X-Men (2011)...You have my attention

Up until this weekend, I wasn't really into the X-Men films.  But it seems that after 11 years (can you believe it's been that long?), they're finally getting them right.  Not totally right, but on the right track.  One critic on Rotten Tomatoes said the film was a bit "talky", but that's the whole point.  This wasn't all about action, cool abilities, and special effects; science fiction is and always has been about making a point, about commenting on social issues in a creative way so that a broader audience can comprehend them.  That's precisely why it's the genre of choice for nerds.

The lil sis and I went to see First Class this Saturday.  She didn't know that Professor X was originally inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr. and that Magneto was inspired by Malcolm X.  But once I told her this, she started to see the whole franchise anew, and began pointing out things in the film I would've missed.

It seems that writers, director, and even the wardrobe staff were determined to make fans understand once and for all that yes, two of their favorite comic book characters were based on Black Civil Rights leaders.  And when I say determined, I mean determined.

Characterization

"Love thy neighbor."
In the film, whenever Xavier touched his temple to use his power, it reminded me of this pose by MLK (Malcolm used it too), and MLK's personality matches Xavier's ability to a T.  Remember that MLK was charming, charismatic, educated, insightful man who was said to be able to "talk you into anything."  This is similar to Xavier's ability to see into the minds of the others, as well as influence their thoughts and actions.

And like MLK, Xavier is quite the ladies' man.

Now, at the beginning of the film, Xavier preaches peace, tolerance, understanding, and is naive enough to think humans will feel the same way about mutants.  This is similar to how MLK spoke at the beginning of the Sixties, the "Pre-1963 Phase," if you will, from which white folks in particular love to quote MLK.  But by the end of the film, Xavier learns that not only can he not trust humans, but any humans, not even his dear Moira, hence his wiping of her memory.  As a mutant, even a peaceful, responsible one, he's still branded Public Enemy #1 by the government.  This is similar to how nearing the end of the Sixties, MLK was touted as the "most dangerous man in America."  The FBI tapped his phones, and eventually, he was assassinated.

"Blue-eyed devils."
The jewel of this film, of course, is Michael Fassbender as Magneto.  While James McAvoy (the lil sis's new husband, by the way) really channeled Xavier and gave an award-worthy performance, his character was somewhat annoying.  He came from a privileged background, where he was so wealthy his own mother never even stepped foot in their home because she had maids and nannies to care for her child.  This is similar to how MLK grew up with both parents in a loving, stable family.

Malcolm/Magneto...not so much.  Malcolm lost relatives to the Ku Klux Klan, his father died when he was thirteen, and his mother was committed to a mental institution.  Malcolm lived through a series of foster homes, and ended up in prison.  Similarly, Magneto survived being a lab rat in a concentration camp, and his family (namely his mother) was murdered by Nazis.

So we can understand where these two are coming from.

The lil sis had very interesting commentary about Mystique and her mutation.  Whenever Mystique talked about not needing to hide what she really looked like, or struggled with accepting the beauty of her blue skin, the lil sis said it was akin to black women not wanting to straighten our hair or bleach our skin, and simply be accepted for the way we look, especially back in the Sixties.  Of all the men in the film, only Magneto was willing to accept Mystique for how she really looked (he calls her "perfection"), and again this is similar to how Malcolm X constantly discouraged Black women from straightening their hair.

Imagery

"Mutant...and proud."

The film was filled with wonderfully chosen imagery.  Xavier and  Magneto play chess quite often, with Magneto always playing the darker pieces.  At one point, they're even playing a game on the steps of an Abraham Lincoln statue, discussing their next move and their differences in opinion.  And every time we see them, we see the marked difference in their clothing.  Xavier dresses much like MLK often did, even in his choice of sweaters, while Magneto dresses pretty much like a Black Panther.  One critic on Rotten Tomatoes described the outfits as "groovy", which I'm guessing is a sign the choice in wardrobe went right over their head.

