The X-Men Comics are Marvel’s take on Russian Literature, an intricate Soap Opera involving social dissidents, their struggles in a world that denies their integration, and the bloodlines that connect the past, present, and future. X-Men, with a rich collection of complex heroes and villains, seemed like an ordeal for any filmmaker courageous enough to translate it to screen. Bryan Singer, who wooed audiences with the audaciously clever “The Usual Suspects,” took on that challenge, and despite several popular characters having condensed or no part of the story (Sabretooth’s dismissive appearance and Gambit’s omission, for instance) Singer was able to form a blockbuster franchise. Handing the reins to the shaky hands of Brett Ratner for the third film, “X-Men: The Last Stand,” Singer’s mutant trilogy ended unevenly, considering the X-Men’s most renowned storyline, The Dark Phoenix Saga, was dreadfully shortchanged.
However, as we have learned from the prequel fever of the last ten years, in order to move forward, you have to go back. Bryan Singer returns to his mutants, with “X-Men: First Class.” Singer, who this time co-wrote the story with Sheldon Turner, sees the directing chores go to Matthew Vaughn, the British filmmaker and longtime Guy Ritchie collaborator. Vaughn’s move to full time director has been successful, with his three films “Layer Cake,” “Stardust,” and “Kick-Ass” showing incredible range in his talents. Vaughn brings with him a cast of superbly talented young actors, including James McAvoy as Charles Xavier, Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr, and recently Oscar- nominated Jennifer Lawrence as Raven Darkholme.
“X-Men: First Class” picks up the story during the Cuban Missile Crisis of the early 60’s, where the villainous mutant Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), a collaborator of the third Reich during World War II, plans a nuclear stand-off between the American and Soviet superpowers in order to lead a new Mutant led era. Shaw is being pursued by Lehnsherr, a concentration camp survivor on a global pursuit of the Nazis that killed his mother. Lehnsherr, who can manipulate metals, ends up encountering Charles Xavier during a failed attempt at revenge.
Xavier is an idealistic and charming professor whose telepathy skills are unmatched. The two men clash at first, but eventually form a kin-like bond in which each man fulfills the capacity of their powers. In the process, Xavier and Lehnsherr train a young generation of gifted children, including shape-shifting Raven, animal-like empowered genius Hank McCoy (Nicolas Hoult), rebellious energy blaster Alex Summers (Lucas Till) and the leer assault of Sean Cassidy (Caleb Landry Jones).
As the team trains to control their abilities, they will be put in the dangerous task of stopping Shaw. However, fractions between Xavier’s wishes to embrace humanity clash with Lehnsherr’s elitist upheaval, a rift that will start a lifelong war between the men who would be known as Professor X and Magneto, respectively.
“X-Men: First Class” is a excellent entry to the series, not only possibly being the best X-Men movie thus far, but one of the best prequels ever. Ironically enough, the story benefits from the removal of its most enigmatic character, the Adamantium- clawed loner Wolverine. As awesome as Logan is, especially played by Hugh Jackman, his pull might have turned the X-Men assemble into a one mutant show. By moving on without him, the rest of the characters get a chance to flourish, albeit some will still get reduced screen time.
The story takes a page from “Watchmen,” incorporating the X-Men swiftly into historical events. The merger of facts and fiction add a depth into the challenges the mutants face in the tense Armageddon that loomed during the Cold War. Vaughn excels at keeping the drama going while so much information is being covered, and the movie manages to stand on its own visually while tying up with the previous films. A special kudos goes to leads McAvoy and Fassbender for conveying the friendship between Charles and Erik. At the end of “X-Men: First Class,” there is lament that their fraternity is tarnished by their stern worldviews. Both actors are destined for great careers, and Fassbender is a superstar in wait.Trailer:
X-Men: First Class
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Written by: Story by Bryan Singer and Sheldon Turner. Screenplay by Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn.
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender