Charles Xavier: Accessory to Murder

I almost typed it as "X-cessory" but even I have my limits.

WARNING: If you have not yet seen X-Men: First Class, this blog will be chock full of SPOILER. If you are the kind that cares about that sort of thing, then don’t come crying to me if you click on the break below and I ruin some sort of suspense for you or something.

Now first off, let me just say that I really did enjoy the movie. Sure, it took liberties with time and space in terms of what X-characters existed when and what they were up to, but anyone complaining that it was no good because it went against the “continuity” of the comics is making a laughable argument. The last time the X-people had any sort of coherent continuity was in the 1980s, and by the end of the 90s it was such a hopeless shambles that any new X-book starting up pretty much just felt free to do whatever the fuck, whenever the fuck, with whoever the fuck, however the fuck they wanted to do it.

Morrison certainly took that to heart.

Point being, again, if your complaint is the continuity, I laugh at you. If you have complaints about how some characters were portrayed, okay, I’ll understand that, I’ve had my share of disagreements along those lines, but the core of the movie is Professor X and Magneto, and for me the two of them were presented perfectly. With one glaring exception.

Some writers have portrayed Charles Xavier as freer with his power than others, but the freer Xavier gets, the scarier and creepier he gets, even if he has the best of intentions: the man is in ur head, controllin ur thoughts, and its hard to make that out as the actions of a hero. Xavier always struck me as one of those characters that, like Superman, really needs self-imposed restraint to work as anything but a villain, because otherwise it would be real easy for him to take over the world. Even the vaunted thought-proofing helmet which Magneto wears in the films doesn’t necessarily help you if Xavier, at least with the aid of Cerebro, can theoretically throw the remainder of the goddamn world at you as his sacrificial pawns. Who cares if his legs are crippled, he’s got 5 billion potential boots to kick the shit out of you with.

No, Xavier is a guy who needs to operate by a strict moral code. And for the most part, First Class does a good job in portraying this. Again, with just one small, niggling problem…

He is a full accomplice in helping Magneto murder a helpless Sebastian Shaw in cold blood.

Yes, I know he couldn’t stop Erik because Erik was now wearing the magic helmet that blocks all of Charles’s powers. You know who wasn’t wearing that helmet any longer? Sebastian Shaw. You know who was holding Sebastian Shaw paralyzed for the entire time it took for an extremely slow moving coin to pass through his brain? Charles Xavier. I don’t care how loudly and repeatedly he screams “ERIK! NOOOO!!”… if anything it just reminded me of the Boobookitty incident from Space Ghost Coast to Coast (fast forward to the 8:35 mark):

Seriously, all Charles has to do is… let Shaw go. Now that the central area’s opened up and the helmet’s off, Xavier can obviously get complete control back whenever he wants. Or if that’s still too dangerous, I dunno, maybe give Shaw the mental command to duck? Serpentine? Chicken dance? Anything but just hold him in place and shriek uselessly while the slow blade penetrated the shield, and by blade I mean coin and by shield I mean Shaw’s goddamn skull?

For that matter I don’t remember it ever being established that Shaw’s absorption powers were as easy to get around as just punching him in slow-motion — gentle but firm, like a conscientious prison rapist. But regardless, there you are. Like Boobookitty, I think Chuck just wanted this to happen, but he gets to have Erik do his dirty work.

Wait a minute, why am I pulling this trigger when I can get you to do it for me?

So I really did hate seeing that death scene play out the way it did, because at best Charles Xavier is a momentary hypocrite in the heat of passion, and at worst, a criminal mastermind who was manipulating Magneto and Shaw into this confrontation all along so that he could kill one and brand the other a murdering extremist. And as I said before, I don’t like the idea of a Charles Xavier with those kinds of morals. Otherwise, it’s much like evil Superman: just hand him the keys to the planet and be done with it.

Oh Erik, I can't believe I got you to play chess with me AGAIN...

Or perhaps we could give the Grant Morrison JLA Batman the mind helmet in response.  Then again, you know he already has one. Bats Ex Machina has contingency plans for everyone. Everyone.

