X-Men: First Class is a must-see movie for the summer. If you haven’t caught it in the theater, Marvel’s big screen offering is worth the trip. In the Cantina and over at the FANgirl Zone on Facebook, the feedback has all been positive.
The movie is an origin story focusing on the formation of the X-Men as two friends, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), lead a team of mutants to stop madman Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) bent on destroying the world and taking what’s left for the mutants. The showdown between the mutants culminates in a fantastic stand-off set in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Amidst all this world-level peril and drama, there are intimate stories about how their differences affect each mutant. Kevin Bacon plays Shaw as deliciously evil for sake of being evil, and his actions, beginning with his manipulation of Lehnsherr, precipitate a divide between the mutants themselves that we know is played out for years to come.
Two of the most powerful scenes in X-Men: First Class feature Lehnsherr/Magneto. In the first, Xavier enters Lehnsherr’s mind and takes his pain as his own. The serenity this gives Lehnsherr allows him to stretch his magnetic powers to previously unimaginable levels. Professor X, in trying to return Magneto’s hope, in essence helps create the wildly-powerful mutant he must later fight. Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) is another mutant Xavier is determined to save as she struggles with her identity and quite striking blue skin. Lehnsherr, quietly and convincingly, nudges Raven down a path of self-acceptance. Raven casts off her old identity and emerges as Mystique.
Throughout the movie the audience laughed and interacted with the characters, which made the whole experience even more enjoyable. The cameos of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and Rebecca Romijn as older Mystique were two of the more notable instances. The lack of cameo by Stan Lee was disappointing, but it’s far from a deal-breaker for this good of a story.
For true Marvel aficionados there are some continuity breaks, but the average movie-goer probably won’t be affected by the differences created between this prequel and the original trilogy.
Also out this month, DC Comics’ Green Lantern will hit theaters on June 17th. With comic-based storylines getting increased attention from television and movie studios, the recent announcement by DC that they will reboot the entire franchise could have some interesting ramifications. In September, DC will restart all of its superhero titles with issues #1, including reboots to costumes and character origins. Although the full extent of the changes to favorites like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman isn’t yet known, it’s safe to say that the fanfare accompanying the announcement suggests that the reboot won’t be cosmetic and insignificant.
In reading about the DC announcement, I found this great piece, Comics, Crisis and You: A Disrespectful Guide to Comics Events, written by Kate Fitzsimons at comicsbeat.com. In addition to summarizing the ups and downs of previous massive reboot projects by DC, she also expresses a lot of the sentiments that also bother me about reboots. As someone who, like many female fans, is much more invested in the characters and their development than in the trappings of world-building, and in the continuity of characterization much more than the continuity of factoids, reboots undercut the very thing I care about most in the stories that I read.
For that reason, it strikes me that DC Comics may, in its attempt to build new enthusiasm among some customers, be inadvertently turning its back on a significant other group of actual or potential customers: those like me, who have no interest in experiencing yet another fanboy’s personal spin on Superman or Wonder Woman at the expense of the existing character I already know and love.
Earlier this year, when David E. Kelley made a bid at bringing Wonder Woman to television, he did pretty much everything I suggested he shouldn’t: steering too far from her original character, emphasizing her mythic origins rather than her role as a fighter for freedom and justice as an American hero. Often attempts to make comic book characters relevant to the here and now – or at least that’s how they often try to sell reboots – end up losing the integral character-building elements that made the superhero hugely popular. It’s hard to catch lightning in a bottle twice.
Of course the Star Trek reboot, which still has yet to prove it can last for the long haul, suggests that talented writers who appreciate the characters and the vision of a serial storyline can reinvigorate a franchise. It’s important to note that for the most part Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the Enterprise crew stayed very true to the original characters, and I think this was crucial to Star Trek’s success last year.
In an iFanboy article posted this week about the creative team for the DC Reboot, there is at least the suggestion that DC hasn’t done enough with its creative team to make their reboot a success.
As I’ve said previously, I’m not a fan of reboots, but as a long-time Star Wars fan I’ll be watching how the DC reboot shakes out because I’m sure every other franchise is too. The sad thing about reboots is the deeply personal losses that come for some fans, so I’ll leave you with this op-ed from a fan of Oracle, Barbara Gordon’s wheelchair-bound superhero identity, after she is shot and paralyzed by the Joker.
That DC understood what this character meant, what she stood for and that she was so much more IN the wheelchair than OUT. I know a lot of people who wanted Barbara back in the Batgirl costume simply because they felt it was ridiculous for someone to be in a wheelchair in a world where people are brought back to life on a regular basis or cured of various other illnesses just fine. A perfectly logical argument of course but what these people fail to realize is what Oracle as a character truly is.
Star Wars fans might be interested to note that Oracle was created by John Ostrander, a writer who is well-regarded for his diverse storytelling in the Quinlon Vos and Legacy series for Dark Horse. The loss of Oracle in favor of the more agile Batgirl, I believe, is short-sighted and shrinks the diversity of the superhero pool. Maybe Professor X has a place for Oracle on his team?