If It Was Good
X-Men: First Class
Okay. So this is going to be a challenge. I recently saw X-men Apocalypse. The latest of the X-men movie franchise. I came away from it like I have most of the X-men movies, mildly entertained, but wanting to see a few things changed. Especially things like certain characters not getting the screen time we were promised they would.
So what I’ve decided to do is take a look at what I call the First Class trilogy. First Class, Days of Future’s past and X-men Apocalypse. I’m also going to be treating them as their own separate franchise because if I had to connect them to every X-men film that would have me looking over a total of 9 movies, if you include Deadpool.
So. I’m going to look at these three films, one at a time and address what I would change to make them a little bit better.
So our movie starts out kind of the same. We see young Erik Lehnsherr being taken away from his parents by guards at the Concentration camp they are being held. I realize this is kind of a heavy scene, but I feel that it needs to stay, mostly because this is a film that was meant to show Magneto’s origins.
In fact, before it was First Class, this movie was going to be Magneto movie in the say style of X-men origins Wolverine.
So, we have Erik being taken away by guards. His powers begin to emerge as he tries to bend the fence separating him from his mother and father, before being knocked out by one of the guards. Now here will be our first deviation from the film. Instead of Sebastian Shaw, we have Dr. Nathaniel Essex aka Mr. Sinister. Thinking about First Class, I feel the way Kevin Bacon played Shaw fits more to Essex’s character even if his motivations were more like Shaw’s. Also there is something that always bothered me about the X-men movies, that is my primary motivation for changing Shaw to Essex. The X-men are supposed to be a metaphor for oppressed individuals. The films do discuss this, but rarely any deeper than a shallow pond. My other problem is that the real villains in the films are always mutants. Even in X-2 where William Stryker was the villain, Magneto ends up being the main villain. Anyway, let’s move on.
So the scene goes the same way for the most part. Essex gives his speech. Barter’s Erik’s mother’s life to try and push young Erik to move the coin. Only this time, when Essex kills Erik’s mother, Erik loses control to the point where he starts effecting metal around the entire camp. His powers cause so much chaos that while Essex and the Nazi soldiers are distracted, Erik finds a way to escape. He gives one last look while grasping the coin he in his hand before running away. Leaving Essex obsessed with finding him again.
Next we move on to young Charles Xavier. Living with his mother Sharon, her fiance Kurt Marko and Kurt’s son Cain. His mother is very sick and near death. Kurt as is turns out, is a gold digging lout who wants to get his hands on Sharon’s fortune. While trying to convince Sharon that they should wed before she passes, Sharon tries to explain to Kurt that there is something very special about Charles. Something that she hasn’t told anyone. Kurt is all “That’s nice darling, but what about the wedding?” Obviously not caring about Charles. Sharon continues to try and explain and ask that Kurt get Charles so she can see him. Kurt tells her that he’s with Cain right now.
Charles and Cain are outside the mansion. Let’s say they are riding horses. Because you know, rich people do that. So Charles is trying his best to get along with his future stepbrother, while Cain is not having it. Charles really wants to get on Cain’s good side because he knows it would make his mother happy to see them getting along. He keeps on trying, but Cain doesn’t seem interested. Causing Charles to wonder how he can make Cain like him. Suddenly he begins to read Cain’s mind and happens to hear Cain thinking about his father’s plan to take control of Charles’ inheritance. Charles is startled and asks Cain outright about Kurt’s plan. Cain is taken aback and demands to know how Charles’ knows this. Charles rides back to the mansion with Cain chasing behind him. They both run up the stairs toward Sharon’s room. Cain falling behind.
Charles sees Kurt in the hallway and confronts him about his plan. Cain arrives shortly after. Kurt is furious and goes directly for Cain, taking him back down stairs. Charles follows being partially confused at Kurt’s reaction. As Charles gets down stairs, he sees Kurt verbally laying into Cain. Cain insists that he didn’t tell Charles, but Kurt doesn’t believe him. Kurt draws his hand back to his Cain, but Charles yells stop. Kurt finds that he’s unable to move his hand. From the top of the stair case, we see Sharon calling out to Charles. She coughs while telling Charles to calm down. Charles’ release his mental hold on Kurt and goes to tend to his mother, who seems to be getting worse. Charles tries to help her, but her health is failing. Charles begins to cry and Kurt tries to ask what’s going on. In anger, Charles yells at Kurt and Cain and tells them to leave his home and never return. To forget what they’ve seen. Both of their faces go blank and they begin to walk out of the house, controlled by Charles’ telepathy.
