The following is part of a series where I bring back some of my "older" reviews (those written during my 2004-2011 tenure at the now mostly defunct The Cinematheque) and offer them up to a "newer" generation. In honour of Marvel Comics marrying off one of their X-Men in the first ever superhero same-sex marriage (well, one of them is a superhero, the other his non-superpowered lover), I give you my review of last year's X-Men origin story. Sure, Northstar, the aforementioned superhero groom-to-be, is not in the film, but it is as close as I could get.
Sure, director Matthew Vaughn may play a bit fast and loose with the origins of everyone's favourite team of superhero mutants (as did Bryan Singer before him, and for that matter all the folks who have been tinkering with Marvel Comics lo these past few years) but continuity with the comics aside, this latest superhero reboot (or genesis project if you will) is, thanks to a nostalgic comic iconography and subtle (and not-so-subtle) winks and nods to those of us in the know (don't call me a fanboy!), quite fun indeed. All this and one of my favourite actors, the splendid chameleonic Michael Fassbender (that Inglourious Basterd who knew his Wiemar period cinema but not how to gesture the right number three) playing my all-time favourite comic character, that Master of Magnetism himself, Magneto (yeah, I'm one of those people). I suppose one could say that I have my cake and I can eat it too.
Here we get the steely determination of a young Erik Lehnsherr (the aforementioned Mr. Fassbender) making his way from the concentration camps of his youth (played by Bill Milner as a boy) to his anger-fueled revenge on those responsible for such atrocities (an early scene set in Argentina and done mostly in German reminds one of a certain scene in the belly of Inglourious Basterds) and finally to his inevitable turn toward the supposed dark side and evolution into the man known simply as Magneto. One of my reasons for finding this character (in comic and movie both) so fascinating is the inherent emotional turmoil brewing inside of him. He is neither a villain nor a hero, but at the same time he is both (in fact for a while in the comics he Magneto actually led the X-Men in Xavier's absence). Originally this film was meant to be one in a series of origin stories, following up X-Men Origins: Wolverine, that would tell the tale of Lehnsherr/Magneto just like the previous film had told of Logan's early life. It would eventually evolve into this tale, but still the torment of Magneto is at its core.
As a not-so-secret fanboy (didn't I tell you not to call me that!?) I must admit to a few quite nerdy disappointments in the film. First and foremost of course being that these are not the real first class at Xavier's Academy - the one's represented in that now quite expensive first issue of X-Men from September of 1963. Well okay, Hank McCoy (aka Beast) is here, but no Cyclops nor Iceman nor Angel nor even every young schoolboy's fantasy, Jean Grey. Yeah yeah, you don't have to tell me - the continuity (the integrity if you will) was already skewed from day one of the first trilogy and therefore would not allow certain characters to be here in 1962 where it all began. We do get Cyclops' little brother Havok, which again musses with any sort of coexistence between the Marvel Comic Universe and the Marvel Movie Universe - but there I go being a nerd again. Actually one can easily put aside these notions of foul play as merely an alternate reality from the one we comic book nerds grew up with - something the comics themselves play at all the damned time. Of course, as someone with more than a bit of Irish in him, I may never forgive the inexplicable Americanization of Banshee (wow, I am a nerd, aren't I). But I digress.