In the growing number of X-Men prequal movies, X-Men First Class will likely stand as the best. Not long ago 20th Century Fox was considering doing a Magneto origins story and they opted for this movie instead which accomplishes everything that a Magneto origin story would have and much more.
I really liked the Movie over all – I found myself quickly putting it in the top two of my favorite X-Men movies. To give that context you need to know that I’m not just an expert on the comics. I read a re-print of the first 10 X-men comics and a few others when I was a kid, but no more than that. My understanding of X-Men mythology came mainly from the cartoon that came on Fox back when Fox ruled saturday morning cartoons. X3: The Last Stand was, to me the most like the cartoon. I recognize that lots of fans didn’t like it (though they sure forgot to let the box office know) but to me it was the most like the X-Men universe with which I was most familiar. First Class is in that same category and succeeds in having the same full-scale epic feel that I got from X3.
What I liked and didn’t like
The movie is an origin story, and origin stories have an automatic leg-up as there is a driving force that goes deeper than the basic episodic comic book plot. But unlike spiderman, Batman, Ironman or Thor this isn’t the origin story of one superhero, this is the origin story of – in many ways – a whole universe of superheroes and villains. That’s probably my favorite thing about this movie; you get a whole slew of characters; Not only Magneto, but also Mystique, Beast, Havoc, Banshee and, of course, Professor X.
There are a handful of areas where considerable plot holes open up when you watch this in close succession to the other four X-Men movies. For example, Emma frost, who is a teenager in Wolverine, is a 30-something woman in this film. Thats not the least of the issues, (SPOILER ALERT) At the beginning of X3 we see Patrick Stuart in a flash-back with the use of his legs, indicating that Charles Xavier was able-bodied at least until he was middle-aged. At the end of this movie Charles Xavier gets shot in the back, becoming a paraplegic in what seems to be his late 20s. (SPOILER ALERT OVER) There is also a considerable adopted brother/sister relationship with Charles Xavier and Mystique, though there is no indication that they even knew one another in the other movies.
The character of the young Charles Xavier is probably my favorite part, though it is also where I thought the movie could’ve most improved. I would’ve like to have seen some kind of explanation on how it is that a wealthy British boy, raised in a mansion in Connecticut, didn’t end up being a spoiled brat. There is no transformation in the story of Charles Xavier, who is possibly the most ethical person in the Marvel universe. How did he come to have such strong moral convictions about when to use his powers and when not to? He has the ability to completely control someone with his telepathic abilities, but he chooses not to – why? – other than the fact that it would make for a boring narrative.
The one thing that you should know is that this is ultimately not a happy story. While a war is prevented, villains are born and characters die. If you can accept that, then you’ll probably really enjoy this origin story. My parents did, in fact most movie-goers I’ve talked to so far have said that its their favorite of the X-Men films. While it has some cheesy moments and other issues that do push the suspension of disbelief just shy of its breaking point, it is still a very fun movie.
To sum it up: I give X-men First Class four stars for entertainment value, I give it three stars for its film value and two stars for family friendliness. A great comic book movie, not without its flaws and not one to take younger kids to, but it’ll probably on my shelf once its released on blu-ray.