Thursday, June 30, 2011

Got Class? Thanks, Charles

"Shut the fuck up!" I shouted into their soft, pasty-white teenage/twenty-something faces.

The whole theatre turned to look at the commotion.  There I stood in the middle of about a hundred and fifty people, face red with rage, yelling at these two pricks.  I gave them my best approximation of The Look that was supposed to show that I meant business.  That I was ready -and more importantly, willing- to start some shit.  I thought that through sheer will alone I could overpower this pair of idiots.

I was wrong.

They laughed.  Told me to shut the fuck up and sit back down.  Gave me the finger.  Threw their popcorn in my face.  Before those golden clusters had time to bounce off my face and reach the ground I had already hopped over my the back of my theatre seat and right on top of these assholes.  Tactically I may have had the upper ground, though I wasn't sure if Ryebone and my brother-in-law had followed me into the fray or not.  It was too late now anyway.

It was satisfying the see the smug little smiles wiped from their soft, pink faces replaced by terror.  One of them tried to escape, but I grabbed him by his shirt collar and reeled him back in.  Fight or flight.  Flight had failed, so he took a big, clumsy swing at me.  Who the fuck do you think you are?  Wolverine?  I easily brushed aside his pathetic attack and responded in kind.  Jab.  Liver.  Cross.  Right over the edge and into the next row of seats.  Patrons scattering like ants.

The other geek -seeing his friend in serious trouble- grabs me around the neck in some kind of vain attempt to put me into a choke hold like the kind he'd undoubtedly seen on TV.  Pathetic.  As I turn around I bring my elbow up, striking him in the face.  Hard.  He reels backwards, and I notice how his glasses somehow stay on.  He lands hard half on the seats, half on the floor and immediately I'm on top of him with my hands around his throat.  And it feels so fucking good when I squeeze.  The fall took the wind out of him and I think his shoulder is out of joint so he doesn't put up much of a fight.  He flops around like dying fish trying to get back to water.  His eyes are bloodshot now and seem to be popping out of his head.  He stares up at me with some vain hope in his eyes, like if he concentrates really hard he can shoot a blast of optic energy at me like Cyclops.  No such luck, hombre.

I squeeze even harder and I can feel my thumbs digging deeper into his trachea and his lips are a strange shade of blue now and all I can think is His fucking glasses are still on? How is that possible?  His eyes are rolling back in his head  and I hear myself saying something like:

"Maybe next time you won't talk through the whole movie, you fucking douche bag!"

And it feels so satisfying.

Unfortunately (for me) it didn't go down like that at all.  Instead I sat through X-MEN: FIRST CLASS seething, choking back my rage while the two morons behind us delivered their running commentary through the whole fucking movie.  And not even whispering either.  It was regular conversation volume.

What a piss-off.

Then there was the group of kids sitting at five o'clock about halfway back in the theatre with their own special kind of annoyance.  Overall it was one of the worst movie-going experiences I've ever had despite the latest X-MEN flick being a decent movie.  After reading the beginning of this article you might be asking yourself several things:

1) Why do I seem like such and angry, violent person?
2) Why didn't I turn around an say something to these assholes who talked through an entire movie?
3) Am I some kind of pussy? (a corollary to 2)
4) Would anybody else in the theatre have actually testified against me had I followed through with my violent fantasy?

Well first off, no I'm not really that angry of a person.  But sometimes The Rage builds up inside me and one way of dealing with my rage is through violent fantasies usually involving my perceived wrongdoer.  I assume this a natural way of dealing with my anger without actually walking around punching people in the face which would be counterproductive and also really hard on my knuckles.

Secondly I didn't turn around to confront these knob gobblers for two (what I assume are) very good reasons.  Or at least valid reasons.  The first reason is because no matter how the scenario played out in my head, no matter what I would have said or done to the commentators, I could only foresee the situation escalating to a point I wasn't willing to go to.  And the second reason was because if I had turned around my Rage was at the point where I almost certainly would have precipitated an escalation (see: the first line of this article).  And anyway we're socially programmed to avoid confrontation, which was probably a good instinct in this case.  I've never actually witnessed a movie theatre "incident" so I have no idea if it is ever possible to diffuse a situation with assholes of this calibre.  If you have then kudos to you and I'd like to hear your insight on the situation.

Thirdly, I might be some kind of pussy.  I don't know.  (If you lick me, do I taste like fish?  (I've never actually thought pussy tasted like fish, but that's the cultural reference people tend to understand.))  Sometimes I get this clear vision of what needs to be done and the corresponding burst of will to do it, and sometimes I feel constrained by the power of my social programming to just shut the fuck up and ignore shit.  Just blend in.  Another space monkey.  It tends to be easier not to enter into a confrontation, because if you do you might have to follow through.  Honestly, I didn't think asking a couple of guys to shut the fuck up while I watched the movie was worth A) Potentially having the tables turned on me and getting caught up in their shit and maybe getting kicked out of the theatre along with them or B) Potentially entering an escalating conflict which culminated with me having to lay the beatdown on a couple of ubernerds.

