Comic movies have a hard time being taken seriously. They make huge money at the box office almost without fail (except you Elektra, you failed big time), but most people not already interested in the genre aren’t drinking the Kool-Aid of a guy shooting lasers from his eyes or spiderwebs from his wrists.
When viewing X-Men: First Class, I couldn’t help but think that those doubters were missing out.
Granted there is a blue-furred genius and a man who can control any metal just by pointing at it, but First Class is so much more, just as the entire X-Men cannon has always been.
Intertwining elements of real history and social issues that plagued us then as they do now, the film does a remarkable job of going beyond the pitfalls of other hero films.
The movie is a prequel and reboot – two things I loathe by definition – but it feels like neither. While the first X-trilogy was uneven, it defined the modern hero genre and will always be appreciated for doing so. However First Class asks you to forget the whole thing, and it doesn’t take long before you’re willing to oblige.
Taking place in 1962 and following a young, upright Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) through his days as a playboy and emerging expert on mutation, the film eventually links him up with hostile Holocaust survivor Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender). The two become entwined in a CIA operation that centres around a group led by Sebastien Shaw (Kevin Bacon), who happened to be Dr. Klaus Schmidt in Nazi Germany and knew Erik quite personally.
Intertwining elements of real history and social issues that plagued us then as they do now, the film does a remarkable job of going beyond the pitfalls of other hero films. It tells a story, one that would engage anyone if it were centered around race relations or genocide instead of mutated humans with superpowers. And it tells it well.
I’ve stated before that I grew up on superheroes, but the two that I’ve never strayed from were X-Men and Batman. Those contain themes that anyone from a child to an adult can appreciate and understand, and offer them better than any of their contemporaries. First Class may be the best X-creation yet to take the themes of unity and morality and examine them in a way that anyone can relate to.
You watch as two friends pull apart and stand opposed, still with a common goal, and you begin to wonder which side you would stand on. I chose Erik, many would choose Charles. It was an undertone throughout the film that kept you constantly engaged.
The only issues that I had with the film were the CGI work, which looked ten years old and like it was designed to run on a Playstation 2 instead of in a Hollywood blockbuster, and also the repeated shoehorning in of code names and character titles. It was awkwardly done, and had director Matthew Vaughn taken a page out of Chris Nolan’s Batman book, he would have adapted names to situations or added “the” or “an” in front of the names to make them seem more genuine and natural.
As it stood, having some clown say “we should all have code names” and then everyone goes around the room naming themselves, was quite hokey and took away from what was a phenomenal experience.
If you’re a comic fan, you will love First Class. It exceeded all my expectations and alleviated concerns that made me less than eager to head to the theater to catch it. If you’re not into the Marvel universe, it’s still worth seeing based on its story, its ability to remain grounded despite so many fantastic elements, and its capacity to make you question what man will do when things take a turn for the worse.