Just saw X-Men: First Class, and I can say that there is still only one “great” X-Men movie, the second one. The rest? They range from “pretty good, actually” (the first one), “ to “more disappointing the longer I think about it” (the third one), to “botched, but still looking forward to them doing the Japan story” (the Wolverine spin-off). The newest one comes closest to breathing that rarified air of X2: X-Men United (I still think that the best X-Men movie has the worst title, though), but suffers from a lack of good mutants.
The series moves away from being a gay analogy (isn’t that what X2 was about?) to a civil rights story, as we watch Professor Xavier and Magneto first join forces and then ultimately fall out over the best way for mutants and humans to proceed into the future. The allusions to the ideologies of MLK vs. Malcolm X are pretty blatant, with Professor X wanting to work together with humans and Magneto taking the “by any means necessary” stance.
The first half of First Class is the best, as we see a mid-20s Magneto on a mission of revenge against the evil Nazi doctor who killed his mother in the opening scene. While the movie is missing the bad-assedness of the Wolverine character, it almost makes up for it in a scene set in an Argentinean villa where Magneto shows a couple of Nazis in hiding what he can do with a knife, a gun, and well, complete control over all types of metal. Michael Fassbender is the best thing about this new X-Men movie- he brings that danger and anger that the character of Wolverine lent to the series up til now. This isn’t the classy, subdued Magneto that Ian McKellan brought to life- Fassbender is out of control and pissed off at the world, at least until he meets Professor X.
The middle section of the movie is these two guys recruiting their team of X-Men, and ultimately I didn’t find these mutants to be as interesting as the ones from the first couple of movies. A wasp-girl who can spit firebombs and a kid whose main power is that he screams so loud he can fly just can’t compare to Wolverine or Rogue (although it was nice not to have Halle Berry around. Still disappointed in what she did with Storm, who was one of the best characters in the comic books. Sigh.)
But I did like the Professor X/Magneto storyline, and I thought Kevin Bacon acquitted himself nicely as the Nazi mutant. I thought they could have done more with the idea of a Nazi mutant, especially since the whole idea of the Final Solution was to create a master race of beings. The movie doesn’t really get into that except on the opening scene, set in Poland during WWII. This is Bacon’s best scene as well, as he gets positively gleeful in watching Magneto bust out his powers in the midst of blinding rage at the murder of his mother.
It’s nice to see the X-Men boat righting itself after a few rough years of choppy waters. I guess the best thing I can say is that I am ready for more X-Men movies now, although I want to see some new mutants. I guess Beast can stay, although I wasn’t sold on Kelsey Grammar’s furry blue make-up in 3 and I’m not down with Nicholas Hoult’s here. The only caveat to more of these movies is that Fassbender must return as Magneto. If he was only signed on for this one and they can’t get him back? Sorry, pack it up. No more X-Men movies for now. Go make that Wolverine movie. The one in Japan.
Top 5 Movies with Kevin Bacon as a Villain:
5. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Only a cameo, but he is pivotal in that he steals Neil Page’s cab, thus setting off the chain of events leading directly to the misadventures of Del Griffith.
4. Sleepers: Bacon plays a vicious prison guard who rapes the young versions of Jason Patric and Brad Pitt. So, sort of the same role he played in Footloose.
3. National Lampoon’s Animal House: More wormy than villainous, but still. Actually, anyone who sided with Niedermeyer has to be called a villain, right? And he seemed a bit too enamored with the various aspects of hazing.
2. The River Wild: Aside from Hollow Man, this is probably the most overtly villainous character Bacon has played. This is teeth gnashing, moustache-twirling villainy.
1. Wild Things: True, you don’t realize the extent of the Bacon villainy until the end of the movie, but when you put it all together, you realize what a complete bastard this guy really was.