By any means necessary.
Some critics also complained that the people of color all joined with Magneto's side, leaving Xavier with an all-white crew.  I see nothing wrong with this; in fact, it makes perfect sense.  Magneto is not the villain here; humans are.  Furthermore, Magneto is a Jewish Holocaust survivor.  With the exception of Emma Frost and Mystique, the members of his new team are POC living in America during the friggin' Sixties.  They already know what it's like to be discriminated against while looking human, and by people who look like Xavier himself, no less.  If they had rushed to side with Xavier instead of Magneto, it would've been highly unrealistic.

R.I.P. Darwin

Edi Gathegi should've never agreed to this role.
And now for the biggest flaw in the film.  *shakes head*  When I first saw Gathegi onscreen, I paused to wonder why he hadn't been in the trailers.  Then he was hastily killed off and I had my  "Ah" moment.

You'd think in 2011 folks would know better, but I'm guessing not.  After all, it took 11 whole years just to get this franchise on the right track.  Hopefully, the next two films will show marked improvement in this department otherwise I will lead the boycott my damn self.  This "movie about black people...but without black people" shit is not kosher.  Get it together, Matthew Vaughn & Co.  You have my undivided attention now and not all the bad-assery from Magneto will be enough to make me overlook something like this in the future.

And by the future, I mean the casting of young Ororo Munroe.  No Halle Berry Jr.'s, please.

Comments

  1. Thank you for breaking this down. A lot of people hate to make the comparison but this is spot on. This movie was definitely a primer into the lives of magneto and Xavier which the last movies definitely lacked. I write (somewhat) for a comic book movie website and i would love to post your review on there but only if you are fine with it. Again, awesome break down of the movie.

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  2. I'm going to pen my review later.

    I'm hoping that with only three members of the team left, this will open doors for new characters (namely POCs) to join the X-Men in the sequels.

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  3. I'm going to pen my review later.

    Ironically, I spent the whole weekend regularly checking for your review! How long do I have to wait???!????

    I'm hoping that with only three members of the team left, this will open doors for new characters (namely POCs) to join the X-Men in the sequels.

    I'm assuming they will; after all, we've already seen a very young Ororo Munro in the film. But I'm not only hoping that they do, but that their characters are casted and handled well.

    After what happened with Darwin though, I'm not going to hold my breath. Besides, Fassbender's got me rooting for Magneto & Co. anyway.

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  4. "Ironically, I spent the whole weekend regularly checking for your review! How long do I have to wait???!????"

    @K.

    Whoops. I'll finish it now. I outlined it while I was at work yesterday. I'll email you the link once its done. LOL!

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  5. 'Cause I've been waitin' to hear your thoughts on this one. I expected you to have a field day with it.

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  6. this was a good review. I didn't see it immediately but I didn't want to be heavily disappointed yet again... . This makes a lot of sense, however I'm tired of some "fans' outright denying the that these men stood as the inspiration.

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  7. Ank, here is the link to the article itself. Of course some folks are already getting sensitive because its a "racial" issue. Ugh. I dont understand why discussing racial topics makes some people uncomfortable and defensive. Oh well. Love your blog! :)

    http://www.comicbookmovie.com/fansites/MsKyle08/news/?a=38850

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  8. I hereby nominate Mystique as an honorary dark-skinneed Sistah.

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  9. My reflections in the comments at Ars Marginal: http://arsmarginal.wordpress.com/2011/06/04/psa-x-men-is-still-our-story-deal/

    I was checking y'all all weekend long. Thanks for this.

    I hereby nominate Mystique as an honorary dark-skinneed Sistah.

    I second this nomination. Mutant/Black and proud, indeed.

    I used to simply love this character. Now I flat-out adore here.

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  10. @ AfroStyling

    81 comments? Already? WTF? Daaaaaaaaaaamn!!!!

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  11. I would also like to nominate Magneto as an honorary member of the Black Panther Party because he don't eat pork (he's Jewish - which is White folks' version of Muslim) and is none too fond of White people (let's be real, the "humans" he's pissed off at are the ones who are, shall we say, a little light on the melanin content).