About Clint

Clint Wolf is an opinionated nerd, who writes a comic (Zombie Ranch) about cowboys who wrangle zombies. We didn't claim he made sense.
This entry was posted in Four Color, I'm Just Sayin, Nerd Alert, Projected Pixels and Emulsion and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Charles Xavier: Accessory to Murder

  1. Justin says:

    Here’s how I took it:
    Xavier had one of two choices: hold Shaw still and let him die. Release Shaw and let him kill Magneto. Phrasing it as a choice between the life of his best friend and the life of the man who tortured him? No brainer, no pun intended. Also, and I think this is vital to my reading, the entire film was a love story between Xavier and Magneto. They were in love. Xavier, though he may abhor Magneto’s actions, would never allow someone to hurt him. He just loves him too goddamn much.

  2. Clint says:

    See, the problem is I don’t buy that there were only two choices. Again, a simple mental command to duck would have worked, would it not? If you can completely paralyze someone’s nervous system with a snap of your fingers, then I believe you are in control of that nervous system. Even if you’re not hot shit enough to make someone walk around under your guidance (which, I admit, we saw no evidence of), if you can paralyze them then you should have the capability to make them flinch (HOT! THE COIN IS HOT!) or ragdoll them without relinquishing control.

    It’s entirely possible Magneto just keeps slowly tracking the coin in until he gets what he wants, but you’re at least not helping him murder someone. The problem is this would look very silly on film during what’s supposed to be a serious, climactic moment, but there I make the case that maybe the climactic moment needed a rewrite so that your “good twin” doesn’t go all Boobookitty.

    • Justin says:

      That mental command to duck or ragdoll doesn’t really do anything. Okay, maybe he doesn’t “help” Magneto kill Shaw, but he’s not really hindering him either since Magneto can just keep killing him. There’s no moral difference here. Xavier is just putting on a show.

      And besides, what if that made Magneto stop loving him? That’s the important thing.

      • Clint says:

        I would be happier with the “it doesn’t matter” argument if Xavier wasn’t so concerned with screaming “NOOO!” repeatedly. I mean, apparently he thinks *that’s* going to work, so why not at least make the would-be murderer work for it a bit physically as well? See, the screaming is almost more of a show for everyone around Xavier who can’t see what’s happening. The ragdoll would be a private show for Erik that Charles really, really doesn’t want this. Actions, not words.

        But I accept that this might endanger the bromance. Ironic that it will all come undone regardless in the next ten minutes for those poor star-crossed mutants.

      • Bryn says:

        Just saw the film, and I’ve got to say I pretty much completely agree with Justin on this. My read was that he wasn’t trying to prevent Shaw from being killed, but trying to convince Erik not to kill him. I think they were both in agreement over Shaw being an evil murderer in the seen pictured above when Erik straight up tells Xavier he’s out for Shaw’s blood. Xavier’s only hedging is to try and convince Erik between then and the final confrontation that he should CHOOSE not to kill him. I read the “NOOOO” as Xavier pleading with Erik to become the nice guy Chuck wants him to become (‘cuz of all the bromance).

        The real shock to Xavier was when Magneto then decides to declare war on all the normies. That’s the first time he actually tries to intervene (with sexy results) but all to know avail.

  3. Clint says:

    Fools! This is all just what Xavier wants you to think. Don’t you understand?! HE IS IN YOUR THOUGHTS!


    Perhaps my problem here is reading too much into the whole “Chuck = MLK Jr.”, “Magneto = Malcolm X” dichotomy that gets floated around a lot amongst fellow overthinking nerds. Maybe no one else was getting quite as much impression from the movie that Xavier’s Will Not Kill psych limitation was at the 25 point level (Champions!), a level where even standing by and letting someone else kill is anathema.

    I don’t personally feel comics Chuck has that level, but movie Chuck really came off to me with a “No! We mustn’t!” vibe, especially in the discussions about Shaw. He’s looked into the White Queen’s mind and seen Shaw’s gleeful plan for the future, and I think most people under those circumstances might be forgiven for a bit of grey area thinking. Would you kill Hitler, or at least let Hitler be killed? Movie Chuck gave me the impression that he’d bring Hitler in for a fair trial, and in a choice between killing or letting him free, would let him free.

