2. Altering The Source Material Can Be A Good Thing
I’m sure I’m going to lose that aforementioned contingent of hardcore fans that don’t like their comic book mythos messed with, but I’m going to say it regardless: Sometimes (admittedly rare times) there are ideas that comic book movie makers introduce into the mythos, which are simply more logical, organized, or downright better than what the comics have established. Such was the case with the Xavier/Magneto backstory in First Class
I’ve always thought that Sam Raimi’s introduction of organic web-shooters for his movie version of Spider-Man was smart and logical; I feel the same way about a lot of the details Chris Nolan put into Batman Begins, in order to explain the character’s origins in a more modern, realistic way. The fact is, great creative visionaries come in a variety of different forms – whether they be comic book writers or movie makers. More to the point: comic books have always been about creative collaboration and creative evolution, so I’ve never understood why (or how) some people believe that a comic book movie should be this heavily restricted form of storytelling. At the end of the day, for me, a good idea is a good idea.
X-Men: First Class is a perfect example. For all the movie’s flaws, one point of consensus is that the relationship between Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) is the most spectacular aspect of not just this film, but of any comic book movie to date. And (gasp!) most of the pivotal relationship depicted in First Class was original material created for the film…not a retelling of the comic books.
From their first meeting to their fledging friendship and ultimate falling out, First Class presented the Xavier/Magneto relationship in a way that (in my opinion) vastly improved on all the comic mythos of the last half-century – while still preserving the core essence of the respective characters and their themes.
Magneto as a super-powered man of espionage, hunting down Nazi war criminals? Much better than the guy in the comics, who tried to live peaceful for a time on a mystical mountain of animal people, only to eventually slide into mutant terrorism. How about Xavier as a dangerously naive young rascal who had no tact to go along with his invasive mind powers? For my money, that was much better than a perennial saint/zen master who has only had his bald head tarnished in recent decades.
First Class took two characters who have been done to do death (and back, and dead, and back again) and still managed to make them something fresh, dynamic, relatable and exciting. If I could have it my way, the comics would incorporate the mythology of First Class Xavier and Magneto into the canon, and would be all the better for it.
Others are going to point to other liberties First Class took – Havok and the White Queen’s ages, the almost unrecognizable roster of X-Men, Kevin Bacon’s “lean, mean” Sebastian Shaw – and admittedly some of those changes did fall flatter than others. However, for all the failed experimentation, I still feel that the movie succeeded with its new ideas more than it didn’t. More importantly, I don’t think I ever want to see the day where filmmakers stop taking risks. Sure nothing would be lost – but nothing potentially great would be gained, either.