Near the beginning of the movie, in the Shaw's office scene, after Shaw shot Erik's mother, Erik got really mad and he killed the two soldiers and messed the room up.

Why didn't he attempt to kill Shaw at that point (with or without using his power)? Don't tell me at that time he already knew about Shaw's power. Shaw's power is to absorb energy such as incoming projectiles. So if someone shoots him, punch him, or try to blow him up with a grenade, he can absorb the energy. So at that point, if Erik tried telepathically sending the bell flying towards Shaw's head, he still can't kill him. But why doesn't Erik at least TRY to kill Shaw?

There are three possible explanations I can think of.

First possibility is that, at that point in time, Erik already knew about Shaw's power. And he knew that if he tried to kill him, he would just upset Shaw. So he chose to release his anger by killing the two soldiers and messing up the room. I think this is improbable, because his mother was just murdered by Shaw; I would imagine Erik would get so angry that all he wanted to do is to kill Shaw. Also, he made a conscious decision to kill the two soldiers. He turned around and squished their helmets. He was angry enough to kill people, why doesn't he kill Shaw?

Yes, Erik seemed to already know Shaw in the beginning, as he called him Doctor. So it doesn't seem like they were meeting for the first time. But does Erik really know Shaw well enough to know about his power? Did Shaw already tell Erik about his own power before this scene? This is the first possibility.

The second possibility is that at that point Erik cannot telepathically levitate objects well enough to launch an object at Shaw. Since it was probably his second time using his power, he didn't know how to levitate an object and launch it at a fast speed at a target. If you remember, the first thing he did was crushing the bell. Then he crushed the file cabinet. And then he crushed the soldiers' helmets. And then he levitated stuff in the other room and they flew in a circular motion like a storm. So it would seem that since Erik was such a beginner at controlling his power, he didn't know how to control his power to levitate an object and then shoot it at a target. At that point, he only knew how to crush things and make things fly around randomly. Therefore, since Shaw wasn't wearing a helmet and it didn't seem that he had anything magnetic on him, Erik knew he wasn't able to kill Shaw. My follow-up question is, then why doesn't Erik try to kill Shaw physically (without using his power)? I would imagine he would get so mad and start punching Shaw, or grab an object and hit Shaw with it. Maybe he knew Shaw is physically stronger? Maybe he knew Shaw has a pistol nearby? But at that point, Erik seemed so angry that he was willing to do anything, like risking his life to kill Shaw.

The third possibility is that Shaw has taken someone close to Erik as hostage. I don't think it's his father because Erik only said "I want to see my mama" in the beginning. He didn't say, "I want to see my parents." Maybe Shaw took another family member of Erik as hostage. I think this third possibility is the most unlikely.

I think the second possibility is the most likely.

Another question: by the time Erik was an adult he probably already knew about Shaw's power (or did he?). Then how come he tried to aboard Shaw's ship to try to kill Shaw with a knife? It seemed that Erik's plan was to kill Shaw only with a knife. This makes me think that Erik has no idea that Shaw has a power ever since Erik was a child.

To recap, my main question is: Why didn't Erik attempt to kill Shaw in the beginning scene in Shaw's office?

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    Erik was able to manipulate objects as he did in the other room. He could easily have cause the crushed bell to fly through Shaw's skull. Even I wonder why he didn't attempt to kill Shaw on the spot.
    – Stark07
    Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 8:25
  • Short answer: Because he's a child, not a murderer. Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 13:58
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    @Blazemonger: He's an adolescent boy who just watched his mother being murdered. He knows the Nazis won't punish Shaw for killing her, so it would be extremely strange if he did not think about taking revenge. But as my answer says, there are other reasons for Erik not to try and kill Shaw. Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 14:33
  • @RoyalCanadianBandit It's interesting that you think committing murder is an easy thing to do, even when angry. Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 14:46
  • @Blazemonger: I never said murder was easy, and I do not believe anything of the kind. My point was that it is difficult to imagine a more severe provocation to commit murder. We don't know what was going through Erik's mind at that moment in Shaw's office; but even if he wanted to kill Shaw, there were good reasons for him not to do so. Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 14:55

6 Answers 6


When Erik kills the soldiers, he has no conscious control over his powers and is simply lashing out in rage (as James Sheridan pointed out).

Later on, Erik has an extremely good reason for not killing Shaw: Erik is a Jew in a Nazi concentration camp. If it were not for Shaw's protection, the Nazis would kill Erik for that reason alone.

Furthermore, at least some of the Nazis would want to punish Erik for the two soldiers he killed. We can assume that while he is alive, Shaw has enough authority to prevent this. But if Erik kills Shaw, the Nazis will try to kill Erik -- not only because he is a Jew, but because he has killed Shaw and two Nazi soldiers. Erik would then have to fight his way out of the camp. This would be very dangerous, especially if Erik's powers were not fully developed, and might well result in his death.

So Erik's best course of action was to be patient, improve his control of his powers, and wait for an opportunity to escape from the camp and take revenge on Shaw. As we see in the film, this is what he eventually did.

