Watching XMen #5

(sorry for the delay on this – there have been some ordeals of late and I didn’t want to post this at risk of more vitriolic leaking in on than the movie deserved)

tl:dr edition – Better than XMen: Wolverine and Last Stand.  Debatable on whether it’s better/worse than the original 2.

Long edition

Let’s divide this into two major sections.  First I’ll discuss briefly how this fits in the continuity with the other movies and general overall comic rating.  Then the shell rank of the movie.  Then an overlong discussion of the meanings & relationships in this movie.

Abbreviations:

X1 = XMen – first movie.
X2 = XMen united – second movie.
X3 = XMen Last Stand – third movie.
X4 = XMen Origins: Wolverine – fourth movie.
X5 = XMen: First Class – 5th movie.

So how does X5 fit into the overall continuity of the movies?  It does not fit with X4 at all – there’s just no way for several important moments in one of the movies to “fit with” important moments of the other.  The plot holes that result are so large that we’re better off just ruling that one of these movies has to be discontinuity.  Although X4 wasn’t quite as bad as a lot of people said (though not a great movie either), seems like the popular consensus is to let X5 into continuity and jettison X4.  X1-X3 still have a few hiccups in continuity here and there with this movie, but as they are rather minor and relate to character relationships (as I’ll detail below), most of these problems can be hand-waved with minimum effort.  But since some of the (relatively) biggest problems also arise in X3, fans can now jettison that movie and accept X1, X2 & X5 as a cohesive whole.  So the movie has all that in its favor.

I’m not the biggest fan of the X-Men comics so I also can’t comment on how well this movie syncs with them, but as I haven’t heard excessive fanboy whining (a miracle in itself), it seems the movie makes many acceptable breaks from the source.

In general, I was impressed by this movie’s montages as they are the first that I’ve enjoyed (both of them) considerably more than the regular movie’s plot.  One almost wishes they had jettisoned the overarching plot of the movie and just gone with a more slice-of-life/indie feel to the proceedings.

At one point Sebastian Shaw says that mutants are “children of the atom”.  Since it’s clear that he and the three protagonists were all born before the invention of the atomic bomb, this statement comes off as really weird.

All the actors & actresses do excellent jobs.  I half wished this had been turned into a series instead – ah la Smallville – to give the viewers more time to savor and enjoy the talent on screen and relationships between the characters.  All put together this movie ranks about a…

Average and competently told, but nothing outstanding.

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What would have made this movie outstanding?

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Let’s address the obvious point first: don’t make the “message” of the film overt.  Worry about the story first and then let the audience impose their own meaning or interpretation on the events.  This movie wears its “message” (summed up as: “Bigotry is bad, m’kay?”) more overtly than any of the previous 4.  What’s wrong with this?  Well maybe trying to tie gays, furries, trekkies, nerd or any other minority group with the mutants isn’t a bright idea.  For one thing, the mutants are a real, legitimate threat to people in general and ironically the bigots in these movies end up “having” a point.  Twice in X5, hundreds, if not thousands, of people are nearly killed because of the machinations of mutants.  The first time because the mutant is bigoted himself against regular people and the second time because normal people apparently have the audacity to try and defend themselves against and unprecedented threat.  At movie’s end we see Charles Xavier mess with someone’s memories.  Although I don’t think the constitution has any provisions relating to telepathy, I’m fairly certain that act was a huge civil rights violation.  Regardless of any merits of any of these actions, I’m 90% certain that everybody but the most insane bigot does NOT believe any minority is that much of a threat to life, mind and overall welfare.  Tying a movie like this one too closely or overtly to any particular real life group ends up carrying the unfortunate implication that… well that real life group actually is a huge threat.  That’s a bit of a parable fail.

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Other than that, this movie was fundamentally about relationship, particularly the relationship between 3 characters: Mystique, Prof. X & Magneto.  Here’s how the movie actually plays the romance:

  • Mystique & Prof X meet each other – bond over their strangeness.
  • They grow up as friends – Mystique wants something more, Prof X wants them to remain in the friend zone.
  • Mystique eventually meets Hank “Beast” McCoy – they bond over their physical strangeness.
  • Beast doesn’t give Mystique what she’s seeking – she seeks out Magneto.
  • M & M presumably mate in what is very likely both of their first time (at least it seems like Magneto was too busy with his revenge efforts to really have time for more romantic endeavors).

