I was going to be specific in the title, at least to imply that I’m referring to a certain death in particular, but outside of the potential spoiler material I also want to get something else more general out of the way first: there are a LOT of deaths in “X-Men: First Class.” While it may not be the traumatic deluge of blood in the peak sequence of last year’s “Piranha 3D,” the CIA massacre at Langley was at least as surprisingly lethal as the mermaid bit in “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.” Actually, going by Entertainment Weekly’s annual (thankfully still going after all these years) Summer Movie Body Count tally, the 18 pirates used as bait in “POTC” are nothing compared to the 65 agents slaughtered mostly by Azazel and Sebastian Shaw in “X-Men.” Also according to EW, “Thor” had more death overall than “X-Men” (they don’t count the Holocaust, because it’s off screen, but I guess they also must not have counted the crew of the Russian ship, which were also all murdered by Azazel), but it’s mostly Frost Giants who get it in “Thor,” not humans. Certainly the latter is more affecting to audiences.
The most affecting, though, is not a human. It’s Darwin (Edi Gathegi), a mutant. But a black mutant, which obviously has to upset the guy who compiled this video, and anyone else understandably upset about the black guy dying first in mainstream Hollywood blockbuster movies. Over the weekend I primarily saw the jokes and complaints relegated to Twitter, where film critic Scott Weinberg kidded about “looking forward to ‘X-Men Origins: Darwin.'” Others were more seriously pissed about the scene, which has been called “unnecessary.”
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.
The above criticism comes from Tambay, at the fellow indieWIRE blog Shadow and Act, who has mentioned his disapproval in two posts so far. The second quickly moves on to a complaint about “Super 8,” but first he writes: “Pretty ironic since the X Men story, from what I understand, not being a comic book follower, is supposed be a metaphor for racism and tolerance. Well the film sure has plenty of the first, and none of the second.”
That post isn’t so much against Darwin being killed first as killed at all, mainly since he’s the only male black character. He’s also upset that so few other critics (or blogs outside the other ones dealing with race or the African diaspora) have mentioned let alone criticized the death. Erik Childress’ review at eFilmCritic is cited as a single example. I must note that I addressed the death with minor criticism and analysis in both of my “XMFC” posts, with the second offering an excuse for the plot point in the perspective of the film’s historical subtexts: “I’ll at least choose to accept Edi Gathegi/Darwin’s demise in spite of his power to adapt as a commentary on comparative assimilation difficulties for his race.”
Discussions have been taking place on message boards, though. But the conversations are now turning towards the question of whether or not Darwin was even killed at all. Some point to the fact that his powers of adaptation make him immortal, and this is something apparently addressed with the character in the comics. Others simply remind that if there’s no body, the presumed dead character is not really dead. He’ll be resurrected in some form for the sequel, they say. Gathegi has said in interviews that he’d like to return, but that’s likely just said to hide his fate in this film from being spoiled.
That doesn’t change the way it appears on screen, of course. For now. I have one final thing to address and it has to do with the fact that Darwin is not the first character to die, so he does not fit that cliche trope. And even without all the Nazi hunting and anonymous CIA slaughter, there’s one seemingly major character who gets offed right before Darwin without much upset from anyone: “Man in Black Suit.” That would be Oliver Platt’s character, who is pretty much set up as a significant character, if only because it’s played by a familiar face like Platt, and I have to admit being rather shocked when he’s dropped from the sky by Azazel and not saved (Pajiba agrees Platt’s talents were wasted in the role). And unlike Darwin, there’s no chance of him being still alive through mutant power and special comic book soap opera logic.