Fourthly I can only speak to my own personal feelings about the matter, but if a couple of assholes who were making my night shittier by the minute were subsequently confronted and beaten to bloody pulps, not only would I not testify in a court of law against said Hero, but I would also build a shrine to him and pray to it semi-annually from now until the time I forgot.  I can't think of anyone who would side with the douche bags except other douche bags who, sadly, have multiplied like rats over the past couple of years and have now become one of North America's leading house pests.

It was unfortunate that my viewing of X-MEN: FIRST CLASS was sullied by such douche baggery as Matthew Vaughn did a really good job with this film.  I'm torn about Vaughn because the same guy who gave us the underrated (?) yet totally awesome LAYER CAKE also delivered the stinking heap that was KICK-ASS (and before I get any responses outlining all the reasons KICK-ASS did indeed kick ass, let me break it to you: the movie sucked).  Plus with poor showings like the even stinkier and best-forgotten heap of shit X3 and the only slightly better X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE I did not have high hopes despite Ryebone's willingness to bet his collection of celebrity urine that I would indeed "love the bitch."

In my mind Vaughn has more than made up for KICK-ASS.  FIRST CLASS is an excellent addition to the X-Men movie mythology (a point of order for hardcore comic book geeks) and a solid stand alone movie in and of itself.  Now for me this movie wasn't quite as good as Bryan Singer's first two X-Films, but still a movie I would actually consider purchasing.

I won't bore you with the plot, but if you've seen the trailers and/or been on the Internet in the past year you'll pretty much know the basic plot.  The focus is on Charles Xavier (AKA Professor X) and Eric Lehnsherr (AKA Magneto) and how they became frenemies, and how the original X-Men came to be formed and then mixed up in some key events in the Cold War way back in 1960-something.  All that's not really important, because you can go and watch the fucking thing yourself so you don't need me to regurgitate the thing for you.  Needless to say the plot is smart and cohesive and "makes sense" in the colloquial sense.

One of the main threads that ran through the movie that I thought was interesting was Eric Lehnsherr's back story which picks up with the first scene of 2000's X-MEN in which he's a young man in a Nazi concentration camp separated from his parents and doing funky shit with metal.  Almost immediately after this he meets none other than... Kevin Bacon, who for some reason still feels weird to see in a movie like this.  Don't get me wrong, he did a great job, it just doesn't seem like his kind of vibe.  Of course this played right into Ryebone's (sometimes frightening) obsession with that game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon which was popular back when I was still in high school and which to this day Ryebone takes so seriously he still refers to it as a "contact sport."  After the movie was over he looked at me and in all seriousness told me that a blockbuster movie like this with so many new connections to Kevin Bacon would change the game forever, and to make it more challenging might have to be changed to Four Degrees of Kevin Bacon, and I could tell by the fervour in his eyes that he would brook no dissent on the matter.  His intensity kind of scared me and I wisely deferred to him on all things Bacon-related.

While X-MEN: FIRST CLASS is an X-Men movie that follows a team of mutants trying to save humanity (again for the first time!) the core of the film is really the relationship of pre-Professor X and Magneto, which was surprisingly complex.  The movie really could have been called CHARLES AND ERIC.  A large part was the tighter writing in this installment, and a lot of props also go to the actors -James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender- who brought a lot of pathos to the roles (Charles and Eric respectively).  I don't recall seeing McAvoy in anything before, but he was a pretty solid choice to portray a younger version of the character made famous by Patrick Stewart (do I smell a Star Trek: The Next Generation reboot in the works?).  I guess the balance you have to maintain in the case of a prequel like this is not having the younger version of the character totally the same as his older self, while not being completely different either.  The young Charles Xavier in this movie is just finishing up his doctoral thesis (on mutation, what else?) and although seems a lot more mature for his age (30-ish?) he's also a bit of a womanizer, which is pretty cool.  Mutants need to get laid too, right?  Fassbender did a kick-ass job as young Magneto as well and his character focus in this movie was rage.  It was kind of cool to see the character arc starting to form from Fassbender's pure rage and revenge to Ian McKellan's cold, calculating mission to further the rights of mutants the world over.  I didn't realize until later that I was already a fan of Fassbender's having witnessed his exploits in both 300 and INGLORIOUS BASTERDS.

