X-Men vs. Green Lantern: Can we love them both?
“First Class” is, well, first class by Jumpstreet
I read too many comic books. This was a major obstacle for me to overcome before I laid down the $10 to watch the prequel X-Men film.
I’ve been a comic book fanboy for over three decades. I know my Marvel legends. I went through my X-Men phase, heavily in the late ’80s & ’90s–especially during the Jim Lee reboot. Even had a letter published in “The Uncanny X-Men #293.” I remember when any title with a Wolverine guest appearance was a must-have.
I haven’t been following the comic series recently, but I own the trilogy of films, the “Wolverine: Origins” debacle and just bought an Archangel action figure because it looked pretty kewl!
But I digress.
“X-Men: First Class” is Marvel’s latest summer movie offering, a re-imagining of Stan Lee and Jack “The King” Kirby’s creation of teen mutants. As a comic geek, it’s easy to think the motive of the reboot obvious: an attempt to attract new followers (not to mention, some box-office dollars). But I also understand the source material of the X-Men comic books, or “graphic novels,” as today’s modern mythology. I get the appeal of reshaping what’s been established and answering the “what if” question.
But first, things I needed to get past (thinly veiled spoiler alert):
1. Alex Summers/Havok was played by Lucas Till, who played Miley Cyrus’ romantic interest in the “Hannah Montana Movie.” Yeah, I saw that in the theaters. Plus, he’s Cyclops’ younger brother! Where is Scott Summers anyway? Right, he doesn’t get introduced until “Wolverine: Origins.”
2. Speaking of which, Emma Frost has screen time in “W:O” as a teen. In “First Class,” she’s definitely a woman!
3. The use of the word “groovy” by Professor X (James McAvoy, who had a really nice head of hair), not once but twice that I counted. And he was drinking! Shock/horror!
4. Moira was a scientist, not a CIA agent. Although Rose Byrne made her look really good!
5. Sebastian Shaw’s movie history didn’t sit well with me. I prefer the comic book version. However, Kevin Bacon made him snarky enough to enjoy.
Enough of my personal “issues.” You’ve read enough of those. So I let the inconsistencies of comic history go for 132 minutes and find that… I really enjoyed this film!
The histories of both Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (standout performance by Michael Fassbender) are laid out for the non-comic reader to understand quickly. Even without its comic history, the story is an all-too-familiar acceptance play. Mutants are outsiders. So are teenagers. Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) wants to be accepted. She doesn’t get much encouragement from her friend Charles, so she hides her natural blue hue. Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) wants to be normal too, but some of his physical traits prevent that from happening. In one scene, Erik tells Mystique, “You want society to accept you, but you can’t even accept yourself.” I hear Morrissey in those words…
“First Class” delivers great action, humor, special effects and a strong connection between all the characters, as well as a surprise cameo. The retro design is “groovy” and keeping the setting in the sixties while tying it into the Cuban Missile Crisis gives the film a cool and unique flavor.
The story encloses you in a telekinetic bubble and holds your interest. It’s fast-paced and deep. The visual effects are eye-candy and the finale keeps you wanting more. “X-Men: First Class” succeeds in re-establishing these uncanny mutants in a superb and interesting manner. Compared to the second and third installments of the other X-films, there is more to offer and more depth to appreciate in this prequel.
Next dilemma for the writers: how to follow this origin story while attempting to incorporate the classic team the fanboys (and girls) want to see? It will be interesting to see what revisionist history will unveil.
Green Lantern: the Everyman Superhero by The Plain Simple Tailor
In a summer flooded with main characters in tights, Green Lantern may be the most fun. DC’s latest effort is a complete departure from the dark seriousness of Marvel’s Thor. Green Lantern is the story of Hal Jordan, played by Ryan Reynolds. Jordan is a test pilot with no regard for his own safety and even less regard for others. He’s a complete dick, to be frank. When Hal is accosted by a flying green ring and transported to an encounter with a dying alien, Abin Sur, he is chosen by the ring to become the next member of the Green Lantern Corps, a group of intergalactic cops.
Hal is brought to Oa, home planet of the Lanterns where he undergoes a standard “training montage” en route to becoming a Lantern. The bad guy in this film is Parrallax, an alien entity powered by fear.
This film’s visuals are astounding, if a little overly reliant on CGI. I say this fully aware that the only real way to do all of the aliens involved in this film is with CGI, to say nothing of the energy “constructs” that Jordan makes with the ring. My only gripe is that Parallax, which was supposed to be imposing, more resembles a giant snot.
My lasting impression of Green Lantern is that it does what I’ve always wanted one of these movies to do: make the audience feel as if the events of the story could be happening to them. Superman is an alien, Batman is a ridiculously wealthy dude with infinite resources. (As a side note, I’d love to see a Batman movie where his fortune goes down the toilet due to the economy.) Hal Jordan is a regular guy who is granted a magic ring and has his whole worldview changed when he learns we are not alone in the universe.
This premise could have come across as pretty campy, but it doesn’t. It works because Reynolds plays it completely straight. When I say straight, I mean there are no knowing winks at the audience as if to say, “Hey, this is all bullshit.” Reynolds makes you believe in the film and almost forces you to enjoy it through the sheer force of his earnestness.
That’s not to say it’s perfect. My biggest gripe is that it’s too short by at least a half hour. This could have been the comic book equivalent of Star Wars if it was given 2+ hours to breathe and develop. At an hour and 45 minutes, it dashes madly from cool idea to cool idea, without really having the time to make anything stick. My other problem: Blake Lively. She’s awful (other than being hot). I could say more but this does a better job than I ever could.
In a time where the only way a comic book movie can be considered good any more is to be dark and morbid, Green Lantern shows us that it’s OK to have fun and let the inner child out every once in a while.