I feel like I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, but Marvel has done it yet again! I recently saw X-Men: First Class and I honestly feel it is one of the best comic book movies ever. Even though I was more a fan of DC Comics, the one series of Marvel that I read was the X-Men. I was always able to relate to the plight of the mutants because they were always on the outside of society looking in and had to deal with prejudice, ridicule, persecution, and exile. All of these are clearly shown in this new film, which is set in the 1960's where tolerance and acceptance were almost a foreign concept around most of the world. Add to this drama of the mutants "coming out" to the world at large the real life drama of the Cuban missile crisis and you come up with the best script, best acting and overall best film in the X-Men franchise.
This film helps us to understand better a number of the relationships that we are familiar with and also raises some new questions that we hopefully will see in future installments. First, we get a little more back on both Magneto and Xavier's childhoods and what influences them to go down the paths that we have seen in the previous films. What pushes Magneto to become the villain we know? How does he learn to master his abilities? What puts Xavier into a wheelchair? How did the two of them meet and form their friendship? What is the origin of Mystique and how does she become Magneto's second in command? I love that these answers are provided in this film as I was unaware of most of these answers because they were told so early in the timeline of the X-Men universe. Now, whether the events of the film relate to the events as they were told in the comics, I couldn't quite tell you because I only began reading them in the late 80's, but I really enjoyed how they explained these things in the new film.
Another great thing about this movie is that we are introduced to a number of different mutants, both heroes and villains that we haven't seen yet on the big screen. We get to see Beast before he was turned into the blue furry guy he is to become, Banshee, Havoc, Sebastian Shaw, Emma Frost, and Azazel. All of these guys are supporting characters behind the big guns of Magneto, Xavier and Mystique, but it helps us get a better understanding how the X-Men were formed and how Xavier's school began. Also, I'm not certain if the movie follows the same story as the comics. In meeting Alex Summers, aka Havoc, I wonder if he will turn out to be Scott Summers', aka Cyclops' father or other relation. The villain Azazel has the same ability to transport like Nightcrawler. Does this mean they are father and son with Mystique being the mother giving Nightcrawler his blue skin? Again, more questions I hope to have answered in the next installment.
This movie works on all levels but none so much as the great acting talent they cast in these iconic roles. The standouts include Michael Fassbender as Magneto, James McAvoy as Professor Xavier, Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique and Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw. These four performances steal every scene that they are in and made each of their roles their own. Kevin Bacon really surprised me with his mastery of German and Russian and he reminded me what an incredible bad guy he can play. I've never seen Jennifer Lawrence before, but I can absolutely see how she is now an Oscar nominated actress for Winter's Bone. I've always been a fan of James McAvoy, and he knocks it out of the park yet again with his witty, charming and sincere performance of the Professor. Lastly, Michael Fassbender, who wowed me with his performance in Inglorious Bastards, makes Magneto his own and gives the best performance in the film.
I really can't say enough about how much I enjoyed this film. It really upsets me that it didn't make more money in its opening weekend and I truly hope that more people get out and see this in the theater. I would hate for the studio to stop doing these films because they didn't make as much money as they were expecting. If they can keep the quality of future films as high as they have on this one, they could have a franchise that will be around for quite some time. So please go support this amazing picture and show that you want to see more high quality comic book films that aren't style over substance.
J. Chandler, Grade: A