X-Men: Director Bryan Singer used close-ups almost exclusively. There's nothing subtle about this. The film wanted us to SEE Halle Berry. Look! THIS IS REBECCA ROMJIN! Did you notice Patrick Stewart? Did you? Did you? If you didn't HERE HE IS. The action shots were incoherent. "Wolverine" might be fighting Sabertooth right now, but we don't want you to see that, we want you to see HUGH JACKMAN grunting. You don't know who Ray Park is, because he was Darth Maul and the Headless Horesman and in those roles you couldn't really see his face (I mean, in one he didn't even have a face), so now we're going to KEEP SHOWING YOU HIS FACE. Look at how agile he is.
X2: this film raged. It's dark and visceral, beginning to end, and has fight scene after fight scene after fight scene followed by a giant flood. I have no complaints.
X3: This film disgusts me. It's an exercise in melodrama.
FC: blends big bangs and subtlety, in a way the other films haven't. And makes tremendous use of foreshadow.
Director: Matthew "Kick-Ass" Vaughn
The Next Wave in Big Names: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence
Big Name: Kevin Bacon
On her second-wind: Rose Byrne
Who I would like to see more of: January Jones
There, for a bit: Oliver Platt
Lenny Kravitz's family: Zoe Kravitz
Also: Nicholas Holt, Caleb Landry Jones, Lucas Till, Edi Gathegi, Jason Flemyng, Alex Gonzalez
5. Including William Stryker.
In X2, Stryker is the main bad guy. In this film, he's a high-up CIA agent. He has a couple lines denouncing mutants. His inclusion foreshadows the Weapon X program that will eventually install an adamantium skeleton and claws in Wolverine, but also the mutant-hating we see later in FC by the security guards at the compound where the X-men are staying. We're seeing the roots of the racism that grows into the major conflict of the X-universe--can mutants and humans live peacefully and inclusively?
4. The teleporting sound and disappearing guards.
Less macro, and just a cool thing. The "first class" of Xavier's students are sitting in their lounge, talking, when they start to hear a popping sound. We viewers recognize the sound as that of the teleporting bad guy, Azazel. Neither we nor the students know what's going on though. Tension heightens as we see Azazel, through a window in the background, behind the students' backs (they're looking out another window), appear behind a guard, grab the guard, and teleport away. Okay, he's taking the guards. But where? One by one the guards vanish, until we see Azazel appear before Oliver Platt. Platt's taken and we're suddenly in the air. Azazel has teleported Platt (us) into the sky. Then he lets go.
Platt goes splat, right in front of the students. Now all the guards start raining down. The loss of the protectors foreshadows the continuing erosion of these students' innocence (and concurrent ascendence to adulthood) throughout the rest of the movie.
3. Magneto's helmet.
FC is a prequel. A penchant of such stories is to have familiar characters appear and act in ways that don't match up with how we know them. For example. In X-Men Mystique is clearly Magneto's right-hand woman. In FC, she's Xavier's best friend. We know, by the end of the film, Mystique will transfer her allegiance.
Magneto is visually unrecognizable in FC. In the comics and the previous films, he is seen almost exclusively wearing his armor and helmet. The clothes, in this case, don't make the man--they are part of the man.
Early in the movie, the government, aided by Xavier and Mystique, are on their way to capture Kevin Bacon and his crew. Xavier uses his telepathic powers to attempt to "read" the situation on board Bacon's ship. Bacon's telepath, January Jones, blocks Xavier and warns Bacon who then puts on a helmet. Anyone familiar with X-Men recognizes this as Magneto's helmet.
The helmet then is an item we know will change hands. More than that, we know that once Magneto possesses the helmet, he's one step closer to becoming who the character is: the mutant trying to subjugate mankind. Of course, by the film's end, Magneto acquires his "crown" and the last shot of him is in his full attire.
