Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sketched Disccusion: X Men: First Class

I wanted to discuss a scene from X-Men: First Class that really bothered me.  I included this in my review, but now that I've figured out Blogger has page jumps, I've made the discussion it's own post so the review is completly spoiler free!  If you haven't seen the movie yet, go see it and come back.  If you have, by all means read on! Thought provoking discussion after the jump!

Ok, for those of you wondering about the scene in question, because I haven't heard anyone talk about it and I really think it needs discussing, let me set it up for you:

Charles and Erik are recruiting young mutants for their superteam. They recruit and African American cabby named 'Darwin' who has the mutant ability to rapidly evolve to his environment.  Let me also say that other than a girl named Angel, he's the only other non-white mutant on the team(unless you count Mystique)  Later, when all the new recruits are hanging out at the student X-lounge, showing off their powers to each other, Sebastian Shaw comes in with his team, kills all the humans in the building, and gives the "join me because they'll all hate you" speech Magneto would later give. Angel decides to go with them.  Before they teleport away, Darwin tries to stop Shaw, and Shaw without hesitation explodes him from the inside out, in an over the top cgi way. Yes, that's right, they killed off the black guy.

But don't worry, they mourn his death...for about ten minutes while everyone else is cleaning up the rubble. They go, "Oh we can't fight Shaw, they killed Darwin! Poor Darwin!" And then they go straight into the training montage and completely forget about him throughout the rest of the film.  Sure, they didn't know him for that long, and he wasn't a lifelong friend, but he was one of them, so it should count for something.  Not to mention that other than the main baddie, he's the only mutant casualty, as if he's the only one they could afford to kill off.  This is something I'd expect from a crappy B horror movie, not a smart X-men film.

No one seems to have mentioned this scene in their reviews and I think it's strange how they can call this "as good as the Dark Knight" when the filmmakers included a cliched troupe Michael Bay did five years ago. You would think Darwin being African American and First Class being the topical movie it's trying to be(set in the 60's, remember), they would have given him some lines such as, "Wow, it's hard enough people telling me I don't belong in places, now I have to worry about them putting me in a cage," or "People freak out enough at the color of my skin, what am I supposed to do when they see its armor plated?"

They could have given him a bigger role before he was killed, I mean it's the 60's and he's a black mutant who's apart of a primarily white team.  Even  if they did kill him off, they could have made his death a mutant martyr similar to MLK, and the film would have been more jarring and topical because of it.  But they don't use it at all, it's just a cliched troupe.  After he was killed, the characters treated him like he didn't even exist.  They could have even mentioned his death later or given him a plaque in the school.  And I was really hoping that since he could evolve, he'd somehow evolve his way back at the very end, but sadly no.

My question is, why did he have to die in the first place? One could make the argument they put it in there to show how Evil Shaw is and how big the stakes were, but A) Shaw was a nazi, so I think we're all pretty confident that he's a pretty evil guy B) he just not 2 seconds ago killed every human in the building, upwards of 30, without any remorse, so we know he's fine with murder, C) we already know he wants to start a nuclear war, so the stakes couldn't be higher, and D) even if they wanted to show he could kill mutants, why not one of the white ones? Was this Darwin's only purpose in the movie? Why not create a white throwaway character? It's not as though the X-Universe is sparse on caucasian X-men that people would barely know.

Not to mention after this, their X-team is now an all-white team fighting against the Hellfire Club who have 3 non-white members(Azazel being bright red counts as a race, right?). Not that I'm implying there's a racial undertone, I just feel they handled this poorly and missed a golden opportunity to make it shine even brighter.  They either included this character just to kill off, or included him just to fill their color quota and then killed him off because he was unneeded.  Either way, it really gives the movie an unprofessional cheesy tone. And if you say this kind of thing doesn't matter because it happens in movies so many other times, it only proves my point.  They're trying to make this a movie better than most, and they've failed in this aspect.

EDIT: I recently read a comic review over at Hijinks Ensue that pointed out the fact that all the non-American X-Men(banshee, Moira, Emma Frost) have all been Americanized.  Why is that? Ok, Emma you could attribute to January Jones bad acting, but still, they seem to have taken out the overall feel of, "We're all vastly different and from different parts of the world but we can still work and live together" and replaced it with, "We're all vastly different white people and from different parts of America."  It just further takes away from the overarching theme that Xmen usually embraces.

Don't get me wrong, X-Men: First Class is still a magnificent movie worth watching even with this spot of tarnish, but it's because the rest of the movie is so good that it makes this glaring flaw stand out even more. It's a dent in an otherwise perfectly smooth experience, and this is why I can't say it's a perfect movie or better than The Dark Knight.

What are your thoughts? Did you see the scene in question?  Were you also pissed at this or do you think I'm overreacting? How do you think they should have done it?


  1. I also had a problem with this scene, but not for the same reasons. Honestly, I did not make a racial connection to this scene.
    However, my problem was with Darwin's power, and its implications with how I perceived the outcome should have been.
    I didn't know much about him, so I looked him up (which led me to this site, after several other sources) and according to the comic book dogma, he is supposed to be so powerful, that even when he was "killed" in a battle, he was later discovered to have merely merged with another mutant, and then later unmerged into an energy form, and then even later, back into physical form.
    Now, knowing this much about him, I believe they really wasted a perfectly good opportunity with this character. But, then again, for all we know, he may just be an energy form after all those attempts at transformation that his body underwent in the movie. They didn't show exactly what happened, so he could very well have burst into energy or something. I would hope that is what happened.

  2. I really hope that's what happened, but I really doubt we'll see him in the sequel. Indeed, I thought he would at least turn to stone or ademantium or something to house the nuclear energy, then near the end of the film(or even after the credits) he'd break free and save someone just in the nick of time. But no. I would have at least liked one of the characters at the end to mention something like, "Well his power is to evolve, so maybe he's still out there somewhere" but everyone just sort of forgot about him.

  3. I've seen a few posts from people upset about Darwin, plus annoyance at how the only other non-white female mutant is a stripper. If they're taking license with the comics, why not make her a student? Actually, a maid would have been stereotypical but appropriate to the 60s period. I loved how you really articulated the bigger picture. Similar to you, I really enjoyed the film overall, but how they handled these characters and missed opportunities is a bitter pill included in the experience of watching the film.

  4. Thanks Melissa! I totally glossed over the fact that she's a stripper! And now apparently an evil stripper?