Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Blockbuster Aesthetics and the Global Languages of X-Men: First Class

The X-franchise has long embraced notions of cross-cultural communication, be it through the incorporation of Ororo “Storm” Munroe, worshipped as a goddess in her native country, within the X-family, or Wolverine/Logan’s time in Japan, or bringing together of internal American others like the X-Men with the literally underground mutant Morlocks. These, intra-, cross- and transnational aspects of the X-texts has been revisited across the film franchise to date, which stars an openly multi-national cast, and features scenes set in a range of disparate countries (even emphasising the disparities between US States, for example in Rogue/Marie’s tracing of her planned journey from the Southern United States through to Canada). I would argue, however, that X-Men: First Class is the first of the films to overtly emphasise multiple language.

In X-Men: First Class, for example, we travel with Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender, who has yet to become villain Magneto) as he tracks down Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) in a quest for revenge over the death of his mother. Along the way we hear not just English, but also get subtitled German, French, Russian and Spanish among others. A particularly intriguing scene shows Lensherr in conversation with former Nazis in South America, and they all shift languages throughout the scene from Spanish to both German and English. In addition, the film even builds to a multi-national moment of crisis as the mutants become embroiled in the Cuban missile crisis. In doing so, the aural and visual landscapes of X-Men: First Class offer a new array potential pleasures to global audiences, embedding its “American” narrative within a diegetic landscape that is perhaps more extremely global than ever before. We hope that this example from the X-franchise will sparks ideas among contributors relating to the languages of superhero films, and we would welcome your thoughts on the subject.

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