Charles helps his mother and apologizes. She says that everything will be fine. She holds him close and cradles his head in her arms. Again telling him that everything will be okay.
So with both of our main protagonists origins out of the way, let’s move up to 1962. Instead of Switzerland or England, we start in New York. We see a 20 something year old Charles chatting up a young woman in a bar. He feeds her some lines about genetic mutation and orders her a drink. As they are talking, she begins to ask him how he came to New York and Charles explains he actually grew up there until his father died. His mother moved back to England with him and kept the estate, which Charles inherited after her death.
She says that she’s read one of his papers and begins to recite it. We hear the young woman recite part of Charles’ thesis about evolution as we see Erik walking into a french bank to speak with the manager. Once again this scene goes just about the same. With Erik threatening the manager and gaining a small piece of info that brings him slightly closer to Essex.
Back in New York, Charles is walking down the street with the girl from the bar. They reach the hotel she’s staying in and Charles ask she’d like to go out sometime. She declines, but hands him a manila folder and tells him her name is Moira McTaggert. An agent of Interpol assisting the CIA with a case. She explains that she was actually looking for Charles before he approached her. She informs him that she was sent to ask for his help regarding a case she has been assigned.
Now you may ask why Charles’ hadn’t just read her mind and find all this out. And to that I say, why would he need too? Charles wouldn’t be reading everyone’s mind 24 hours a day unless he was super paranoid and could filter out every passing thought he didn’t want to hear. Plus it would be pretty creepy for Charles to use his powers to peak into a stranger’s head outside of say, finding out what their favorite drink is as a way to strike up a conversation.
Anyway. Moira tells Charles that she has a theory about people born with powers and a mysterious group that has their hand in various criminal organizations . Organizations that have been connected to unexplainable crimes. NOW Charles reads her mind further as he’s interested in knowing if she’s telling the truth. He then agrees to meet with her the following day so they can discuss it further.
Meanwhile, we see the scene of Magneto in Argentina. Again, I actually really like these scenes, so I don’t feel that anything needs to be changed. He kills the old Nazi scumbags and finds more clues to where he can find Essex.
Now we get the scene at the gentleman’s club in Vegas. Except now, Shaw is Essex and now it’s just some random CIA people undercover at the club instead of Moira and her partner. We see them spy on Essex and the military general as they discuss the matter of where to store us missiles. And real quick. Another shake up. I’m going to keep Emma Frost and Riptide, but switch out Azazel for someone like Vanisher and add Avalanche as muscle. Vanisher is a teleporter like Azazel while Avalanche has enhanced strength and seismic powers. So anyway, Essex has Emma and Riptide threaten the general and Essex explains about Mutants. He has Avalanche and Vanisher escort the General to his meeting.
Our next scene takes us to the CIA headquarters in Virginia where Charles is lecturing a group of big wigs on mutation. Moira’s superiors do not believe him and it is revealed that Moira has been investigating Essex without their permission. And that she took the Essex case because he father died while investigating something Essex was connected to. So she volunteered to assist to be a liaison to the CIA in order to give them any case information that Interpol has gathered.
They are dismissed and Moira is about to give up when Charles reveals his mutant ability to her, after they are dismissed. He tells her that he is very interested in helping her and that she shouldn’t give up so soon. Moira tells Charles that she had a lead on Essex that she wanted to follow once she got permission, but if they won’t help her then she’ll just do it anyway.
We move to the scene where Erik attempts to kill Essex, on the boat and fails. The coast guard, with Moira and Charles attempt to arrest Essex. Riptide uses his powers to stop them and Magneto uses his powers to destroy Essex boat. Essex and his crew escape in a mini-sub while Erik tries to use his powers to stop it. Charles saves him from drowning and we have the first exchange between our two main protags.
Because of this public display, the higher ups in the CIA start taking Moira’s claims more seriously. And even ignore the fact that she still went after Essex without permission. Charles, Moira and Erik are assigned a senior agent who runs a covert research division called Division X. He tells them that he has been researching phenomena that lines up with people like Charles and Erik.
At first, Erik doesn’t want any part of it, but after a conversation between him and Charles, Erik decides that he’ll play ball for now.
The senior agent (He’s not given a name in the movies, so I won’t give him one here.) shows Erik and Charles a prototype machine that was meant to amplify brainwaves. He theorizes that with Charles ability they could use it to find other Mutants to recruit to the division. Now there’s a reason, I’m not including Hank in this scene which I will explain later.
