Mutation. It is the key to our evolution. It has enabled us to evolve from a single celled organism into the dominant species on the planet. This process is slow, and normally taking thousands and thousands of years. But every few hundred millennia, evolution leaps forward…
X-Men: First Class is the fifth installment of the X-Men film franchise, which started (and kicked off the current superhero trend in motion pictures to boot) with Bryan Singer’s X-Men way back in 2000. X-Men is unique among other superhero film franchises in that it has made it to five films without dying out or having to be rebooted. No other superhero film franchise has been able to accomplish this. Because of this, X-Men is worthy of some congratulations.
X-Men has taken a few hits from the critics over the years, many with the assertion that X2 was the last X-film worth seeing. I disagree. I liked X-Men: The Last Stand, I liked Wolverine (even if I do find Wolverine to be highly overrated as a character) and I liked X-Men: First Class. So if you’ve come here to read yet another review trashing this movie, you’ve come to the wrong spot.
X-Men: First Class is, as if you needed me to tell you, the story of how Professor Charles Xavier and soon-to-be mutant terrorist (yes, here at the Bot we are not afraid to use that word) Erik “Magneto” Lensherr meet, become friends and start Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, a boarding school for people born with special abilities, called Mutants. If you’re still wondering what ever happened to the X-Men Origins: Magneto movie we were all promised would follow the Wolverine origin movie, look no further, this is it. What originally began as X-Men Origins: Magneto morphed during production into the movie now called First Class.
The film opens with the exact same opening scene from the original X-Men, with the future Magneto in a Nazi concentration camp during the second world war. I’m pretty sure they re-shot the scene, but it is such an exact duplication that I leaned over and asked my wife, “Haven’t we seen this movie before?” She didn’t laugh, but I thought it was a funny joke. We do learn, unlike in the first film, what the Nazis do with Erik after his power develops. Like any good tyrannical regime, they try to harness Magneto’s power for themselves. This is where we are introduced to the film’s villain, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) of the Hellfire Club. Trying to get li’l Erik to use his power again, the heinous Mr. Shaw (called Schmidt to the Germans) shoots his mother. It is here that the terrorist Magneto is truly born.
We move from Erik in Nazi Germany to West Chester, NY, also in 1944, where we meet a young boy named Charles Xavier. Charles knows something is up when his mother offers to make him some food, or hot chocolate. Charles’ mother would never do that, she would just have the maid do it. When confronted, Charles’ “mother” reverts to a small blue girl, roughly the same age as Charles. Of course, this little blue girl will grow up to be Magneto’s henchwoman, Mystique. Charles takes the little girl in and promises her that she doesn’t have to steal, and she will never have to steal again. From here, which is about the first 15 minutes of the movie, it gets pretty boring. At least until about an hour or so into it.
This is the majority of the stuff left over from the original Magneto origins idea. We follow Magneto, now fully grown, as he tracks down and kills Nazi war criminals, but in a not very exciting way. We are also treated to a few scenes of fratboy Charles, doing what could only be described as 50’s beer bonging. Pretty out of character, if you ask me, but no one did. Fratboy Charles and Nazi killer Magneto is not very interesting. The movie begins to pick up after Erik and Charles meet and begin finding other mutants for a government program that has recruited them. This is probably the same program that Stryker ends up recruiting Wolverine for, but that’s never really established.
With the help of a very primitive Cerebro (which wasn’t built by Charles and Magneto at all, as was stated in the first film, but by Beast) they track down future X-Men Alex Summers, also called Havok, Sean Cassidy, also called Banshee, a taxi driver who ends up calling himself Darwin, a strange, stripper bug girl (who I was hoping would be Wasp as to tie the X-Men into the current Avenger-verse, but it isn’t) called Angel and the quintessential X-Man himself, Wolverine (no, Wolverine doesn’t join up yet, he actually tells Charles and Erik to go f*#k themselves). This is where the movie really starts to pick up. We follow the teenagers as they learn to use their abilities and begin to have regular teenage lives (including partying and using their abilities in wreckless, but fun, ways). Everything is good, until we learn of the evil Hellfire Club’s dastardly plot.
Does anyone remember the Cuban Missile Crisis? Yeah, as it turns out, that was a mutant plot. Sebastian Shaw is going to start a nuclear war and wait for the humans to decimate themselves, so that the mutants can take their rightful place as the new dominant species on planet Earth, and only our heroes can stop them. Ok, so even if you haven’t seen this movie yet, we all know the nuke crisis never came to fruition. The soviets turned back, apparently thanks to the X-Men, and humanity was saved. But don’t let this keep you from seeing the movie. There is actually a great battle off the coast of Cuba, which I won’t go into here so as not to spoil anything, but I will say that by the end of the battle Charles is crippled and Erik has embraced his role as humanity’s eradicator.
I had some concerns going into it, mostly Mystique’s age and the fact that she shouldn’t have been born for another 10 years after this film’s timeframe, but that concern was dealt with. Also, in the trailer it looked like the X-Men were travelling in their familiar SR-71 Blackbird jet, which would still have been in its development and wouldn’t make its first flight for another 2 years, but while actually watching the movie you can clearly see that it is a Lockheed A-12, the immediate predecessor to the Blackbird, and quite in use by the CIA in 1962, which was where the X-Men got it. On the whole, with the exception of the first hour which was almost painfully boring (almost, but not quite) X-Men: First Class is thoroughly enjoyable. It isn’t as good as X2, but what is? I would say it is the weakest of the entire franchise, but it’s the beginning of the entire story. I expect the next 2 planned films to be much stronger.
Will Conservatives Like This?
Again, this movie is mostly apolitical. If you’re one of those guys that thinks X-Men is just one big gay pride metaphor, this isn’t going to change your mind. The phrase, “Mutant and Proud” is actually an ongoing theme for this movie. But I’ve always seen X-Men as an allegory for anyone who feels they don’t fit in for any reason. I don’t personally take it as being homosexual metaphor, even though Bryan Singer (who returns to produce this film) is gay and he probably did intend it to be that, at least to some point. But as a nerd, I identified with the X-Men from the point of view that I also didn’t belong and felt sort of like a mutant, I just wished I could have had the neat abilities to go along with my ostracism. So yeah, if you’re already homophobic and hate X-Men as homo propaganda anyway, then I’m sorry you have a closed mind and yes, you’re going to hate this film. But if you’re not held back by that, then no, the average conservative shouldn’t have any issues with this.
What We Expect (Sequel-wise)
There are 2 sequels planned, and I’ve got some things I want to see. First of all, I want to see Professor Xavier bald. It really bugged me that he wasn’t. Charles lost his hair when he got his abilities. Every mutant has some physical trait (Nightcrawler and Mystique are blue, Beast has monkey feet, Storm has white hair, Charles is bald), and I want to see the man bald. It takes away from the character that he has hair. I want to see Storm eventually come into it as a young student. She’s a teacher when we meet her in the original film, let’s see how she was as a newbie. I want to see more of Beast, I hope he stays a main character throughout the new trilogy and he leaves in the last one to go to Washington. If there is anything you guys want to see from future X-sequels, sound off below!
SheldonCooper is secretly a mutant. He has the uncanny ability to thoroughly enjoy mostly any comic book movie put to film (so if you didn’t like X-Men: First Class, you must be one of “them”). He can be reached at Sheldon@republibot.com.