This brings up a bit of an issue with X3 when Magneto abandons Mystique about midway through the film.  While I have no doubt he would probably abandon any mutant who became “normal”, I’m just not convinced he would abandon his “first” so callously.

However, that’s not the issue I had with this arc in the movie is that they didn’t take the opportunity to reinforce the character motivations.  Here’s what was missed:  Mystique is a shapeshifter.  She can appear as (just about) anyone.  There is no excuse for her to be lonely.  Especially when her best friend is a telepath.  Scene: Prof X reads a cute guy’s mind, and tells Mystique what he’s into.  She changes to appear perfectly as that ideal.

However, none of Mystique’s efforts ever go further than a bit of kissing (maybe petting).  Here is her actual crushing loneliness: all the guys want her for a pretend appearance, never who she actually is.  What does being told “you’re beautiful” matter to a woman who can change her appearance at will?  She wants to be told she’s beautiful for how she really looks.  Thus she turns to Prof X because she knows he’ll appreciate her for more than just her appearance.

The catch is… Charles Xavier is like the dating opposite of Mystique (at least, they should have played with it more in movie).  Think about it: Men are known to be visually wired in general when it comes to mating.  Mystique can appear as any visual stimulus they desire (if anything, she could probably get all the money in the world just setting up an escort service).  Women are more emotionally/mentally wired.  While looks still play apart, Charles Xavier is (from what I gather from reliable sources – my gal pals) apparently handsome enough that that isn’t a consideration.  Instead, he can access their thoughts and “play” the role they would most find stimulating.  He’s a “shapeshifter” (of an emotional/mental kind) that appeals to women just as Mystique is one that appeals to men.

And all of that would have lead naturally to their schism.  Mystique wants to be with Charles, but he refuses because, she’s ultimately seeing him in the same manner she is disgusted with men for seeing her – an ideal, not a reality.  Hence the later romance with Moria McTaggert.  She approaches him because of his work – not for anything he’s ever said or did to appeal specifically to her.  That’s why he falls in love with her, and not his old friend.

Of course, Beast still remains a part of the problem Mystique is trying to escape – it’s Magneto that finally sees her the way she wants to be seen.

It was all… “almost” there.  Which is another reason why I wish this had been a series instead of a movie.  That and it would have given Prof X and Magneto more of a friendship.

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UPDATE: I simply must link John C Wright’s post on this movie which is quite good and I agree with a lot of it, myself.

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10 thoughts on “Watching XMen #5

  1. I think the point of the romance was that Mystique developed a crush on Xavier because he was the first mutant man she meet and though that they were going to be together forever. While Charles always saw her as his sister. It was two different types of love. Beast was never attracted to humans not even in the comics so is a part of his personality he never got over, I think Magneto became a misanthrope so much that he will find beautiful anything that look different than a human.
    Funny enough the way I read it Magneto was right about human betraying them, not the other way around. After all the military men knew those guys risked their lives to save them, acting like all mutants are bad sounded assholic from their part, this people worked with them.

    And really it was also stupid, this people are not immortal and they don’t know anything about them, so maybe I don’t know trying to find out more about them instead of vaporizing them sounds wiser. Pissing off any mutant that know about the incident without knowing how to defend themselves doesn’t sound like a wise plan.
    Also you underestimate the idea that people don’t think minorities are a threat. Read any manifesto from a hater and you will find out a low of fear about what people will do if we let them multiply, hate has not logic.

    So I liked the movie a lot, they could had improve some things (like the guy didn’t bled when Magneto stuck the knife in his hand???) but overall it was solid, exciting and fun. One of the best to the date, no wonder Bryan Singer was part of the team. 🙂

    • I think the point of the romance was that Mystique developed a crush on Xavier because he was the first mutant man she meet and though that they were going to be together forever. While Charles always saw her as his sister. It was two different types of love. Beast was never attracted to humans not even in the comics so is a part of his personality he never got over, I think Magneto became a misanthrope so much that he will find beautiful anything that look different than a human.