So Charles ends up using the machine that will one day be Cerebro to find the locations of several Mutants. However we see that it exhausts him both mentally and physically since it wasn’t intended to be used this way. Like in the film, Charles and Erik go around recruiting 5 mutants. Only with a few differences in my version. Now the first are Angel, Armando, Alex, and Sean. Next I’m going to introduce two characters who were in the film, only in a new way that I think fits better.
We go to France where a man is withdrawing a large sum of money from the bank. The teller asks if he’s sure, but the man confirms that he has made his decision. He leaves and not too soon after steps back inside asking if he can check his account. The teller is confused and says that the man already made a transaction. Outside the imposter smiles while holding their briefcase full of money. They turn an alley and change into Raven Darkholme. She is approached by Charles and Erik who tell her they are like her and that they have an offer.
Next we go back to the states where young Hank McCoy is at home. We see various trophies for sports and science related feats. He receives several phone calls from recruiters which he turns down. He hears a knock at the door and goes to answer. He opens the door to see Charles and Erik and assumes they are college recruiters. He intends to turn them away, but reconsiders once they tell him their offer.
We get a quick check in with Essex and his group. Instead of a sub we see them at a secret compound. Here we as the audience learn Essex plan. By causing an incident between America and Russia, he’ll introduce the idea of mutants to the public and begin rounding them up to use as soldiers for whatever nation pays him more. Emma comes and informs him that Charles is recruiting and must be using some kind if amplifier for his abilities. Essex says it doesn’t matter at this point and tells Emma to go to Russia while he deals with other affairs.
Meanwhile, Erik and Charles talk about their hope for mutants. Just like in the actual film, Charles is excited about finding more of their kind, while Erik is rightfully apprehensive because of his personal experiences.
Back at the compound, the recruits are getting to know each other. Trading Nicknames and having a good time. And Raven is blue the entire time because we don’t have her plot point of being afraid of being judged by the others.
Now here is the point in the movie where most people noped out. Darwin’s death. We know what happens. While Charles, Erik and Moira are away, Shaw attacks the compound, kills Darwin and convinces Angel to come with him. I thought this was all rather silly.
A) Because Darwin’s power is supposed to allow him to survive anything. Like there is a comic where Hela, a goddess of death who’s touch will kill any mortal being, touches Armando, and he evolves into a God so that it won’t kill him. Screw the Juggernaut, Darwin is unstoppable. B) I don’t buy Angel going with him so easily. I understand her being upset with the way humans look at her, but that doesn’t really justify a sudden heel turn because a white dude who just killed her new friend asked her to join him.
So anyway, I’m going to change all that. Also I’m gonna change a few things with the Russia scene too. We have Charles, Erik and Moira go to Russia believing the will find Essex. Instead they find Emma there. Now this time, instead of them taking down Emma so easily, she puts up a fight. Because for one, I’m pretty sure the crappy iron bars on the Russian guy’s bed wouldn’t be strong enough to crack Emma’s diamond form. And also that would just be boring.
Emma actually puts up a decent fight. In her diamond form, Emma has the physical advantage as well at the advantage of keeping Charles out of her head. This fight is big. Charles has been made useless and Emma is pretty much invulnerable to most of Erik’s attack, so he’s on defense. The fight ends up with Charles and Erik outside, being chased by Emma who they did not expect to be this strong. We see Charles and Erik help one another. With Charles using his telepathy to help stratergize a plan with Erik. Charles eventually uses himself as a distraction while Erik collects enough heavy metal to effectively attack Emma.
As she corners Charles, Erik manages to sneak up on her, since she can’t sense him in diamond form. He captures her by binding her within all the metal he’s collected. Now that Erik can use the metal to create pressure around her body, she can’t escape. So we get the same result of her being forced to go organic and Charles being able to read her mind. Only now we also get a decent fight too. Charles tells Erik about Essex’s plans for the missiles. However instead of them detaining Emma, Riptide shows up and uses his powers to make a snowstorm. Distracting Erik and Charles, while he and Emma escape.
As they are escaping, Emma tells Avalanche that she managed to peek into Charles’ head while he was reading her mind and now knows where the recruits are. She also finds out about Cerebro. Which will be important later.
So we go back to the compound, where the recruits are still having fun. Maybe we get some stuff like them practicing their powers. Talking about their experience with prejudice. Whether it has to do with their mutation, their race or orientation. Things like that. And if we’re going to have a romantic subplot in this movie we’re not going to have the weird shit with Mystique and like half the male leads. Let’s say Mystique and Angel. So now we have mutants discussing oppression while actually having examples of people who face oppression in real life in addition to Erik. With Angel and Darwin being people of color. While Angel and Mystique are wlw.
