Except for the exceptions, this movie is exceptional. If there’s one superhero movie you should make the time to see this year, it’s this one. I haven’t decided yet whether to regard it as my favourite superhero movie of all time (there’s some stiff competition, and I do have some reservations), but it’s pretty damn good. I know in some parts of the internet it’s considered sacrilege to say this, but it’s better than Iron Man.
So, that’s some heavy praise. What was so good? Well, for starters, it is expertly cast. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are spot on for the younger versions of Charles Xavier (Professor X) and Erik Lensherr (Magneto). Jennifer Lawrence as the young Raven (Mystique) was also charmingly appropriate, both as an actor, and as a match for a younger version of Rebecca Romijn. Not to mention that January Jones was a true pleasure as Emma Frost – nice to see her in a more forceful role, as a contrast to her interesting, yet fragile beauty in Mad Men. But the real show stealer for impeccable casting was Kevin Bacon, as the ageless Sebastian Shaw. Given the old ‘six degrees of Kevin Bacon’ game inspired by his ubiquitous presence in films of the 90s, Bacon has been oddly absent from our screens in recent years. This was a wonderful role for him as a come back, especially as he still looks like he might have walked in right off the set of Tremors.
In addition to the casting, the script was simply excellent. Funny, understatedly sad with foreshadowing, and thrummingly charged in all the right places. Truly, the trailers do not do this film justice (and I thought the trailers were 100% squee-worthy). In particular, the quiet, not-meant-to-be relationship between Raven and Hank McCoy (Beast) was beautifully played.
This film was swinging with all the style and opulence of a 60s spy film, but also managed to capture the youthful exuberance and folly of a group of young people thrust together and discovering community in their difference.
So, what are the exceptions? [Spoiler alert] Most striking is the scene where Shaw’s Evil Mutants have invaded the compound where Our Heroes are getting to know each other, slaying dozens of men in front of the shocked eyes of the young mutants, and then asking the teenagers to join them. Who goes over to the dark side? The latino female sex worker. Which of the mutants dies senselessly in a completely unnecessary manner? The black one. In an otherwise brilliant piece of cinema, there’s really no excuse for such an outdated message that black men are expendable and women who have sex are evil. Overall, there’s an unusually high balance of men to women in this film, but as Aliette de Bodard pointed out on her Twitter feed (with one notable exception) they’re all evil. And even the otherwise commendable character of Moira McTaggart (played by Rose Byrne) gratuitously gets her kit off. Not to mention the ridiculous moment when Emma Frost’s otherwise impermeable diamond skin is apparently vulnerable to brass when she’s being tied up against a bed. These are not awesome messages, yo.
Of course, all of this is par for the course for a Hollywood movie, it’s just a shame when a fun, but otherwise lesser, movie like Thor recently did so much better so easily for female representation and discussion of race issues (even if the plot mostly centred about the woes of gods who presented as white males for most of the movie).
But I don’t want to dwell on that. Despite these objections, I still think this movie is 95% awesome, and one of the top superhero films ever made. Never have powers been used so well or effects been so good. Rarely have scripts been so finely crafted.
See this film. You will enjoy it.
P.S. There’s nothing after the credits – just FYI.