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  12. I would also like to nominate Magneto as an honorary member of the Black Panther Party because he don't eat pork (he's Jewish - which is White folks' version of Muslim) and is none too fond of White people (let's be real, the "humans" he's pissed off at are the ones who are, shall we say, a little light on the melanin content).

    *dead*

    You read my mind. I looked at him and that's all I saw once he started wearing the outfits. In the beginning, he was more like a Jewish Avenger, but by the end, he was a Black Panther all the way. Again, I second that nomination.

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  13. Anything about race is bound to get a lot of comments on that website and in fandom. For some reason they see bringing up racial injustice as some type of attack against them which leads them to take a defensive role and want to talk about the president's blackness and "bigger issues out there" and how they were victimized as a skinny white boy. *rollingmyeyes* Thankfully the comments haven't gotten into gutter territory which in itself is incredible because something like "thor not wearing his helmet a lot" has led to some serious insult slinging fanboy cock fights.

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  14. This is one of the reasons why I love X-Men; the allegory to the CRM. The movie is good; the guy playing Magneto was HAWT! *licks lips* And the friendship/dynamic between Magneto and Professor X is established and cemented during their recruitment (which is hilariously depicted). They're always going to be friends; they just have different philosophies. I get Professor X, but Magneto is right. I'm on his side.

    Great post!

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  15. Let's begin the campaign now for the unknown diva who will eventually play Storm. Because none of the current Black female actresses (the one or two that are in Hollywood) will do. Storm has a particular look and aura, and Halle did not do her justice.

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  16. @K

    Here ya go: http://neo-prodigy.livejournal.com/955697.html

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  17. @ Neo-Prodigy

    Yay!!!

    @ Amaya

    Let's begin the campaign now for the unknown diva who will eventually play Storm.

    All as I ask is that she be a dark-skinned, East African-looking diva.

    Since she'll be youngish, I hope they don't pick someone like Gabby Soleil or some shit. They need a mini-Julia Pace Mitchell.

    the guy playing Magneto was HAWT!

    And bad-ass. His performance gave me shivers. He basically embodied the statement, "Do not fuck with me. I will kill you, your whole family, and then level the city you live in, hear?"

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  18. It all makes so much sense now, especially when I think about X-Men 3 and the mutant who had the ability to erase mutant powers. There were the mutants that wanted to become human vs. those that refused to "pass". Makes me think of POC that would like to pass for white vs. those who embrace their POC status and are seen as a danger to society. And, of course, there is the larger populace who fear all mutants regardless. No wonder X-Men is the only Marvel movie that I actually like.

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  19. Maybe I will have to see this. I didn't particularly like x men 3 and I didn't really like the wolverine movie so I was going to skip this. But I've loved x men since birth practically. You didn't grow up with my father and not become a huge comic book and sci fi fan.I had no idea people didn't realize x men related to the civil rights movement. I've known that since I was a kid. How can people argue that its not when the creator himself has talked about it and people who have worked on the films?

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  20. You know, I already knew all this but it's nice to see someone explain it. I have yet to see the movie, though, and smh at the black man being killed in the beginning. Isn't EVERYONE tired of that shit? Anyway, I'm still excited for this film. And seriously, more POCs in the x-men movies, please. They don't even need to make up new ones because there is plenty in the comics and cartoons anyway.

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  21. I love X-men I love Marvel too Stan Lee is my guy. I don't know how many documentaries and countdowns I have watched of superheros and Stan Lee has always made the comparison of Malcolm and Martin with Prof. X and Magneto.

    I have yet to see the film but I do want to. I am still waiting for X-men origins of Storm. My fave X-woman. Anytime I was playing X-men either in primary school or video games I would always be Ororo no one else could even suggest they wanted to be Storm

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  22. I am still waiting for X-men origins of Storm. My fave X-woman

    My fave as well; I grew up watching the cartoon and worshipping the clouds she floated on. I adored her so much it hurt.

    However...either they're not going to do an origins story for her, or they're going to do one and fuck it up horribly.

