class is a prequel, it would explain why we don’t have Iceman, Cyclops, the original Angel, or Jean Grey, and instead have Beast, Havok, Darwin, and Angel Salvadore. However, if it’s a prequel, why do we have an Emma Frost that can turn into diamonds when we already had an Emma (albeit not explicitly surnamed “Frost”) that could turn into diamonds in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which takes place after First Class? If it’s a reboot, then great, this article is more or less null-and-voided, as this isn’t a Marvel Studios in-house production and therefore won’t ever meet my comic adaptation standards (although Punisher: War Zone was pretty good, all things considered). But if it’s a reboot why are we scraping the bottom of the barrel for stand-ins of the original X-Men when we could have the original goddamn X-Men!? Protip: If you’re going to name your movie after a comic that dealt with the original five X-Men, you should include more than one of those X-Men.
Beast: Because if he wasn’t big, blue, and furry how would we recognize him?
Henry McCoy, known to the world at large as Beast, was one of the few things X-Men 3 didn’t ruin. Kelsey Grammar knocked it out of the park as the super-smart, super-adorable Beast and even though he had a small amount of screen-time, it was memorable. Assuming that First Class is in fact a prequel, it makes sense that we’d see a young, furless Beast pallin’ around with Professor X and Magneto. However, I was less than pleased to see him Beast-ing out in every single trailer. Why? He didn’t turn into the blue Beast we know until a while after he left Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Heck, he was gray at first. Beast debuted with the other original X-Men in 1963 and got furry in 1972 (Amazing Adventures #11, and three months later got all blue-y). Even with the wacky sliding timeline that keeps changing what war Frank Castle fought in, at least a few years must’ve gone by. Why make him blue and furry in the span of two hours, especially when you’re planning a new trilogy? I suppose if it serves the story, I won’t complain, but until then, I see no reason why we need furry Beast so soon. Also, it turns out Nicholas Holt is a damn fine young man, and depriving us all of his overt, nearly offensive good looks seems like a real crime.
Banshee and Moira: Is it still ‘whitewashing’ if they’re white?
People made a huge deal about The Last Airbender casting Caucasian kids in roles that were originally based on other, non-white races, and with good reason. That was ridiculous. It’s less offensive, but still pretty infuriating, that they changed two non-American Caucasian heritages to plain old American. Traditionally, Banshee is Irish and Moira MacTaggert is Scottish. In First Class, they’re both homogenized. In Banshee’s case, his namesake is arguably one of the most famous beings from Irish mythology (albeit female). Sure, they can be Irish-American and Scottish-American, but why?
Alex Summers: I was a teenage time paradox
This is one of the ones that sticks in my craw the most. In the comics, Havok is Cyclops’s younger brother. This film takes place in the early sixties, which puts Havok a good couple decades older than his optic-blasting brother, who appears in X-Men Origins: Wolverine as a teenager in the late seventies or early eighties. Again, if this is a prequel, why did they have to use Havok as a Cyclops stand-in? This is the same type of facepalm-inducing decision as having Juggernaut in the third film and making no reference to the fact that he’s been step-brothers with Xavier for years. And again, if this isn’t a prequel and is a reboot instead, why don’t we have Cyclops instead?
Angel Salvadore: Because we already wasted the other one
When Angel Salvadore first appeared in Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, she was fleeing her abusive, trailer-park home-life into the woods. In addition to her fly wings, she also has the digestive system of a fly. Gross. She joins the Special Class at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, pity-bangs the chicken-like Beak, and gets knocked up with horrific, half-fly person, half-chicken person babies that she names after the Jacksons. This Angel is played by Zoë Kravitz and doesn’t seem to have much else in common with her comic counterpart besides ethnicity and fly wings. If we get to see her barf on her food in this film, I will be more than satisfied. Upon closer inspection, Movie Angel has what appear to be dragonfly wings, so I doubt we’ll see her puke to eat her food. Do dragonflies do that?
Pop quiz: do you know who Riptide is without looking him up? Yeah, I thought so. Even I had to wiki him to verify his character. Riptide is one of Mr. Sinister’s Marauders (not the Hellfire Club like in this movie), a group of remorseless killers with mutant powers, a knack for dying and being cloned back to life, and all-around D-list status. Riptide “spins his body at greatly increased speeds, creating a vacuous suction that draws in nearby objects and also acts as a high-powered sling for objects which he generates out of calcified substances.” The guy grows bone spikes out of his skin and shoots them with the strength to puncture steel (he did it to Colossus shortly before Colossus snapped his neck). In retrospect, his powers are kind of cool. Unfortunately, he’s still hella obscure, and when I think of mutants to introduce to an audience as part of a group that almost causes World War III, I don’t think of any one of the Marauders, or the Nasty Boys, or the Acolytes, even. Seriously, were guys Unus the Untouchable and Donald Pierce (an actual member of the Hellfire Club and part awesome mutant-killing cyborg) too obscure? Seriously, if guys like Maggot or Ugly John start showing up in X-Men: First Class: Sophomore Year, I’m going to eat a bag of glass. However, Riptide’s D-list status still doesn’t make him the worst choice for membership for the Hellfire Club. That position is strictly reserved for the next guy on this list.