  • Thank you for your comments. I see what you're saying. I think it's very plausible. I still think it's a bit strange though. At the heat of the moment, Erik was calmly logical enough to figure all that out? I would imagine that since the only person he loved had just been murdered in front of him, he would become so mad and perhaps suicidal and want to kill Shaw immediately. I find it strange that at the heat of the moment, he was angry enough to kill the 2 soldiers but calm enough to remember that he shouldn't kill Shaw? He was an emotional kid with nothing to lose. You know what I mean?
    – raiden
    Commented Feb 13, 2014 at 9:31
  • Sure, an ordinary kid might have been totally incoherent at that point. But Erik was no ordinary kid; he was an exceptionally intelligent and brave individual. Out-of-universe, the film-makers could have had the actor playing child-Erik collapse in tears or try to strangle Shaw. By having him remain relatively calm, they indicate to the viewer that there is something remarkable about Erik/Magneto. Commented Feb 13, 2014 at 9:38
  • Also, Erik did in fact have something to lose -- his own life. In the moment, he just needed to realise "if I kill Shaw, the Nazis will kill me". Detailed planning of his options for escaping the concentration camp could have come later. Commented Feb 13, 2014 at 9:42
  • Hmmmmmmm good points. I think you're right. Because right after Shaw left the room, Erik telepathically held the coin in rage. At that moment he was probably thinking in his head something along the lines of: "One day I'll break out of here and murder Shaw. Right now I have to be patient." Great movie. CAN'T WAIT FOR DAYS OF FUTURE PAST.
    – raiden
    Commented Feb 13, 2014 at 9:47
  • Agreed, Future Past looks great. :-) Commented Feb 13, 2014 at 10:19

So far I can only prove the first possibility wrong. When the assassination fails and Erik is rescued by Charles, Erik says "I thought I was the only one".

I don't think there is a real reason. If you get this angry, you do not think about those consequences. and he was a child at this point. Also it does not seem logical to me, that he lets Shaw put a hand on his shoulder, he should at least show some reaction... So maybe someone did not thought that through ?!

  • As mentioned in my answer, Erik knows that he needs Shaw's protection from the Nazis, so he has to stay on his good side for a while at least. Of course an ordinary person would be too incoherent with grief and anger to realise this. But Erik is no ordinary person; this may be meant as an indication to the viewer that he has exceptional strength of character. Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 15:56
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    Yes, first possibility is wrong. Erik didn't know Shaw has a power. I think Erik only found out Shaw has a power near the end scene in the mirror room in the submarine (correct me if I'm wrong). On the ship scene when Erik tried to assassinate Shaw, Erik launched a knife at him but Emma Frost caught it before it hit Shaw. So after that incident, I think Erik still didn't know Shaw has a power. I'm surprised Erik discovered that Shaw has a power that late in the movie.
    – raiden
    Commented Feb 13, 2014 at 10:08

He didn't attempt to kill Shaw because he was mad with grief and rage, simply lashing out at all those around him. Watching that scene it is obvious that Erik has no control over his powers, but is simply unleashing. Why he did not attempt to kill Shaw later, during his training, I cannot answer.


If you watch the scene I think he DOES try to kill him. as he is crushing the file cabinet he looks from it to Shaw like he is trying to aim it. Then while he is destroying the operation room he cant make the objects come crashing through the windows. He can't control his power and the flash of rage that lets him use them is over too quickly. Now why he submits to Shaw after I don't know.


Eric's power was not one of telepathy, rather it was the manipulation of metallic elements. We know this from the earlier films when he's captured and in a cell containing no metal, in X3 when the soldiers trade in their metal guns for plastic, and as the name implies, magneto - as in magnet/magnetic, or from the comics.

After the whole scene where he sends everything metal flying around the room and has finally calmed down, Shaw says that it was through anger and pain that his power had been unlocked. Anger and pain are very unstable emotions that are difficult to control and devoid of logic and rationality. It would appear that before that scene Erik was not even consciously aware he was capable of such things. With regards to the guards, as Eric's rage intensified everything metallic within his range became subject to his rage, it was unfortunate for those guards that their helmets were metal, and I'm sure that if Shaw was also wearing a helmet, his fate would be the same as theirs.

As for why Eric didn't try and kill Shaw in another manner, it's easy to overlook the power relations between the Nazis and the Jews and how they had developed over time. Jews had been subject to persecution for years under the Nazis, prior to their being moved to concentration camps. Eric would have grow up experiencing this persecution first hand and it would have left an indelible impression on him that, especially as a child, resisting or opposing the Nazis was beyond futile. They were socially conditioned into thinking the Jew was an inferior race, psychologically this would have had an effect on a child who was currently in a prison camp surrounded by armed guards who wouldn't hesitate to kill any Jew without batting an eyelid.


It goes back to his mother's last words to him "All is well"... She's not saying "do it or I will die" she's saying "don't do it, don't let them have you" she knows she is dead either way and probably so does Erik, even in his rage. He gives them a show but he keeps control because his mother was in control and that was her final lesson to him. The only other time he uses his powers in anger in the entire set of films is when he turns on Moira cos of Charles' shooting. Every other time he is calm, cold and calculating when he uses them, even if he is torturing someone. Shaw on the other hand is quite exuberant about his powers when he shows them, perhaps cos he has had to keep them "under wraps" for so long.

He has no clue Shaw is a mutant at the time, although later he can sense mutants, not to the level of Pyslocke but he knows for example that Jean Gray is the most powerful mutant he and X have met and it's not just cos Xavier told him...likewise he knows who are the powerful mutants to have in the "inner circle" and who are the footsoldiers in the Brotherhood, it's the "Level 4's" who hold top position with him as the only "Level 5", again something he learns from Shaw when they meet in First Class/his later life.

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