X-Men: First Class Review

I am going to do this with as few spoilers as possible, but there will be some general spoilers (i.e. if it was in the movies that came out already, I will include it) while I analyze the female characters in this film. Before I saw X-Men: First Class, I’ll admit that I did not have high hopes. I do generally enjoy superhero movies, even bad ones, but a few of the earlier trailers looked pretty bad. Unfortunately for me, I stopped watching the trailers (knowing full well I’d see the movie, but not wanting to subject myself to that kind of torment). Apparently, that was a bad choice. The later trailers were supposedly much better.

Overall, I really enjoyed the movie. I’m here, though, to talk about the major female characters: Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence, who I am now confident can pull off Katniss on a purely acting-related level), Angel (Zoe Kravitz), Emma Frost (January Jones), and Moira McTaggert (Rose Byrne).

First off:

Bechel test? It passes, but barely. In the original group of the first class of mutants, we have Angel and Raven, who discuss code-names and what to do about their current situation, having been recently recruited by the CIA. Though there are four major female characters, they spend very little time together. I forgot to actively watch for Bechel test indicators, so I may have missed something.

Image of Mystique in her natural form, with blue scaly skin and red hair.
Promotional Image of Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique

Raven, in particular, is an interesting character. She spends a significant portion of the film concerned with her appearance, and that’s not actually a bad thing simply because it is handled so well. She is the only hero-mutant whose power changes her appearance in a way that’s not easy to hide (like Hank McCoy’s feet can be covered with shoes, or Angel’s wings become tattoos when not in use) unless she is actively using it to shapeshift. In a way, the stakes are higher for her because her natural self will never be accepted by society. No person has ever called her natural appearance pretty, only her shapeshifted façade. She takes the struggle for self-acceptance to a whole new level. It should come as no surprise to anyone that she ends up joining the side that encourages her to be herself. She teams up with the only man who called her natural appearance beautiful. While having someone call you pretty should probably not be the sole reason to choose a side in this type of situation, being accepted for who you are? That’s significant.

Angel starts the movie as a stripper who is recruited by the CIA for her mutant powers: wings and spitting acid-fire-something. Admittedly, calling her a major character is a bit of a stretch, but she does have some poignant moments. Specifically, she points out that she would rather have men stare at her in the strip club than stare at her because she’s a “freak,” after some dudes are making fun of the mutants.

Emma Frost is not in the movie too terribly much, but does some pretty significant things. She’s definitely the most powerful of the female mutants in terms of sheer wrecking-people’s-stuff. She is the right-hand lady to the villain, who seems to view her as a sexy lackey; she rolls her eyes at him every time he treats her like a secretary. She definitely uses her sexuality to get ahead in life, and blatantly views the men who fall for it as “pathetic” (sometimes while eating crackers). There have been debates over whether the acting was bad or whether the acting was great and Jones was simply playing Frost as a deadpan character. I’m not really going to get into that. Did she kick ass and take names? By and large, yes.

Moira McTaggert is, sadly, not Scottish, but an American CIA agent. She, also, is not afraid to use her sexuality for her spying purposes, and at one point strips down to her skivvies to bust into a swinging party (by simply walking in with the rest of the “entertainment”). Throughout the movie, she is incredibly capable in every situation. In the beginning, she doesn’t know exactly what is going on, but picks up very quickly. There’s not much I can say without giving spoilers, but she is more level-headed than Professor X. Admittedly, this is the young and naïve Professor X, but still.

The downsides of this movie? Of the above characters, you do see ¾ of them in their underpants. Raven does start walking around naked once she becomes Mystique, but that’s significantly more justifiable. And while the underpants are definitely fanservice, the characters also use them like another superpower. In the underpants-laden situations, the female characters are grossly underestimated by the men around them, who assume that they are simply eye-candy. Does that justify it? I don’t know. Am I overthinking the underpants? Probably.

Other downsides include that the movie is pretty whitewashed. Of the above, only Angel is a WOC, and she has the smallest role. The only MOC who stand out in memory are Darwin, who has a small role, and Riptide, whose name is not even mentioned in the movie (I got it from the credits). Erik/Magneto’s Polish and Jewish heritage does play a significant role in the movie, as it does in all of the movies. The film does begin with him in the hands of the Nazis. There is, of course, the blue Mystique and the red Azazel, and I’m not even going to try to touch where that may fall on the spectrum.

Overall, the movie had some great points and some downsides, but was enjoyable to watch. The pacing was very well-done and it had everything I ask for in a superhero movie: compelling character angst and lots of action. If I get more than that, as I did with this film, then all the better.

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Lis

Enjoys cooking, sewing, and general domesticity, as well as tabletop RPGs and general geekery.

5 thoughts on “X-Men: First Class Review”

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I can’t help myself, if it says X-Men, I’m there.

    This film felt much more relaxed after all the bravado and The World Is Ending stuff from the ‘original’ cinema trilogy and the cookyness of Wolverine (which I still liked because it had a lot of Hugh Jackman half naked, but that was also its main selling point).

    The only – slightly – annoying thing that for some unclear reason they are messing up the timelines. Non-nerds won’t notice that, but the X-universe is full of amazing characters, why would you randomly pick a pair?
    HERE BE SPOILERS
    For the color issue.. I really felt a bit irked when the camera topped to Darwin when Shaw said ‘Enslaved’ and that the only black guy had to go. I always liked it that X-men could be of every color, but.. well. Maybe some of the top guys were afraid of Whatiftheydon’tlikeitsolet’skeepitwhite-its.

    And I loved, loved, loved the chemistry between Eric and Charles. It was a pity that they cut the friendship so short. Kissing someone in a wheelchair is a much more conscious move than just walking into someone’s mouth ;)

  2. I thought overall that the movie was far better than it should have been, given how bad bow X3 and Wolverine were. It was enjoyable, the situation was fairly unique, I liked the Cuban missile crisis tie in. (The Three Mile Island connection was my favorite part of Wolverine too.)

    SPOILERS

    But I felt Mystique was completely wasted. Not that the actress wasn’t great — she was — but even if you only think of her within the canon of the movies, she doesn’t do anything. She’s one of the best fighters in the movies, certainly one of the cleverest, and is an all around bad ass. She gets to shout at a guy during the fight scene. That’s it. I mean, really? And wasn’t it a little weird that Raven and X don’t refer to each other as brother/sister even though they are raised that way? I mean, he calls her his sister twice, but during the big emotional scenes, there’s no ‘I can’t leave my brother/sister’ struggle of feelings?

    1. I do agree that she didn’t do much, but that was explained (sort-of) when Magneto mentioned that she’s not nearly as strong when she’s in a human form. Presumably, without fighty powers, she wouldn’t have trained in her mutant form on how to fight or know how to shoot a gun. I, personally, look forward to seeing her grow into her badassery.

      I do definitely agree that their relationship was a little weird. I think part of it is that Charles treats her as though she’s younger because she looks that way, but she is actually older than him.

  3. I was wavering on whether to see First Class or not, so I definitely appreciated this review. I used to wish when I was in college that there was a website just for reviews of current movies that analyzed them on a social justice level, like how Focus on the Family has a review site for analyzing the morality (well, “morality” in their terms) of movies. So happy that *cough* a few years *cough* later there are sites that do this!

    1. Isn’t the internet a wonderful thing? I’ll totally admit that I have based decisions on whether or not to see movies on reviews. Even when people are raving about a movie, I don’t want to see something that’s going to make me feel uncomfortable.

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