X-Men: First Class
What if an alien in the future stumbled upon Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class? Welcome to Earthling Cinema, where we examine the last remaining artifacts of a once-proud culture and try to understand what human lives were like before their planet was destroyed. I’m your host, Garyx Wormuloid.
X-Men: First Class (2011)
Stars: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, Jennifer Lawrence
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Production Co: Marvel Entertainment, The Donners’ Company, Bad Hat Harry Productions, Dune Entertainment, Ingenious Film Partners
Written by: Ben Steiner
Directed by: Jared Bauer
Analysis by: Kevin Winzer
Starring: Mark Schroeder (https://twitter.com/mark_schroeder)
Edited by: Ryan Hailey
Original Music by: David Krystal (http://www.davidkrystalmusic.com)
Opening Animation by: Danny Rapaport
Producer & Additional Artwork by: Jacob S. Salamon
X-Men: First Class’ Hidden Meaning – Earthling Cinema
Greetings, and welcome to Earthling Cinema. I am your host, Garyx Wormuloid. This week’s artifact is X-Men: First Class, the story of a studio that will stop at nothing to retain the rights to its most lucrative franchise.Our story begins at a rather bleak-looking German summer camp, where Dr. Klaus Schmidt sees a young boy named Erik bend a metal gate with his mind, and naturally decides to start teaching him coin tricks. Schmidt uses unconventional tactics, but it’s hard to argue with the results. Elsewhere on Earth, a wealthy boy named Charles who inexplicably lives alone finds a baby Avatar in his house. Lacking the proper adult guidance, he adopts her as his sister instead of calling the cops.
A few decades later, Erik is tracking down Schmidt the only way he knows how: going to bars and showing off his knife tricks. Meanwhile, Charles is busying himself with pursuits of his own. Pursuits of the flesh. Flesh is what humans called their meat casing. In any case, that all comes to an end when a CIA lady sees a bunch of mutants and seeks out the world’s foremost expert on mutation, a guy who wrote an essay on it for school.They find Schmidt using the six degrees of Kevin Bacon, only now he goes by the name Sebastian Shaw to sound a little less Third Reich-y. As it so happens, our old pal Erik is there attacking Shaw’s boat, and doing a terrible job to boot. Charles and CIA lady save Erik from making even more of a fool of himself, and induct him into their top secret mutant club without so much as a background check.
Now on a friendship rampage, they use an early prototype of a SamsungGalaxy Note to spread their message of love.They find out Shaw wants to start World War Three because that will help mutants somehow. Charles takes everybody to his childhood home, figuring the leader’s house is the last place anyone would ever look. They make themselves comfortable, banging out a few training montages and installing DirecTV. But when Shaw makes the Soviet dudes send missiles to Cuba, Charles and company jet over there to teach them a lesson in U.S. history, JFK-style.
Against Charles’ wishes, Erik kills Shaw with his trusty coin, proving that money truly is the root of all evil. The humans panic and fire all their missiles at the mutants, and Erik flips a bitch. Looking for a way to justify her continued involvement in the story, CIA lady shoots at Erik, but the bullet ricochets magically and hits our hero, JFK-style. Erik decides this place is dead anyway, and leaves with all the jocks. The nerds stay behind with Charles, and what do nerds like? School! So he opens a school. CIA lady kisses him, but he gets embarrassed about what a bad kisser he is and wipes her memory. X-Men: First Class explores the concept of “other”-ness, relating the mutant struggle to that of oppressed minority groups throughout Earth’s history, namely African Americans of the 1960s.
Charles follows the lead of Martin Luther King’s son Marty Jr., an American civil rights leader who preached peaceful reconciliation with those in power. Erik believes that violent resistance is justified in response to persecution, which was the path of more radical factions such as the Black Panthers and Malcolm the Tenth. Not only are mutants cast as “others” in relation to their pitiful human counterparts, but they must also contend with hierarchies of privilege within their own ranks. Charles lives a life of ease because his powers are invisible and help him excel socially, like always knowing what number someone is thinking . Meanwhile, Beast and Mystique must actively hide their true nature in order to escape society’s judgy bullshit.
The film suggests that, more than genetics themselves, the mutant condition is defined by the psychological suffering that comes with said genetics. After the good guys lose their battle virginity, Erik implies they have finally earned their mutant stripes. And it is only when Charles is paralyzed that he truly becomes Professor X, because it is the first time his powers have led to hardship. Although technically he’s not truly Professor X until he gets his teaching degree. X-Men: First Class may be a movie, but that doesn’t mean it can’t talk about books. This thing has got literary allusions coming out the wazoo. Two of them, anyway.
Out of one wazoo. And they’re made extra good by how explicitly they’re referenced. The first is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a book about a scientist who does too much science. Just as Dr. Frankenstein creates a monster shunned by the world, Shaw creates the vengeful Magneto by torturing Erik until he becomes hopelessly poisoned against society. However, the film goes a step beyond the Frankenstein myth by having Erik purposefully step into the shoes of his vanquished creator and find they fit like a glove. Which is to say, uncomfortably on his feet. When Erik kills Shaw, he takes care to recreate the trauma that was imposed on him as a child. Moreover, Erik steals Shaw’s dope hat, seizes control of his #squad, and sets about advancing Shaw’s anti-human cause. As philosopher Friedrich Nietzche warned, “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” In obsessively pursuing Shaw for his entire life, Erik becomes the very monster he hoped to destroy. But hey, everyone makes mistakes.
The second literary allusion is Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a book about a scientist who does too much science. Jekyll and Hyde explores man’s struggle to reconcile his civilized nature with the primitive creature within — sound familiar, Hank? Hank initially restrains his bestial nature because being blue is so 2000 and late. Fortunately, Charles is on hand to deliver a reassuring book report. But unlike the book, in which Mr. Hyde represents the dark, violent, and cruel side of Dr. Jekyll, Hank’s metamorphosis is a step towards self-realization and acceptance.
And why shouldn’t he accept having a little extra fur? I’ve certainly never gotten any complaints. Except from my wife and children literally every day. For
Earthling Cinema, I’m Garyx Wormuloid. And I’ll never trim. Goodbye.