Let’s start out by warning all potential readers that this article like any legitimate review contains spoilers and those not wishing to ruin their movie going experience might want to check the film out first before seeing what my bloody delusional, possibly fanatical and freakishly Jewish take on X-Men First Class is, lets just say this reviewer is shall we say a bit culturally biased… but hey so is everybody else.
X-men: First Class is by its nature and creation an enjoyable movie that will delight and torment fans of the comic book genre and the sub genre of films based upon comics and graphic novels. In this writer’s humble opinion it will stand as the best film in the franchise even more sublime than X2: X-Men United with its amazing action sequences and teleporting effects but that is probably not what a reader to this site is expecting or wanting to read.
Nor does one paying attention to the Punk Torah/One Shul philosophy probably want to read what all the so-called geek sites have already mentioned ad nauseam:
- Oh my G-d the Beast doesn’t take on his animalistic blue form until much later on in the story-line
- Did swinging 60’s Charles Xavier use the words, “Groovy Mutation”
- Havoc is supposed to be Cyclops’ younger brother
- Lenny Kravitz’s daughter is kind of hot even with Mothra-wings, I can’t believe she and the Magneto guy are dating.
With all that said now let’s look at just how “Jewish” this film is.
At this time I will ask everyone to accept, as a fact is that comic books are or at least were in their infancy a very Jewish medium. There were these two Jewish kids from Cleveland who came up with this idea about a guy in a red cape who was you know faster than a speeding bullet; yadda, yadda, yadda. Another two Jewish kids from New York who thought it would be a great Idea for their Red, White and Blue Avenger to be knocking out Adolf Hitler on the cover of their character’s first issue before the U.S. even entered the war as their reaction to his actions in Germany against Jews. And one Stanley Martin Lieber who came of age in the upper Manhattan and spent some of his formative years in the Bronx who is often credited with both saving and revitalizing the genre, as we know it. Excelsior!!! The early creators of the medium were all barely out of Hebrew School when they created this art form and they were thoroughly informed as to ideals of truth, justice and equality by their Jewish experience.
Okay here it goes…seat belts fastened?
Director Matthew Vaughn starts this film by re-shooting the Auschwitz, “Arbeit Macht Frei” gate scene from the original Bryan Singer directed X-Men film… this scene of young Erik Lehnsherr, later Magneto being torn from his parent’s arms at the gates of the infamous death camp still has the same effect of tearing at the heart strings as strongly as Erik himself pulls apart the metal gate with the force of his own will. The addition to this scene that will drive the rest of the film is that of a Nazi scientist played by Kevin Bacon (insert that’s not Kosher joke here) looking at the whole scene from a second story window, he is later to be revealed as the powerful energy-absorbing mutant Sebastian Shaw who is sort of a Mutant Mengele and of course he is very interested in “experimentation” on the boy.
That’s right: Magneto who in this film serves as one of the films two main protagonists is Jewish and a Survivor of the Holocaust to boot, that’s not really a spoiler per say as Erik’s identity has been debated for years in the pages of Marvel Comics not to mention revealed in the first three films of the franchise but it is the nut shall we say of all of the character’s motivations through out the film. For me while watching the first X-Men this was a hard pill to swallow I took it as Bryan Singer vilifying his Jewish heritage even though I knew the most of the character’s history at the time.
Spoiler: Erik is tortured by the memory of the brutal killing of his mother by Shaw which was an act intended to get the boy to use his powers.
When we catch up with the character in 1961, Erik is now a grown man, brilliantly portrayed by Michael Fassbender hunting down those responsible for the deaths of his parents and others of “his people”, a super-powered Simon Wiesenthal if you will. This journey takes him on a global search that will take him from Swiss Banks, to Argentinean Beer Halls and eventually to the waters off Miami, Florida where he will meet his greatest ally on his quest young telepath Charles Xavier (James McAvoy). McAvoy plays young Charles as cerebral but suave a bit of an omniscient lady’s man who is a bit ego centric but still fatherly as a young man he is calm and centered the perfect foil for Fassbender’s Erik who is driven by an incredibly believable rage and great sadness.
Together Erik and Charles have to save the world from Shaw’s villainous machinations during the Cuban Missile Crisis, a world of course that “fears and hates them.” At this point I will deviate from the main review and state most presumptuously that the idea of serving a world that fears and hates them is the duty of the Jew. Through Judaism we are taught that our actions and faith in the one true deity are supposed to be a “light unto the nations” (Isaiah 42:6), a responsibility which may modern Jews do not take seriously enough, and that are practice of the mitzvot will provide for a tikkun ha olam, a healing of the world despite the fact that for centuries the Jews were a nation with out a state who suffered from seemingly endless persecution.
Even in this modern era where Jews have reached a level of success in secular society there is still a certain level Anti-Semitism in global society but we are supposed to still marshal on and be well Jewish. It is the idea of living up to this reality that is the crux of the argument for our mutant counterparts in this film, the idea of being different or being the other is a truly scary thought and it is an argument that is at the heart of the movie.
While some mutants easily fit into society being you know good looking young Hollywood stars who can read minds or control metal objects through magnetism others do not fit the mold so well like young Raven Darkholme played by Jennifer Lawrence she of course is the shape shifting mutant Mystique and her natural form is blue, scaly and well a little frightening. The film illustrates her attempts at assimilation as much as it does that of young Hank McCoy who will also be blue by the end of the film they try to hide who they are from the world. In the end they must learn of acceptance and pride in their own nature, which is the brunt of the argument. They need to learn to be “Mutant and Proud” a lesson that Raven learns from Erik when he tells her that her true form is perfect just the way she is, perhaps a lesson that we can take from this film is that yes it is okay to be Jewish and proud and we don’t have to fit into a role that society deems for us.
Another key element and very Jewish element of this film is the idea of responsibility for ones action and ultimately the repercussions of those actions. The free will argument, one that Charles Xavier literally can remove from or block from people. In the end we are brought back to these truths of responsibility for actions and the definitive reaction to those ends on a beach after they have averted total nuclear proliferation, the humanity they have saved turns its guns on our intrepid group of heroes. Erik is prepared to use his control over metal to turn the missiles aimed at them back on their attackers and Charles tries to reason with him that he should not kill them because they are just soldiers following orders. It is then with complete resolve that Erik utters the haunting lament of any survivor of the Shoah,“I have been at the mercy of men just following orders, Never Again.”
Through a fight sequence and eventual paralyzing of Charles all learn this lesson Erik blames the very human CIA agent Moira MacTaggert for Charles’ injury because it is a bullet from her gun that paralyzes Charles however it was a bullet that he deflected from himself with his magnetism power. The two men are sent of on their separate paths one to lead the X-men and the other to lead the separatist brotherhood of mutants.
There is much more I could go into but won’t at this time I will leave it for the comment section to speculate on. I will go crazy at this point and offer a rating for this film based completely on that of the movie critics every where I give this film 3 and a half out of four Punked-out Magen Dovids.
Written by Steven J. Hager, PunkTorah New York Correspondent