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X-Men First Class + Musings on a More General Dissatisfaction With the Genre - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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June 15th, 2011

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02:08 am - X-Men First Class + Musings on a More General Dissatisfaction With the Genre
I saw X-Men: First Class over the weekend withteaotter, hereville, and xtricks, and it was both wonderful and frustrating. It by far was one of the superhero films that I've seen, at least equal to Spiderman II (my top favorite), and possible better. It had excellent acting by the two leads (playing Charles and Erik), a very tight and well done script, and the entire feel of the X-Men felt better and more real taken back to the early 1960s (which is when the comic first came out). While The Hellfire Club was originally introduced to the X-Men in 1980, their look and feel fit the 60s perfectly – Emma Frost's costume was always very 60s, and fit perfectly here. I also liked the degree to which the film was a (barely) unspoken love story between Charles and Erik.

However, it had a number of problems, the most obvious being that a film that was essentially about civil rights and the struggle between assimilationism and open rebellion for the mutants, and yet there was no mention of the real world events of the day, involving the efforts of Dr. King or Malcolm X along these exact same lines. This was also only one of the films racial problems. As my good friend hereville mentioned, it was so much better than other supers films, but that also made clear how much further it had to go to be a really good film. A few changes and it could have been. However, while decidedly imperfect, it was both fun and good, and is worth seeing.

Nevertheless, seeing it also brought to mind my problems with the entire superhero genre, especially with regards to the X-Men. I'm more than happy to see spandex battles with characters like The Avengers, Batman, Superman, or the Justice League, that's what they exist for. However, I dearly wish that supers comics could be about more than fighting muggers, terrorists, or megalomaniacs. I'd love to see a version of the Fantastic Four which looked like an updated and more gonzo version of E.E. Smith's Skylark novels (with the addition of some of the feel of original series Star) where the characters explore the multiverse and have various pulp SF adventure plots. Give the characters the background and feel of the Warren Ellis' Ultimate Fantastic Four, and I'd be very happy indeed.

Similarly, I'd love to see stories about X-Men and the mutants that were not about fighting Magneto, or Satan, or whatever, and were instead about a world where an increasing (but still small) percentage of the population were born different and with unique and sometimes (and sometimes not) very powerful abilities. Grant Morrison did much of this during his run of New X-Men, which dealt with both low powered and ugly mutants, and also with growing mutant ghettos and neighborhoods (as did the generally good District X comic). You could have plots with mutants with useful powers who were enslaved by criminal gangs ( or perhaps just their abusive family) being freed, soap opera & more serious drama interactions at Professor X's academy, slice of (mutant) life and cop stories in District X, and many similar issues. Grant Morrison and many others have done this with the X-Men, but even Morrison's version of the X-Men eventually returned to over-the-top supervillians, alien menaces, and suchlike.

Personally, I'd also prefer to see the entire X-Men universe cut off from the rest of the Marvel Universe (thus removing the gods, invading aliens, and suchlike), but still leaving a whole lot of awesomeness, including a world that by the modern day has tens of millions of mutants and everything that would imply about the world. In all of these non-traditional comics, I would want good world-building, especially including dealing with the impact of mutants (or in the case of the Fantastic Four powered people and wondrous inventions) on the society. In any case, I'd love to see comics, movies, and most of all novels like this, but at most we see bits of this in between spandex battles. Perhaps in a decade or two someone will reinvent supers comics to be something more than it is today.
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

(3 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:June 15th, 2011 03:34 pm (UTC)

a comment from the technopathic hellfire peanut gallery:

Personally, I'd also prefer to see the entire X-Men universe cut off from the rest of the Marvel Universe (thus removing the gods, invading aliens, and suchlike), but still leaving a whole lot of awesomeness,

Yes, yes, a million times yes. My favorite X-stories have all been that manner of self-contained, and that mini-universe could tackle SO MANY ISSUES all by itself. If anyone could get Morrison to stop one of his lovely storylines about 3/4 of the way through before he inevitably brings in the gibbering aliens himself, and then *leave the damned thing canon*, we'd be well on our way.
[User Picture]
Date:June 15th, 2011 06:13 pm (UTC)
If they cut out one of the dozen or so expositions about the cold war and put in something about civil rights like MLK or Malcom X, that would make this film much more excellent. I do understand that some of the viewers of this film did not live during any part of the cold war, but seriously, do we need to have the embargo on Cuba and nuclear prolieration explained to us more than twice? I don't think so. If I ever watch the movie again, I will have to count the times they explain things most adults already know.
[User Picture]
Date:June 22nd, 2011 04:24 pm (UTC)
In fairness, they may have been unsure how to tackle MLK and Malcolm X, in that context. The mutant stuff parallels it; it also has the potential to trivialize it. For another thing, you have some estates that may protest the presentation of material in the film. Another concern is that the idea of a more evolved human subspecies within the human race is actually a doctrine of Malcolm X's religion that he later repudiated; mutants could be REALLY WEIRD in a context wherein in real life, it was a time period where people began to acknowledge that humans of different "races" were more like than different.

For another, nother thing, the missile crisis was in 1962, the Ballot or the Bullet speech was in 1964... they could still touch on that in the sequel.

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