I watched the first two X-Men films on a television screen in preparation for seeing the third in the theater. I remember choice moments from the series, although if you asked me to organize them, I wouldn’t be able to figure out which bit belonged in which film. I remember, for instance, the talented Sir Ian McKellen as Magneto; I remember lovely Anna Paquin playing some character with a white streak in her hair and not being able to kiss anyone; I remember the fascinating Mystique, her character a silent, blank, dimension-less shadow; I remember Xavier’s infuriating calm and how angry I was that he pronounced his name Exavier instead of Zavier.
The newest addition to the X-Men saga is a prequel that follows the origins of the mutant movement. The film was fun, gripping and action-packed but managed to move through a coherent and interesting plot as well. No small feat for a film based on a comic series that includes so much information that it could never hope to all be transferred to the screen. I enjoyed seeing Xavier’s arrogance as a young man, his high-and-mighty nobility that really stems from a need to be accepted and adored. I found the friendship between him and Magneto to be a beautiful thing, but very much like that of Sebastian and Charles in Brideshead Revisited or else Dumbledore and Grindlewald in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – that is, beautiful, but with a clear lack of balance and sticking-power. It was, I suppose, to good to be true, and so of course they must part. This isn’t a spoiler, mind you, because anyone who’s seen the X-Men series so far will remember that Xavier and Magneto are sworn enemies who speak very nicely to each other and allude to a former friendship.
And yet, sadly, there was much to complain of. Mystique’s character was annoyingly vague – fine, she appeared in Xavier’s kitchen one day, they became staunch friends… and? Where did she come from? What makes her trust him? Why does it take her so many years to realize that she has feelings for him? And those feelings, once displayed, disappear so quickly that I wonder if they were even there at all! She’s very confusing, which isn’t helped by the fact that the actress seemed, to me, to be having a tough time stringing more than a couple of words together at a time. The script, too, failed me towards the end, when I began to predict every line the characters uttered because they were a string of clichés that explained, very quickly, several facts that are supposed to make the audience go “ooooh!”
Finally, I remained unconvinced that the film was taking place in the early sixties. Everyone’s clothes seemed exactly like those we wear now. Maybe the X-Men all have another mutation that allows them to predict the fashion sense of the future? Maybe I’ll find the scene explaining that one in the deleted scenes on the DVD.