The X-Men film series is an interesting one. It started off with two really amazing movies, X-Men and X2: X-Men United. In fact, X-Men was credited with beginning the trend of superhero movies so it’s hard to deny its appeal. Unfortunately though for fans of the franchise, X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine were very disappointed, despite the more than decent showing at the box office. Hoping to break that cycle director Matthew Vaughn takes us back to the 1960s to answer the question, “Who are the X-Men?”
X-Men: First Class starts off in Nazi Germany with the story of a young Erik Lensherr, not quite Magneto, but just beginning to realize he may have a secret talent. The origin of Erik’s anger is vividly displayed as he’s forced to watch a horrid scene at the hand of Dr. Schmidt, or later on, Sebastian Shaw (played by Kevin Bacon). Parallel to Erik, the backstory to Charles Xavier (Charles McAvoy) begins with him appearing to already have a grasp on his powers, a notion to how powerful of a mutant he indeed will become.
The story does gets a little complicated after the introductions, as a world of agents, American decision-makers in suits and the threat of world destruction gets involved. Somewhere in this though you never lose sight of the importance of mutants, as Erik is introduced to Charles and Mystique (or Raven), and they quietly begin building a mutant brigade. Unfortunately a piece of Erik’s past that he has been chasing has his own team of mutants, and of course conflict ensues.
Unlike the two previous X-Men movies however, the tone is kept light and never overly serious. The limitations of such powerful mutants bring the audience closer to them and the self-consciousness of Mystique and Beast bring a human touch to an otherwise freaky story. There’s a sense of levity imbued in a story about Soviet/American war relations, with fast-paced writing, a look back to the first X-Men movies.
If ever there was a movie that could bring faith back to the X-Men franchise, it’s X-Men: First Class. Consider it a breath of fresh air from the familiar faces we’ve seen over a span of four X-Men movies (though Wolverine makes a very brief appearance). The two leading men carry the movie and along the way forge a friendship so strong it makes you wonder how they could ever fight against each other.
X-Men: First Class is definitely recommended.