One of the coolest things that FIRST CLASS added to the mythology for me was regarding Professor X's powers.  I mean, we already knew he had telepathy, and mind control, and he can make people see what he wants them to see, and in general cloud the minds of men, and maybe even kill someone if he thinks about them too hard. What we never really saw were the personal consequences of using his powers.  In FIRST CLASS there are a couple of really cool scenes were Charles delves into Eric's mind and while he's in there the connection is -at least in part- mutual. When Charles goes through all the shit Eric had to go through what with the Nazi's and the brutal murder of his mother and whatnot, there's actually an emotional connection and he literally feels Eric's pain.  Which kind of makes sense.  I mean, you're melding with somebody else's mind, there must be a line where the distinction between the two minds becomes blurred and... sounds really fucking nerdy, like I'm actually debating the logistics of telepathy like it's actually a real thing.  Oh god, what have I become.

Other major plot points involve a young Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) in a sort of love triangle with Charles and Eric, Beast (Nicholas Hoult) becoming the big blue Beast we all know and love, Emma Frost (January Jones) psychically humping some Russian general and Michael Ironside trying to stop the Cold War from going hot.  We also get to see this mutant called Azazel who -like Nightcrawler- has the ability to teleport, which on the surface doesn't seem that great, but in the context of the X-Men films seems to be one of the coolest powers you could ever want to have.  One of the best action scenes of X-MEN 2 was the first scene where Nightcrawler fucks shit up in the Whitehouse and shows how uber-powerful he really is.  In FIRST CLASS Azazel has not one but two totally awesome action scenes one of which again shows ho a teleporter is just like a one man army.  Fans of either comic books or comic book movies also get rewarded with a lot of cool shit like a prototype 60's-style Cerebro, a bevy of mutants like Havoc and Banshee, and pretty kick-ass X-Men uniforms with a colour-scheme that channels the classic look in the comics.  You get your standard training montage where Charles Xavier (with a little help from Hank McCoy) helps everyone reach his or her full potential.  There's also a cameo by a certain clawed mutant (OK, it's Wolverine) making sure that there will be no X-Men movie ever made that doesn't feature Hugh Jackman.  At the end of the movie you also get to see Fassbender in full Magneto getup which is pretty awesome.

Before I wrap this shit up, I have to make mention of one one of the best and worst parts of the movie.  If you've ever watched Mad Men then you will immediately recognize January Jones in the role of Emma Frost.  Now, in that show I always found Jones kind of... I think "stiff" is the right word.  Unable to emote.  Is there a single word for that?  I think for Mad Men this style works because her character is supposed to be emotionally and sexually repressed and suppressed.  Then I saw Jones in UNKNOWN, and she seemed to be acting (and I use the term "acting" very loosely in her case) exactly the same as she did in Mad Men.  Then I saw her "performance" in X-MEN: FIRST CLASS and I finally realized what the problem was: January Jones can't act.  She simply recites her lines mechanically with the exact same inflection every single time, like some kind of script-regurgitating robot with a really nice rack.  Unfortunately for her having nice tits will not help her acting, and unfortunately for audiences having nice tits will undoubtedly help her acting (regurgitating) career so I'm sure we will be forced to endure more of her shit for years to come.  I think Ryebone's take was that she seemed like she was just reading cue cards or something that somebody was holding for her behind the camera, which is really what it seemed like she was doing.

The other (slightly) annoying thing here was trying to populate the movie X-Universe with a back-catalogue of characters.  I mean, I'm not a hardcore comic book reader and most of knowledge about the X-Men comes from that awesome 90's cartoon, so I know the main characters like Cyclops, Beast, Wolverine, Jean Grey, Storm, Rogue, and Gambit.  It just seems like in FIRST CLASS they're scraping the bottom of the barrel.  I mean I kind of knew about Havoc and Banshee, but then there's characters like Darwin, and the weird alternate-Angel.  Then there's the one bad guy -I don't even know what the fuck his name was- but he was basically Tornado Man, and he was pretty much a tool.  Even the main villain Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon.  I wonder if Wendy's has to pay him royalties for using the name Baconator for one of its sandwiches...)  I had to look up.  The problem is they really blew their load in the first two films, went completely fucking insane in the third film, and then they set this movie forty years in the past before most of the other characters from the first movies were even born really painting themselves into a corner.

But anyway.  Although I had to endure an entire feature-length commentary from a couple of douche bags in the third row I was still able to enjoy X-MEN: FIRST CLASS.  And if you liked the other X-Men movies (except X3) then you'll enjoy this one too.  I give X-MEN: FIRST CLASS a 7.5/10 = One Head Slowly Being Lobotomized By A Magnetically Controlled Quarter.


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