X-Men: First Class

7 06 2011

CALL BE STRANGE, BUT ORIGIN STORIES ARE MY FAVOURITE PART OF SUPERHERO MOVIES

Maybe it’s because the rest of the plot tends to be so typical and predictable.

In X-Men: First Class, we are treated to several origin stories. Not only do we learn more about the individual X-Men, but we learn where the idea of a school for mutants came from.

You may not know a lot about the X-Men to begin with. Before walking into this movie, I knew next to nothing about the comic book/movie franchise. However, at no point did I feel like I was missing out on the movie because of my lack of knowledge: it does a good job of keeping the audience informed.

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The idea behind X-Men is that the advent of the nuclear age has mutated a new species of human beings. This new species has a number of colourful abilities, like the power to read minds, or sprout butterfly wings.

Some choose to use their mutant powers for good, others for evil. Conflict is inevitable. The bad guys want to exterminate the inferior ‘normal’ human beings, and the good guys want to stop them.

The bad guys are led by Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), a former Nazi. He is both charismatic and evil – a lethal combination. With his gang of mutants at his side, he plots to launch the world into a full-blown nuclear war.

Erik (a.k.a. Magneto) and Charles Xavier (Professor X) represent the good guys. After being forced to ‘out’ their powers to the U.S. government, they seek out others of their kind for scientific study.

It is tough to top Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, who played Magneto and Professor X, respectively, in the last few X-Men movies. Nevertheless, Michael Fassbander and James McAvoy do a fantastic job as the younger version of the duo.

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The emotional history of the pair is deep and complex, and First Class helps the audience understand the motivations behind the decisions they make in the future.

Many minor X-Men also get their fair share of screen time. Numerous subplots between the characters provide depth without distracting us from the main plot. Jennifer Lawrence plays the intriguing and philosophical Mystique, who constantly shapeshifts to hide her true identity as a scaly, blue mutant.

The highlight of the movie for many men will be the casting of January Jones as Emma Frost. There are very few scenes in which she is wearing clothes, choosing instead to parade around in sexy black underwear. Her presence makes it clear that First Class is primarily intended for a male audience.

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Toss in some spectacular visual effects, and you’ve got a great summer blockbuster. The finale of the movie is particularly impressive, with enough missiles and bullets flying around to satisfy any action fan.

The one downside to First Class is that the ending feels slightly forced. I realize that the story from past movies cannot be changed, but some sudden character shifts felt more awkward than surprising.

The idea is fantastical: I can’t help but think that nuclear mutations would first be seen in something small, like a sixth toe, before creating people like the X-Men. Nevertheless, this X-Men movie is a class above the average summer flick, both in its intelligence and charm. In a year that is filled with superhero movies, First Class is the most entertaining story thus far.

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