Dear Marvel: Give Us a Movie Worth Caring About
Over the weekend I went to see the X-Men: First Class, Marvel's new summer blockbuster. If you're willing to look past a few cookie cutter superhero movie moments, and a few scenes that didn't turn out to be nearly as dramatic as the director intended, it's a pretty decent film, especially compared to Marvel's work in the past.
The problem is that the movie isn't anywhere near as good as it should've been.
Like the title suggests, it's about Xavier and Magneto assembling the first class of X-Men. The backdrop of this simple premise is the Cuban Missle Crisis of the 60's, an important period during the Cold War where the world came close to all-out nuclear war. Combine one of the most interesting events in the history of the world with superheroes, and at worst you have a movie that's hard to screw up, and at best a timeless masterpiece.
On a scale of potential, First Class comes out a lot closer to the bottom than to the top. Digging a little below the surface, it's not hard to discover plenty of one-dimensional characters, very few worthwhile emotional moments, non-sensical philosophy1, kind of a poor mutant selection, and one really questionable evil master plan(TM) (I say "below the surface" here because on the surface, the portrayals of Xavier and Magneto were actually pretty awesome).
I won't criticize it too much because First Class was decent. Just like Thor and Iron Man were decent (although Robert Downey Jr. single-handedly carried the latter to just short of greatness). It seems that the greatest ambition of any Marvel movie is mediocrity, even while superhero films like Batman Begins and the Dark Knight have already proven that loftier goals are possible.
Watching the Dark Knight, I saw heroes that I cared for, villains with intense depth, and scenes that truly moved me. The source material exists for the Marvel universe to do the same, but they'd need to embrace the idea of producing something other than a simplistic popcorn thriller. I think it's time.
1 "I believe that true focus lies somewhere between rage and serenity." — Xavier