    And that’s why there’s such a disconnect to me between the professed morals and what happens. But perhaps I’m the only one who got that vibe?

  4. myshewasyar says:

    First thought: My take on it was that Shaw was very powerful, and thus, hard for a young Xavier (without the aid of Cerebro, if I remember the scene correctly) to control. It’s been a few weeks since I saw the film, but I seem to recall that it took all of Xavier’s concentration to hold Shaw still. Also, I agree with Justin when he says that Xavier’s not going to do anything that risks Magneto getting hurt.

    Second thought: While I felt the movie didn’t work on many fronts (If Xavier is a rich American from upstate NY, why the heck is he always played British? Most of all, for falling into the trap of killing the black character first). However, I think it did an amazing job of not taking Xavier’s side, of making him flawed. I think the filmmakers wanted to show that Xavier wasn’t always wise, and perhaps his very self-congratulatory form of pacifism was actually a little self-hating. He’s kind of a cocky little skirt-chaser. A little arrogant, and a little clueless. The tension between him and Mystique (who seems to be secretly in love with him) exists to illustrate this. He wants her to blend in, to deny her true self — in fact, he’s almost repulsed by her, and at best, thinks of her as a sister, a non-sexual being — while Magneto thinks she’s most beautiful in her true mutant form. Basically, in addition to growing up in a sheltered home of extreme privilege, Xavier can pass as normal, and so inherently doesn’t understand the struggle that other mutants go through. In this light, Xavier isn’t MLK, but more of a black apologist, who would rather pass as white than fight for his rights as a black man.

    Third thought: Shaw was a Nazi. Now, you can argue that he didn’t believe in Nazi philosophy per se, but he uses “their methods” to run his own sick experiments. He’s effing Josef Mengele! So, from the beginning, they have established Shaw as the ultimate, irredeemable evil (especially in American fiction — there is no better villain than a Nazi). I honestly was on Magneto’s side the whole time. I wanted him to get his revenge. I felt bad for Xavier in the final standoff, because he had to feel Shaw’s pain while acting as accomplice to his murder. But you could argue that enduring that psychological and physical pain only underscored his love for Magneto. And I think that fact, too — the fact that he could feel Shaw’s pain — somewhat absolves him as well, assuming you believe that he truly was choosing between Shaw’s life or Magneto’s.

  5. Alex Wright says:

    Shaw was too powerful to be tried and imprisoned, had just attempted to murder most of the human race by starting nuclear war which – incidentally – would actually have left most North American, European and Russian mutants (nukes may have left some of the world comparatively unscathed – though still in serious trouble – back in the sixties, since there weren’t as many ICBMs as now) just as dead or starving as their non-mutant counterparts, to add on to his atrocities as a Nazi (including killing Magneto’s mother). Killing Shaw whilst he was incapacitated (possibly for the only time ever) was the only option.

  6. Rain says:

    I agree with what myshewasyar and the others have said.

    Xavier stated a few times in the film that Shaw was more powerful than he was. It took all his concentration to contain Shaw, which is why we didn’t see him using Shaw to even speak (as he’s done in other X-movies) to beg Magneto to stop.

    As to why he contained Shaw while Magneto slipped the coin through Shaw’s brain, I assumed it was because he had two choices: let the bad guy (Shaw) die and keep his best friend alive or uphold his moral code of no murdering and let Shaw go, but killing his best friend in the process. If he’d freed Shaw, I think everyone knows Shaw would’ve been able to destroy Magneto on the spot. Xavier chose to let his friend live, and this marked the beginning of the complications in their relationship and where they stood on the mutant vs humans vs mutants war.

    As for the screaming part, try living through a coin passing through your brain, since he was essentially in Shaw’s mind and feeling everything Shaw was feeling. I felt the “Nooooooooo!” was both in reaction to Magneto killing Shaw and to the coin passing through both their minds.

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