Darwin shouldn’t have died in “X-Men: First Class”: An angry retrospective

Darwin from X-Men: First Class

A few days ago, actress and writer Ashley V. Robinson tweeted out this salient message, reigniting a fire in me to proclaim how much I hate X-Men: First Class. 

ASHLEY’S RIGHT. The X-Men movies are a load of crock due to what they did to Darwin!

Let me say a lot more words to back up what some might consider a very blasphemous statement, since the new X-Men reboots are very much beloved.

I was down with X-Men: First Class, honestly, while watching. Of course, there were some things that bugged–I never understood the allure of Emma Frost, and while some of that is from not reading any X-Men comic books featuring her, none of my non-feelings toward her were helped by January Jones’ wooden acting. She’s great at looking the part–maybe the only reason she got the part was because she was knee-deep in Mad Men at the time–but she did nothing to make me want to like or even get to know Emma Frost. Also, Jennifer Lawrence. Jennifer Lawrence can’t do what Rebecca Romijn did as Mystique.

But overall, I really loved X-Men: First Class. The characters (apart from the aforementioned) were very well fleshed out, and the period aspect of the film separated it from other superhero films. It made it feel more serious and gave it more weight. It was cool.

Up until Darwin sacrificed himself. Or rather, he was *written* to sacrifice himself.

Throughout the film and throughout comic book lore, Darwin (played by Edi Gathegi) is shown to be able to adapt to any mutant’s abilities. This means that he’s theoretically immortal, since he can adapt to anything that could hurt him.

So WHY IN THE WORLD could he not adapt to Sebastian Shaw’s (Kevin Bacon) powers! Why didn’t he just absorb his blasts instead of implode? It literally makes no sense and goes against everything the movie set up about Darwin’s abilities. Perhaps the film is trying to state that the only thing that can kill Darwin are nuclear-esque blasts, but even with that excuse, nothing holds water–Darwin should still be able to adapt to that!

As Tambay Obenson wrote for Shadow and Act in 2011,

He can even transform into pure energy, which makes his quick, and rather easy exit puzzling to me! His death didn’t really bring about anything of significance, so why kill him off?

I suppose the argument could be made that his murder at the hands of Kevin Bacon’s Sebastian Shaw was the motivation for the rest of the team to launch into action and avenge him? Meh… I think they already had enough reason, without Darwin having to die.

It has to be said that the thing that’s even more glaring than the script’s lack of understanding of Darwin’s abilities is that Darwin is the only good black character in the film–the other black character, Zoë Kravitz’s Angel Salvadore, is with the Hellfire Club. On top of that, he’s the first character to die in the film. It’s completely ridiculous that a film such as X-Men: First Class, a film based on a series of comic books that plays on the social upheaval of the late ’60s and early ’70s (including the CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT), would kill off the black guy first. What is this, a horror movie?

Darwin’s death completely took me out of the movie and at some point, I’d hope he’d come back later in the movie, that maybe his supposed “death” was just him regathering his energy to merge back together into his human form. Or at the very least, I thought we’d see that he’d transformed yet again, but into pure energy or something cool like that. But somehow Darwin’s just dead. Like a regular mortal man. That don’t make no doggone sense.

After Darwin’s death, I never watched another X-Men reboot, because Darwin’s death was just too lazy and unforgivable. Well…I take that back–I did watch another X-Men reboot movie. I watched X-Men: Apocalypse. I wrote about my unique watching experience for Black Girl Nerds (which I urge you to read). But thankfully, I didn’t pay my own money to see that film.

In any case, the X-Men reboot has been on my block list for years now. I know I’ve just written about not holding a grudge against a piece of entertainment, but the X-Men reboots have done nothing to save itself. For instance, X-Men: Apocalypse fails mightily with it’s racial representation, even though the franchise should have been at its most confident point now that it’s three movies in. So the grudge lives on. RIP, Darwin–you’re not forgotten.

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