      Dunno about the comics that much, but I do agree with you on the way it actually played out. (thought I had expressed as much but it might have been buried)

      Funny enough the way I read it Magneto was right about human betraying them, not the other way around. After all the military men knew those guys risked their lives to save them, acting like all mutants are bad sounded assholic from their part, this people worked with them.

      I’ll have to rewatch because from what I saw, it seemed like the humans made the best choice they could with the information they were given. At least I’m not sure how much the military men were aware of whether anybody was on their side or not (after all, the good guys have uniforms that were never seen before) as I don’t recall a scene where the CIA informed anyone about the little “side” project. I was disappointed that Charles never thought about connecting his mind and the mind of the two military leaders all together and let everything get explained to everybody.

      And really it was also stupid, this people are not immortal and they don’t know anything about them, so maybe I don’t know trying to find out more about them instead of vaporizing them sounds wiser. Pissing off any mutant that know about the incident without knowing how to defend themselves doesn’t sound like a wise plan.

      It’s definitely a danged if you do-danged if you don’t situation. I mean, they didn’t know this – but one of the mutants is a mind reader, the other a shapeshifter. Any action attempted later is doomed to failure since the other side has perfect spies. Preoccupied with combat and in one place is definitely the best time for humans to try and strike.

      Also you underestimate the idea that people don’t think minorities are a threat. Read any manifesto from a hater and you will find out a low of fear about what people will do if we let them multiply, hate has not logic.

      Well I mean a majority of people. Obviously there will always be some crazies that aren’t exactly rational. I don’t think programs like this are designed to sway them (since it won’t make a difference) but the apathetic/unaware/ordinary majority. And for them such parables might not be a good idea. At the very least, they shouldn’t make the parallels so overt, but more subtle, and let people bring what they want to the tales. That will be more effective.

      On a slightly related note, may I recommend this post by FPB:
      http://fpb.livejournal.com/195754.html
      It’s an interesting take and after reading it… well it was hard not to watch this latest movie in a new light. I could probably do a whole series on the philosophy of XMen vs the Incredibles but… eh, I don’t care quite THAT much. 😉

      So I liked the movie a lot, they could had improve some things (like the guy didn’t bled when Magneto stuck the knife in his hand???) but overall it was solid, exciting and fun. One of the best to the date, no wonder Bryan Singer was part of the team.

      No argument here. Just admit I’m right and you’d like to see this movie turned into a Smallville-esque series. 😉

      • Read that FBP post, I have to say I agree more with johncwright’s response than the actual post. You can read eugenics into x-men, but no sane person would suggest that was its purpose, original or modern.

      • Well every author will admit that not everything which goes into a story is conscious. I didn’t say I even agreed with FBP’s post completely. I just said it was a different way of looking at stuff.

        Nowadays with hindsight? …Who can know for certain beyond God or the Shadow? But I wouldn’t consider it impossible.

      • Smallville killed my desire to watch any series…so not I can’t agree with that :p

        Also do you think people that hanged minorities, or practically destroyed people lives over communism during the McCarthy age were not acting out of fear? I doubt it.
        The crazies are the loudest and usually the leaders. Had you read Mein Kamp? If you read it now you see the crazy bleeding from it, but millions of Germans bought into it. It only takes the right moment and the right person and kabush sanity leaves the window.

        The leaders knew that Charles was helping them, they even mentioned Moira being an acceptable loss, so they knew they just though it was a good chance to unite themselves with Russia.

        Charles can’t read a mind in other country to read the American leaders orders, he would also have to hijack every man in the ships at the same time to stop them, a trick he yet can’t do, so yeah Charles couldn’t do much with his powers anyway.

      • Smallville killed my desire to watch any series…so not I can’t agree with that :p

        Oh please. While I’ll admit that Smallville had plenty of problems, you’ve got to admit that XMen would be perfectly set up to avoid…

        Wait a sec! They did it already!

        Alright young lady. I want a paper comparing and contrasting XMen Evolution & Smallville on my desk by monday.

