Super Powers Explained (sort of) in “X-Men: First Class”
By Skip Sheffield
So now we know: Kevin Bacon provoked the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.
It’s hard to take any Marvel Comics fantasy very seriously. “X-Men” is amongst the most far-fetched of the Marvel universe. “X-Men First Class” provides a back story for the characters previously chronicled in three movies and one spinoff since 2000.
The common thread with X-men (and women) is that they are all genetic mutants. In comic book logic that’s all the explanation you need to account for people who can throw fire, freeze objects and move things just by force of the mind.
“First Class” begins in Poland and New York in 1944.
Erik Lehnsherr (Bill Milner as a youth, Michael Fassbender as an adult) is being pressured by a Nazi scientist to make German coin move just by concentrating on it. Erik tries but fails. Then his mother is brought in and a gun is put to her head. The coin still doesn’t move. Then his mother is shot dead and the coin flies as if shot from a cannon. The key to Erik’s power is rage. He will grow up to be the character known as Magneto.
In Westchester, New York rich kid Charles Xavier (Laurence Belcher as a child, James McAvoy as adult) discovers a girl rummaging for food in his kitchen. When he catches her the girl turns blue and scaly.
The girl’s name is Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) and she becomes Charles’ best mutant friend.
We shift a few years ahead to 1962. Charles is now a student at Oxford. He amuses himself by reading minds and hanging out with Raven, drinking and making witty quips.
Charles will grow up to be mutant ringleader Professor X. Shape-shifting Raven will become Mystique.
Shift to Argentina and we find Erik hunting for and finding former Nazis who were responsible for the death of his parents.
Meanwhile in Miami mastermind bad guy Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) is hatching a plot to join forces with the Russians and control the world.
Bacon has the bonus of playing two really bad guys: the sadistic Nazi scientist met earlier and Shaw, an inventor who has designed a goofy helmet that makes him impervious to mutant attacks. He has a dandy bad-girl sidekick-villain too; a beautiful and sexy babe named Emma Frost (January Jones).
In the illogical world of comic book superheroes, it is unusual to find such convincing explanations for the mutating power of rage, greed and extreme genius, and vintage news footage adds an authentic touch.
As a kid growing up in Florida during the Cuban missile crisis, it would have been nice to simply blame the whole scary mess on a single fiendish villain, but as cartoonist Walt Kelly so drily observed in his Pogo comic strip: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
Have fun with this escapist, noisy, violent fantasy but remember the scariest creature of all is Homo Sapiens.