So everyone is having a good time when bam, they hear Riptide and Azazel attacking the compound. The team has no idea what to do, but Darwin manages to rally them. Darwin tells the others that he will act as a distraction since he’s the most durable. He then tells Alex, Angel and Sean to handle Vanisher, while he, Beat and Mystique handle Avalanche. Now we get to see the team act like a team without the influence of Erik or Charles. Darwin steps up to be team leader and manages to get the team to believe in themselves. Angel flies around and keeps tabs on Vanisher from a far. Alex manages to keep use the lack of control he has with his powers to his advantage. He keeps firing blasts of energy in random directions to confuse Vanisher. Angel manages to point out his position and Banshee uses his scream to knock Vanisher out.
Meanwhile, Darwin is going toe to toe with Avalanche. He’s able to defend himself, but not really fight back against Avalnches ability to cause seismic shock waves. Avalanche manages to pin Darwin down when someone who looks like Vanisher steps out holding a seemingly unconscious Beast. Avalanche lets his guard down and goes to collect Darwin when Vanisher turns out to be Mystique and clubs Avalanche over the head with a piece of debris.
So we get to see the team realize what’s really at stake first hand while also showing them working as a team. Instead of taking the only two people of color off the team.
While they round up the villains, Vanisher manages to teleport away. The team shrugs it off and still celebrate their first victory. What they don’t see is Vanisher going to cerebro and stealing the part of it.
So Erik, Charles, and Moira head back to the compound from Russia while Essex goes to Russia to convince the Russian military leader to put missiles in Cuba. Now since Emma is still here, she just uses her powers to make this happen.
So Erik, Charles and Moira return to find the compound in shambles, but are relieved when the team is okay. The team is overconfident and ready to take on Essex, but Charles points out that now that Essex knows where they are, there is the chance that now he’ll come back with greater numbers and kill them. Charles believes that it’s dangerous and that they should reconsider bringing the recruits. Erik and Moira convince him otherwise and Charles suggests a safe location for them to move to.
So we see everything about to go down with Russians and the Americans and the missiles. Next we see the team being dropped off at Charles’ home in New York. We get the montage of the team learning to fully control their powers. It’s mostly Charles giving the lesson since he has the most practice, but we also see some hints of Darwin showing some teacher qualities. Hank helps make their suits and gear from stuff provided by the CIA and military. It’s all pretty fun. We get to see the real development of what will one day be the X-men.
In between this we have casual interactions with the team. Darwin and Alex bonding over something like sports. Alex mentions his brother Scott and how he’s glad Scott isn’t a mutant. Maybe use that to foreshadow something in the future. Alex talks about how he’s been in and out of juvie and how he thinks this is his last chance to do something worth while because he’s become estranged from his family. Darwin reassures Alex that his family would be proud of him and we see the two become good friends.
We see Mystique and Angel having some downtime together. Maybe we explore their romantic relationship more. Maybe Angel could have not been out before and now that’s been around someone like Mystique (someone who’s out and confident and expressive.) she feels comfortable with herself.
Beast uses his intellect to assist Charles with Banshee’s training and while their busy, we get a quick side convo between Erik and Moira.
They talk about their pasts and what has brought them to this point. Moira realizes that as a human and a goy, she can never understand what Erik has been through. She explains about her reason for being there. How she knows Essex murdered her father and how she can at least relate to Erik’s anger. Erik comments on how he wants to kill Essex. He asks if Moira would try to stop him or tell Charles and Moira’s like “Hey, I hate him too. If it comes to that I won’t be the one to stop you.”
After their training and bonding, the team see the news report about the impending crisis that Essex has been orchestrating. The rest of the team get a good night’s rest while, Charles and Erik discuss their differing ideologies on how to deal with Essex. Also about how the humans will view them after this is all over.
We however do not get Hank turning blued. I love blue Hank. Everyone loves Blue Hank. However I want to save that for later. Definitely one of the other films. Hank’s just gonna be buff and smart for now.
So the next day the team suit up and head out to take Division X jet out to Cuba to head off Essex and company.
So unlike before, the fight ends up at a compound Essex has in Cuba. Charles seeing that Essex has a device similar to cerebro which he has Emma using to influence the opposing nations. Charles uses his powers to go at it with Emma. He manages to split her focus long enough for the team to find the compound and get inside where Essex and his team are hiding.