2. Darwin's comment to Havok.
This moment is very subtle. Before Azazel appears and starts killing guards, we're shown the students in the lounge. Havok is playing pinball, as Darwin watches. We hear the machine's familiar sounds of flippers and bumpers. Points are being scored. Darwin mutters, "Man, you are killing me." Then Azazel appears. Then Bacon enters the room and starts trying to recruit. Zoe Kravitz decides to go with Bacon. Darwin elbows Havok and goes too. Before Bacon and his posse leave, Darwin grabs Zoe and tells Havok to attack. Havok fires an energy blast at Bacon. Unfortunately, the students didn't know Bacon absorbs energy and releases it at will. Using the power of Havok's attack, Bacon forms a little ball of burning energy between his fingers, walks up to Darwin, and deposits the tiny sun in Darwin's mouth. Darwin swallows and begins to smoke, change shape, become metal-like, liquidate, ash, and crumble. Havok, indeed, killed Darwin.
1. Coin through head.
Magneto has been hunting Bacon for 99% of the movie. When he finally kills Bacon, it's by using his power to manipulate metal to float a coin (of some significance) through the air and through Bacon's forehead, past his skull, into his brain, and out the other side.
This moment is also my favorite shot of the movie. See, I love when a shot is in profile, or side-on. My favorite shot of Pan's Labyrinth is when the General shoots the doctor: it's in profile, and beautiful, and sad. The shot is so rarely used that when used at the right moment it's very cinematic.
What Vaughn does with the shot goes beyond visuals. He makes it do "work" as well.
We're shown Magneto (in profile) on the left side of the screen. The coin rises up. The coin is in the center of the screen. The coin slowly travels away from Magneto. The camera keeps the coin in the center of the screen and follows it by sliding right. Magneto slides out of the shot. Kevin Bacon comes into view (in profile) on the right side of the screen. Note: Bacon is motionless and expressionless during the whole event, because Xavier has tapped into his mind and is controlling him. As the coin approaches Bacon, Vaughn cuts to Xavier (also in profile). On the screen, Xavier is positioned in the same exact place as Bacon. Even though the coin isn't in the scene with Xavier, the camera continues its same pace, as if it were following the coin. We cut back to Bacon and the coin. The coin closes in. We cut back to Xavier, and we sense the coin closing in on him as well. Then the coin enters Bacon's skull (and Bacon has no reaction because he is possessed), and we cut back to Xavier who is screaming. Then back to Bacon, and even though the coin is in Bacon's brain, the camera continues to follow it by keeping the same pace. We cut back to Xavier and we know he can feel the coin going through his brain. Then back to Bacon. Then back to Xavier. Then the coin exits Bacon's head and, stained red, falls to the floor.
Right before this scene, Magneto had donned his helmet for the first time (after removing it from Bacon) and shut Xavier out of his mind. Shooting the "coin scene" in profile was important because it allowed Vaughn to show the mental severing of Magneto and Xavier (which the helmet represents), a connection which had been the core of their relationship. Xavier is the one person who understood Magneto. And that was because he could literally read his mind. Nevermore though.
The coin scene is number 1 on this list because it foreshadows the ensuing scene, which is the difference of opinion that is central to the X-Men universe: Xavier thinks humans and mutants can live together; Magneto believes mutants are dominant and should rule.
Did I Like It:
Yes. It was refreshing. I wouldn't say it's AMAZING. But that's mostly because I could care less about Havok or Banshee. I want Cyclops, Gambit, etc. It was a step in the right direction.
It doesn't crack my top 5 superhero movies or anything.
What It's Good For:
-Kevin Bacon dominating
-seeing mutant powers
-a twist on the superhero origin movie
-cool collection of actors
-watching January Jones bothered
-use of cameo
-another superhero origin movie
-Magneto's outfit looked...meh
% Character / % Actor's personality or previous roles
Matthew Vaughn: Kick-Ass
McAvoy: The Last Station; Atonement
Fassbender: Inglourious Basterds
Bacon: Tremors; The River Wild; Mystic River
Byrne: Bridesmaids; Two Hands; Troy
Jones: American Wedding