By Dr. Craig D. Reid
“The truth is out there,” became the mantra of Chris Carter’s initially uber-smart TV show The X-Files, a program initially conceived based on Carter’s firm belief that there was and still is a government conspiracy covering up the fact that aliens exist in Area 51. We now know that Carter may be right based on Seth Rogan’s ET “true story” spectacle Paul released earlier this year. Or is it? Yet now there is a new truth, not an x-file but X-Men: First Class that reveals the insidious nature of how the 1963 Cuban missile crisis came about.
Do I hear a little Twilight Zone music twittering in the background amidst Rod Serling’s stiff upper lipped assured mystical banter positing that the Bay of Pigs was actually a Gulf of warring X-men?
Back in 1963, when I was a lad in England, I read comics with names like Beano and Dandy, then if my parents allowed it, something edgier like Victor or Hurricane. Each week I’d read how muscle-bound, beret-clad Captain Hurricane would take on hordes of Germans or Japanese. We were still living in the past.
But in America, kids were reading things like X-Men, a comic book that provided a realistic labyrinth of life’s uncertainties where teens lived under the threat of the Cuban missile crisis and were into rock and roll, which further detached them from the older generation, and many suffered prejudice.
The mantra for First Class is “Proud to be a mutant,” an interesting time capsule allegory perhaps subliminally or openly (pending on one’s cerebral awareness) referring to the American Civil Rights Movement (1955 – 1968), a movement aimed at outlawing racial discrimination against blacks in the South. This empowerment led to the Black Power Movement (1966- 1975) where the slogan “Proud to be black” personified the virtuous aims of dignity, equality and black pride that especially resonated with black youths in the early 1970s.
In First Class, the mutants are also looking for something similar, acceptance, equality and the emancipation from mutant discrimination. One could also possibly equate the peaceful path of Charles Xavier or Professor X (James McAvoy) to Martin Luther King, Jr., and the eventual violent path of Erik Lehnsherr or Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to Malcolm X.
With a little strange imagination, perhaps the “X” in his name was influenced by the creation of X-Men by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby and not necessarily to the X being an unknown relationship to math. Think about it, since Lee and Kirby were white, to admit that his name was influenced by The Man would not have been cool for Malcolm back in the day.
Thus before Professor X and Magneto became arch enemies they were close friends and confidantes, working together with fellow mutants to understand the extent of their powers and to unite and save mankind from themselves and a former excessively evil Nazi scientist that performed atrocious experiments on Jews at Auschwitz.
The difficulty of any film that has so many main characters, multiple plots and subplots is that it becomes a major challenge for the writer to make sure that the film doesn’t become a hodge-podge of scenes strung together with a dissatisfying climax and an ending void of unresolved issues. Furthermore, when it’s a film based on a real event (we know how the Cuban missile crisis ended and that the Titanic sank) or the film is a prequel (we know hero Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels will become the evil Darth Vader and that Magneto will be public enemy number one), this foreknowledge eliminates tension build up for what we already know won’t or will happen, which can also ruin a film’s ending.
Athough First Class decided to possibly shoot themselves in the foot tackling both difficulties, at the end of the day the filmmakers successfully met the challenges not by overusing visual effects (had fewer than all other previous X-Men films) but by focusing on developing an engaging story. Within the narratvie, we see how the relationships of the main characters logically evolve without trying to toss in any out of left field resolution based on some kind of phony bologna science to explain why one man is good and the other good man turned evil.
Regardless of those critics who will trash the film for trying to be too ambitious even defiling themselves saying that their “nonmutant” minds can’t wrap themselves around the movie’s misplaced attempts, they have bravely insulted themselves. For those not familiar with evolutionary biology or genetics, ultimately we are all the result of thousands of mutations that over time has proven to give us the ability to survive. Survival of the fittest is indeed about a mutation an individual had that gave one an advantage over someone else. So if someone admits that they’re a “nonmutant,” what are they really saying? Disadvantaged?
First Class will rock and roll regardless of those that don’t like this kind of music.