Azazel: Polishing a turd
You would be hard-pressed to find a fan of comic writer Chuck Austen’s Uncanny X-Men story arc The Draco, which introduces Azazel, teleporting lothario, father to many illegitimate children (including Nightcrawler), and the basis of man’s belief in the devil. Seriously. Austen tried to establish that millennia ago, warring angel-esque mutants and demon-esque mutants inspired the Bible. Or something. He and his kind were banished to another dimension, and his only hope of escape was leaving his dimension (wait, what?), knocking up a bunch of weird-looking women (like Mystique), and years later using their now-grown children to open a way out of his dimension. Like I said, the Draco was a low point in X-Men history (while refreshing myself with his Wikipedia entry, my head began to throb painfully). So why use him in First Class? Somebody probably said, “Oh, hey, he’s like red Nightcrawler! Let’s ignore his awful, awful backstory, toss him in a suit, and have him hit on Mystique (presumably)!” Again, were the other, actual members of the Hellfire Club not useable? Harry Leland could increase his mass and had a super-sweet beard. Donald Pierce was a flipping cyborg! Neither of them carry the sort of stigma that Azazel does. But to be fair, there probably weren’t many cybernetic dudes running around in the sixties and teleporting looks cooler than increasing your mass.
Sebastian Shaw: Dude, where’s my ponytail?
I love Kevin Bacon. Love, love, love him. When I heard he was cast as Sebastian Shaw, Black King of the Hellfire Club, I was pumped. It seemed as if a silver lining finally appeared. Then I saw the First Class Sebastian Shaw: Kevin Bacon in a suit with no ponytail. The Hellfire Club, traditionally (and barring Emma Frost’s slutty, slutty outfits), dress up in Victorian garb and conduct themselves in a civilized manor. Also, Shaw has always, to my knowledge, rocked the ponytail tied with a period bow. Kevin Bacon, it seems, has none of this, nor do the rest of the Hellfire Club. Why? I mean, we’re dressed the X-Men in blue and yellow bondage gear. Would Victorian-era outfits really put people off? Who knows. I’ll give Bacon a chance, but I’ll be sitting there with a sour taste in my mouth throughout the duration of his time on screen. Between ponytail-less Sebastian Shaw, Red Nightcrawler Azazel, and Riptide (I still can’t get over his inclusion), it will fall on January Jones and her breasts role as Emma Frost to sell me on the Hellfire Club in this film.
Magneto: Way too cool to not have his own movie
When I originally heard the X-Men Origins: Magneto was in development, I groaned. Who cares? Magneto is the Lex Luthor of the X-Men franchise in that they feel they have to include him in some shape or form. Now, I love Sir Ian and it’s hard not to enjoy his Magneto, but a whole movie of him fighting Nazis? Eh. Then I saw Michael Fassbender and my opinion immediately changed. The dude is awesome as young Magneto, and it’s kind of a tragedy that Magneto was cannibalized into First Class. From what I hear, a large part of the movie is pretty much the Magneto Show. I’ll take what I can get.
James McAvoy: I still can’t get past Wanted
The more I see of the trailers, the less irritated I am with James McAvoy cast as Professor Charles Xavier. However, there are several things that boggle me: he has hair, he’s walking, and he’s played by the guy from Wanted. In the comics, he lost his hair by the time he was out of high school. Maybe he loses his hair in the inevitable confrontation with Magneto, similar to Rogue’s white streak that she gets at the end of the first X-Men movie. Speaking of confrontations with Magneto, he could very well lose his hair in the same accident that costs him the use of his legs. In the Ultimate X-Men continuity, Magneto drives a piece of metal shrapnel through his spine, paralyzing him. Something like that is fairly likely to happen, versus an obscure character like Lucifer dropping a big ol’ stone block on him like in the mainstream Marvel university (although maybe Riptide whirlwinds his spine in half). Lastly, it’s James McAvoy. I’ve carried a grudge against him since Wanted. Sure, it’s not his fault that they decided to all but ignore the source material after the first ten minutes of that film, but here he is in another film that (in some cases, drastically) changes the heritage, trademark features and/or age of its characters. Don’t get me wrong, his Charles looks pretty good. Maybe I’ll get lucky and he’ll redeem himself with his performance.
So there you have it. The ten reasons I’m inevitably going to spend the entire movie picking it apart. My friends will hate me, strangers will shush me, and my girlfriend will pretend she’s there with someone else, but I don’t care. I’m a nerd, damn it, and this is what I do.