        Also do you think people that hanged minorities, or practically destroyed people lives over communism during the McCarthy age were not acting out of fear? I doubt it.
        The crazies are the loudest and usually the leaders. Had you read Mein Kamp? If you read it now you see the crazy bleeding from it, but millions of Germans bought into it. It only takes the right moment and the right person and kabush sanity leaves the window.

        Without actually being there and judging the people for myself, I don’t have enough of a data set to make an accurate judgement. I think there’s any number of reasons, one off each deadly sin at least, for people to do cruel things to their fellow man.

        At any rate, why are you being so argumentative. You’ve just circled back around to my original point. 😛

        The leaders knew that Charles was helping them, they even mentioned Moira being an acceptable loss, so they knew they just though it was a good chance to unite themselves with Russia.

        Ok, I’ll concede I missed that bit in the movie. I wasn’t sure if the ships were coordinating with their superiors or were acting with some autonomy. I’ll readily defer to my friends that have been in the military on how accurate this bit is. Now if anything, would that actually have been an opportunity for the Russians to attack? After all, from their view maybe America has new, man-sized superweapons (and one of them just forced the Russians to do what America wanted – send no missiles to Cuba). However… the movie in retrospect ends up kind of justifying them… (see below)

        Charles can’t read a mind in other country to read the American leaders orders, he would also have to hijack every man in the ships at the same time to stop them, a trick he yet can’t do, so yeah Charles couldn’t do much with his powers anyway.

        I meant the local military leaders, not the world ones. I actually assumed he could link minds because towards the end, Mystique appears as Sebastian Shaw when there’s no way for her to have known what he looked like with Charles retrieving the image from Magneto’s mind and sending it to hers. (and even if that happened, I think the timing may have been off. Maybe a plot hole.)

        At any rate, Charles later manipulation of Moria’s memory – while understandable – also adds a chilling point to the military leader’s decision. If you have a world where someone can so “easily” manipulate other people’s minds, how do you trust anything? This person can fix your memories, present any evidence and make you believe anything they want you to. Since we’re never shown that there’s any sign or detection of this ability, there would never be any way for anyone to know for certain what they know. You brought up that Charles was the ally of America. Now we – the omniscient viewer know he was, but how could the leaders know? By movie’s end, they have confirmation that memories can be manipulated. Was Charles really an ally? Or did he manipulate them to get what he wanted? In more than one manner, Professor X is the most terrifying mutant and his existence would require a complete overhaul of a lot of society’s rules and set ups. And yeah it might seem unfair to him while he’s a good guy, but what if he wasn’t? Could we ever know or even be sure that Charles Xavier wasn’t a villain? (heh, that would be a fun fanfic – a view of the world where Magneto is actually trying to warn the world about his psychotic friend, Xavier but Charles keeps twisting things in everyone’s minds so it’s Eric that seems the villain) There’s a lot of sci fi/fantasy out there examining the question: “What do we do with a person/people that can rob us of our free will?” Especially by Philip K Dick.

        A pretty good examination of this is any JLA story where they go up against white martians or the time J’onn J’onzz went evil. And I don’t think the DC martians are as powerful telepaths as Charles Xavier is, either.

  2. “Mystique appears as Sebastian Shaw when there’s no way for her to have known what he looked like”

    ??? you really need to re watch that movie. Shaw was face to face to Mystique when he went to the FBI headquarters, killed Darwin and recruited Angel. So she saw him.
    Xavier couldn’t access to the minds of everyone in the ship to stop them. He doesn’t has that kind of power yet.

    “Alright young lady. I want a paper comparing and contrasting XMen Evolution & Smallville on my desk by monday.”

    Don’t need a paper. X-Men Evolution was better, 🙂 but everything was better than wasting 10 years of my life in SV…blegh…Stupid show.

    “Now we – the omniscient viewer know he was, but how could the leaders know?”

    Do you remember that your country (and democracy in general) is based in the idea that everyone is innocent till proven guilty. And for that you need a trial. Acting so drastically over a “what if” scenario is something a dictator will do, not in a democracy.
    And really all you are doing is saying that Magneto was right “we should destroy the humans before they destroy us”, I mean you think is totally justified to kill innocent people just because “they can be dangerous” no proof that they are, then what is the point of any mutant joining Xavier?

