Ta-Nehisi Coates on the new X-Men movie in the NYT:
My son and I represent two generations of X-fans. I came of age in the ’80s and ’90s and can still recall when Xavier’s students were lords of the Underground, and the phrase “comic book movie” conjured absurd images of David Hasselhoff donning an eye patch. The boy is of the present era, where the geeks and nerds throne and Hollywood is compelled to seriously contemplate the cinematic potential of B-listers Namor, Luke Cage and Ant-Man. Still, we were united across the ages in our love for the X-Men — patron-saints of the persecuted and the champions of freaks and pariahs across the globe.
In print, the X-Men are an elite team culled from a superpowered species of human. The mutants, as they are dubbed, are generally handled roughly by the rest of humanity and singled out for everything from enslavement to internment camps to genocide. As if to ram the allegory home, the X-Men, for much of their history, have hailed from across the spectrum of human existence. Over the decades, there have been gay X-Men, patrician X-Men, Jewish X-Men, Aboriginal X-Men, black X-Men with silver mohawks, X-Men hailing from Russia, Kentucky coal country, orphanages and a nightmarish future.
But as “First Class” roars to its final climatic scene, it appeals to an insidious suspension of disbelief; the heroic mutants of America, bravely opposing bigotry and fear, are revealed as not so much a spectrum of humankind, but as Eagle Scouts from Mayfield. Thus, “First Class” proves itself not merely an incredible film, but an incredible work of American historical fiction. Here is a period piece for our postracial times — in the era of Ella Baker and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the most powerful adversaries of spectacular apartheid are a team of enlightened white dudes.