Now we have all of what’s left of Essex’s team, Emma, Riptide, and Vanisher playing defense. While our heroes play offense. Emma has to rely on her diamond form since they’re are so many players on the field, which Erik, Charles and Moira the chance to get to Essex and use his machine to stop the opposing Armies from starting WW3.
The rest of the team splits off into groups of two. We have Darwin and Havok vs Vanisher, Beast and Banshee vs Emma, Mystique and Angel vs Riptide.
And this fight is epic. It’s triumphant. We have these rookie heroes going up against these seasoned villains who are playing for keeps. Everyone has a job to do.
So things are actually going well. Mystique and Angel manage to take down Riptide rather quickly. Angel’s flying and spitballs coming in handy. Beast and Banshee are having a bit of trouble with Emma, but Banshee manages to resonate his scream just at the right frequency when he attacks Emma. He doesn’t score a direct hit, but maybe clips her in the arm or leg. Enough to crack that part of her diamond form and leave her out of the battle.
Havok and Darwin are doing pretty good against Vanisher, they’re pretty confident till Vanisher gets the drop on Havok and wham. This is where we have our first loss. This is where everything else stops mattering for the team. The missiles, the humans, everyone is focused on the fact that they just lost a teammate.
In anger, Banshee knocks out Vanisher from afar with a sonic scream. Darwin holds Havok who’s bleeding out on the ground. Darwin tells Alex that he has to live so he can see his brother again. Alex tells him that he’s glad he got to do something worthwhile. His eyes fade out, he dies with a smile on his face. Proud to be a hero.
Erik use his powers to grab a hold of Essex and tosses him into a wall. The whole team watches as Erik pulls the coin from earlier out of his pocket. He begins to slowly push it toward Essex’s forehead. This time we get some nice parallel with how Mr. Sinister looks in the comics. Charles begs Erik to stop. He tells him that stopping Essex is one thing, but if they use their powers to kill then the humans will always see them as weapons. He tells Erik that they’ve already won.
Erik tells Charles that they haven’t won yet. Even with Emma not using the machine, the naval forces are still advancing on one another. He gives Charles a choice. Stop Erik from killing Essex or stop WW3.
Begrudgingly Charles goes to the machine and uses his telepathy to convince the naval forces to stand down. However the machine is different from Cerebro. The more power he uses, the more stress it puts on his body. He feels his entire body aching. While Charles hears Essex begin to cry out in pain, he pushes out one last command. He makes Erik stop. Essex falls to the ground, injured, but still alive. Moira has to help Charles out of the Machine as he can’t seem to move his lower body.
Erik looks to Charles, he doesn’t know what to think. He turns back to Essex to kill him when Vanisher appears, having woken up from the fight, and teleports himself and Essex away.
Erik just stands there. Charles tries to to talk to him, but he just shrugs him off.
Charles tries to apologize. He has they can always try to find Essex again. That now they have to leave. Charles tries to rationalize his taking over Erik’s mind. This is the moment where Erik realizes that they can never truly be partners. After what he had been through as a child, Erik swore that no one would ever have control over him again. And Charles did just that. He took away any control Erik had in the name of doing the right thing. He tells Charles that he will always be his friend, but in forcing Erik to stop, he has lost his trust.
Erik leaves. Using his powers to levitate himself away as the team regroups. We transition to Charles and Moira giving a briefing at the CIA. Charles now in a wheelchair. The CIA expect Charles and his group to continue working for them. They even consider making them go after Erik. Charles is disappointing by how little the humans seem to care about actually making any progress beyond what they can use Mutants for. So he changes their memories to make them think it was all Moira’s work in stopping Essex.
We then move to Charles and the team back at his mansion. He tells them that he’s sorry for what they’ve been through and that they can go back to their lives if they want. To Charles surprise, most of the remaining team decides to stay. They all tell Charles that they were proud to be a part of the X-men. Raven and Angel say they won’t stay because they want to see the world together. While Sean, Hank and Armando decide to stay.
Charles expresses his desire to turn the mansion into a school for young mutants. To teach them how to live with their abilities and be proud of them. Moira says she’ll always be a call away if Charles needs her.
Everyone says their goodbyes, Charles and the three new teachers go to work things out for the school and we end the scene with a shot of the X-mansion getting some new construction. Including a new big plaque on the front gate reading: Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.
And that’s how we end First Class.
Bare with me because this is only my second time doing something like this and I have two more films to get through.