A busy few days – attending a legal pedagogy conference (at which I spoke), attending the Congregation Beit Simchat Torah service to hear Rabbi Kleinbaum's annual Gay Pride sermon, and struggling to finish up the June issue of Law Notes on Saturday before attending the surprise birthday party for my cousin Renee Markowitz – managed to tie me up so completely that I haven't posted anything in several days. But today I decided to give myself at least a partial break, and went to see the movie "X-Men:First Class," which opened this week.
I've enjoyed the prior installments of the X-Men series, which seemed to go a bit deeper than the usual movie inspired by cartoon characters and plotting. This newest release is part of the "prequel" or "backstory" genre. Take a popular film or series of films, and make a new film showing how the characters got to the point where the existing popular films kick in. It's by now a well-worn genre, pioneered by Coppola with The Godfather Part II and Lucas with the prequel series for Star Wars, and spectacularly accomplished with the most recent Star Trek film. And now we have a cinematic telling of how the mutants first got together under the leadership of Professor X.
At one level, the film is all about spectacular special effects and swiftly-paced plotting. At another level, it begins to develop the theme of "the other" so well developed in the prior films. One thing gave me some pause, however – the idea of the holocaust survivor, the Jewish boy who escaped execution in the death camps in part through his incipient mutant powers, and who then goes on to lead the group that will be the nemesis of Dr. X through its estrangement from the unevolved human race, gave me a feeling of disquiet. Can't quite put my finger on it, but there it is.
Anyway, this film certainly held my attention throughout, with plenty of fine performances, and – as noted above – swift plotting and special effects. If I would single out any performance from what is really an ensemble effort, it would be James McAvoy as the mutant academic who becomes Professor X. I've always enjoyed watching McAvoy on the screen, and this film is no exception to that. It would be sad if this is the only prequel of the X-Men series, because it would be a shame not to see McAvoy develop in the role….