X-Men (Sadly) Gets Westchester Wrong

X-Men: First Class came out this weekend, debuting at No. 1 at the box office—though grossing only a little bit more than the first movie and far less than the following ones—and inspiring critics to write that it reclaimed “much of the pop-operatic grandeur and insouciant wit so evident in the series’ first two installments.”

I am inclined to agree. The film is not so much a sequel or a reboot as it is a “preboot,” going back to look at the beginnings of the Professor X./Magneto rivalry in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis. That means we get some new blood in the franchise—not that Hugh Jackman isn’t wonderful as Wolverine—having fun with younger, groovier versions of Professor X. and Magneto. There are some fun ’60s touches, including the swingingest underwater-submarine-lab-lair-shagpad outside of a James Bond movie, and there are some fun shout-outs to the other X-Men films. It’s basically everything you could want in a summer superhero popcorn movie. With one big exception, if you’re a local.

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Murray Close – TM and ©2011 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

Murray Close – TM and ©2011 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

The X-Men have always held a special place in my heart because they live in Westchester. Professor X. sets up his Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters—the X-Men HQ—in his family home in “Salem Center,” Westchester.

And it’s not that the new movie changes this. The first time we see a young Charles Xavier, a title card clearly comes up on the screen that says “Westchester – 1944.” Only what follows is not like any Westchester I’ve come to know.

Murray Close – TM and ©2011 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.


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Instead of the stately Colonials and sprawling horse farms we normally associate with Northern Westchester, we’re confronted with this enormous manse with spires and pyramid-shaped topiary that you’re more likely to see in England. And, indeed, Architectural Digest lets it out of the bag that the stand-in for the X-Mansion is actually the Englefield House, an Elizabethan manor in Berkshire, England. (Sure, we have some big houses here, but I’ve checked the Houlihan Lawrence listings for North Salem and, while one abode described itself as “English-style,” there are no Elizabethan manors for sale.) Add that to the fact that James McAvoy—though a wonderful Professor X. in every other respect—speaks with a charming English accent and attends Oxford University, the movie gives an overall impression that Westchester is in England. Thumbs down.

Oh well. There go my dreams of Professor X. drawing new mutants to his school by taking them sailing on the Long Island Sound and promising them trips to Playland.


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