    Do you remember an old saying “in for a pound, in for a penny” drastic justice makes things worst we already tried with normal humans, I wouldn’t think humans will last a month if all mutants though like you do.
    The only reason the evil mutants are not killing humans is because the X-Men are in charge of protect us and they do that because there government is not hunting then down, in the Sentinel future the reasoning you have was that destroyed mutants and humans alike.

    Question:
    How old are you?

    • ??? you really need to re watch that movie. Shaw was face to face to Mystique when he went to the FBI headquarters, killed Darwin and recruited Angel. So she saw him.

      Not his face, his outfit. Can’t recall if he showed up at the CIA in his helmet or not so her disguise possessing that may or may not be a hole.

      Xavier couldn’t access to the minds of everyone in the ship to stop them. He doesn’t has that kind of power yet.

      Uh… yeah? Not sure which group you’re referring to here. Need moar precision.

      Don’t need a paper. X-Men Evolution was better, 🙂 but everything was better than wasting 10 years of my life in SV…blegh…Stupid show.

      Short. Concise. Not enough detail for me, but at least you turned it in early. I’ll give you… C-.

      Do you remember that your country (and democracy in general) is based in the idea that everyone is innocent till proven guilty. And for that you need a trial. Acting so drastically over a “what if” scenario is something a dictator will do, not in a democracy.

      Well that situation would constitute a warzone so (for better or worse) due process does not apply. And that’s the question for this: how would a democracy react to a person/people for whom can never be proven guilty? It’s not an easy answer.

      And really all you are doing is saying that Magneto was right “we should destroy the humans before they destroy us”, I mean you think is totally justified to kill innocent people just because “they can be dangerous” no proof that they are, then what is the point of any mutant joining Xavier?

      No, you’re confusing what I think with an exercise in examining things from a character’s perspective. An especially useful tool when looking through characters that might disagree with you. I haven’t stated what my perspective is on anything related to this.

      Do you remember an old saying “in for a pound, in for a penny” drastic justice makes things worst we already tried with normal humans, I wouldn’t think humans will last a month if all mutants though like you do.

      Now Stephanie, I never said exactly what my thoughts were, I’ve just been examining things from a view point in the story.

      The only reason the evil mutants are not killing humans is because the X-Men are in charge of protect us and they do that because there government is not hunting then down, in the Sentinel future the reasoning you have was that destroyed mutants and humans alike.

      A common mistake of authors (heck, even I have to fight it) is to forget to distinguish between what viewers/authors know and what characters know. We know Xavier is really good at heart, but he doesn’t have access to our minds (unless you want to go all meta). Do the people within the world have any reassurance? Can they have any?

      Of course, in the comic books there’s further factors, I was just looking at a strictly movie perspective. Add in more data and the perspective changes.

      But I’m not a big Marvel fan or XMen reader so I’ll gladly defer to you on any examinations of the comic books.

      Question:
      How old are you?

      Too old. On II we joke that I’m a great old one of the internet.

      • Shaw was wearing the helmet at CIA because he though Xavier might be there, the purpose of the helmet is to block the telepath.

        Well you didn’t clarified that you were picking a different POV. What POV are you taking then to make sense of the movie?
        I still disagree that anyone involved in this situation would be wise trying to “kill all the mutants first ask questions later” but give me a POV then and see what is your logic. .

      • I know the purpose of the helmet, silly. Though I thought the reason he attacked the facility at that moment was because he knew Emma Frost had drawn Charles and Eric away in a distraction. At any rate, so Mystique had seen the helmet (like I said, wasn’t certain on whether I remembered that), but was Shaw wearing the same clothes then that he wore at the end?

        As for POV, depends on each point. Many of the more contentious things would be from the POV of the leaders on site and some of the higher up leaders. And I’m not talking about does it make sense “of” the movie. Just for people to pause a minute and consider things from those characters’ frame of reference. One thing I do like about this movie is that there aren’t that many easy answers or easy morals to draw from it. Good stories should keep the audience guessing and talking about them.

        Now was it wise for the military involved? Eh… sometimes in those situations there is no real “wise” answer for the characters. We should be thankful life is- no wait, it’s also that complex. Thus, why life sux so often. 😉

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