Sunday 19 Aug 2018 | 10:02 | SYDNEY
Sunday 19 Aug 2018 | 10:02 | SYDNEY

X-Men versus the apocalypse


Sam Roggeveen


10 June 2011 16:30

I'm somewhat surprised to see X-Men: First Class getting so many good notices from US critics. It struck me as a paint-by-numbers superhero franchise film, though I have to admit, I did not spot the gay rights subtext, which retrospectively lends the film an air of guile. (Looking back, it was pretty obvious — check out this reference to 'don't ask, don't tell'.)

I was too busy watching the text to pick up the subtext, and on that level...well, 'guile' is not the term that comes to mind.

The film is set in 1962, and the villain, along with his crew of mutants, tries to engineer a nuclear war between the superpowers through an elaborate scheme that will see US and Soviet naval forces clash off the coast of Cuba.

We're used to thinking of the Cuban Missile Crisis as a peculiarly human folly. Turns out a small group of rogue mutants did it in order to bring about a nuclear holocaust, with their superior kind the only survivors. It's all totally unnecessary, since the villains possess such incredible powers that they could more or less end the world themselves; why bother with the Cuba crisis at all?

Once the confrontation at sea begins, escalation to total nuclear war is treated as a fait accompli. There's no room for human agency to avert a crisis, just an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. In real life, it was some agile American crisis diplomacy which averted just that outcome.