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  23. However...either they're not going to do an origins story for her, or they're going to do one and fuck it up horribly.

    They already did that to Wonder Woman, and I'd rather them leave Ororo alone than fuck her up too. But you know, if the clamor is loud enough, what they'll do is find some "exotic" white chick and apply a nice coat of walnut brown makeup, get a horrid silver wig, then whiten her origins and call that impostor Storm. The devil is a lie.

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  24. Did you notice how quickly the black mutant Darwin died in this movie? He lasted long enough to display his powers- and sacrifice himself for a fellow mutant before they got his back butt out the way. Now the movie can continue with emphasis on the white heroes. I and my son had high hopes as we watched, but alas I knew better.

    From ComicsAlliance:
    “Darwin basically served two purposes in the movie. He was there so that when someone said "slavery" when talking about mutant rights, the camera could focus on his face in one of the cheapest bits of direction I've ever seen. Yes, of course that would make the black guy mad. Congrats! You've got a rudimentary understanding of history, and I'm really happy for you. Way to hammer home the civil rights metaphor at the heart of the X-Men in the clumsiest way possible.”

    I noticed this right away and simply shook my head. Kevin Bacon (Shaw) waxes eloquent about servitude and mutant rights, but then you summarily senselessly bump off that very symbol of slavery to make a point?

    Then I caught a trailer of Super 8 that hints to the monster. In a room bursting at the seams with white scientist and one or two lone tokens; guess who gets assaulted first. Dr. Woodward. Now I’m hoping there is a method to Abram’s madness. I’m also hoping this mysterious black scientist lasts to the very end of the picture.

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  25. Ooops:
    "... before they got his "black" butt out the way."

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  26. Thank you so much for writing this. I dismissed this new X-men movie as just another action-hero, explosion laden, muscle flexing, dick-flick. I will however check it out now.

    I never even knew that Magneto and Xavier were inspired by MLK and Malcom X. It sucks they were already portrayed as white in the comics.

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  27. @ ComicsAlliance:

    Saw both Super 8 and X-men and I truly believe Abram views the black man as the sacrifical lamb, or the token that only serves some pivotal plot point before being axed without rescue. It pissed me off in Super 8 and let me explain why . . .

    Spoiler alert!!!!

    In Super 8 the black dude pretty much sets the stage by driving his truck into a train and nearly killing himself. He frees an alien which he communicated with in the past, before the poor creature was subjected to experimentation and isolation from its home planet. Black guy gets captured by the military and they interrogate him. Finally they just kill him and in the back of my head I'm wondering why the alien wouldn't have saved him, since he was the first person to even attempt to help the extraterrestrial being?

    But no, whitest band of kids gets all credit and of course cute white kid gets a touching moment at the end of the film with the alien that has been murdering people left and right, mostly for nourishment.

    Regarding X-men, given the nature of Darwin's power I don't know why he had to die. He was adapting during that scene, but perhaps only so he could protect his fellow mutants. I don't know. The scene wasn't given that much attention. I didn't understand why Angel had to join the other side pre-Magneto. I mean, I could understand how she felt different compared to others, but it didn't really justify her being evil I guess. I mean, I would have sided with Magneto, but not with the other guy who killed Jews.

    And they never did give the guy who could create tornadoes a name. He was rather attractive too, but I can't remember him having a single speaking line.

    Spoilers end!!

    This movie was okay I guess. Super 8 wasn't much in the end. For me is what just a cheese fest filled with nostalgia for whites who remembered what it was like growing up "back then" with most blacks on the periphery or just dead.

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  28. Professor X was originally inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr. and that Magneto was inspired by Malcolm X.

    Oh my God, I had no idea. Thanks for this. I love your blog btw. Keep putting fools in their place.

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  29. You know Iman isn't too old to play Storm. Without makeup she looks younger than Halie. Check out this video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Q9B-MUqukA

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  30. I heard from comic readers that his character was somewhat immortal. SO I HOPE that when the sequel comes around, we find out that he's discovered how to reform himself or SOMETHING.

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