X-Men: First Class
My Grade: A
The recently bumpy X-Men movie franchise makes a bold, great, return in this movie. X-Men 3, for me, was just a lame movie with a lot of stuff I just didn't care for, Wolverine was okay but forgettable. The first two X-Men movies I found fun and entertaining but in the wake of comic-book movies having taken on a more serious form in the recent years X1 and X2's "flaws" are more apparent.
X-Men: First Class takes place in the early late 1950s/early 1960s and follows the two men who will become friends but later push for those with special abilities beyond man in different ways.
First we have Erik/Magneto a man who was captured as a boy in the 1940s by Nazis and held captive in Auschwitz where a German soldier would find interest in Erik's ability to control metal and manipulate Erik's emotions to capitalize on the boy's power catalyzing it by killing Erik's mother before his very eyes. Years later, after the war, Erik is seeking out the man who killed his mother but will eventually come across.
Charles Xavier a rich, brash, and somewhat cocky man with a keen interest in genetics, mutation and doing what he can to find a way to help mutants live among humans and be accepted. When Charles and Erik meat they form a friendship and work together to help the CIA to stop a rogue band of mutants with plans of world conquest lead by the very man who killed Erik's mother. Charles and Erik's friendship begins to clash as both have different ideals on mutant kind, one wants revenge and to rise up as the genetically better people the other wants everyone to just work together.
It all comes across very nicely as we run into other mutants in X-Men's roster who team up with the CIA for the mission and find themselves pulled by their leaders with two very different ideals.
The movie sets up interesting dynamics between all of the characters most notably between Charles and Erik and Charles and the girl who will become the shape-shifting Mystique. Charles, as young boy, encounters a young Mystique when she breaks into his home to steal food; but he be-friends her and the two develop a brother/sister/sem-romantic relationship that becomes strained as Mystique begins to get the impression that Charles -in apparent defiance to everything he stands for- wants her to remain in a form that appears human rather than her natural form of a blue-skinned scaly humanoid.
The movie plays well as a period piece and the climax centers around the Cuban Missile Crisis culminating into a great action scene as The X-Men are "revealed" to the militaries of the U.S. and Russia.
Probably the movie's only "flaw" is that, for me, some of the secondary mutants used aren't interesting. It's was fine seeing Emma Frost and Beast but the other mutants used, frankly, are not interesting with the possible exception of Alex Summers. Angel and Banshee, for me, just weren't interesting enough and I'm sure there's plenty of other mutants in the X-Men franchise who could have been used.
The movie also comes across -to -me- as a hard reboot of the X-Men franchise as much of it contradicts information revealed in the other X-Men movies (all set decades after this movie take place.) For example, Alex Summers (Havok) appears in this movie as a young adult even though he's supposed to be the younger brother of Scott Summers (Cyclops) who not only appears as a teenager in Wolverine (set in the late 70s) but is a young man in the X1-X3 (set in the 2000s.) X3 had sequence set in the 1980s or 1990s with a able-bodied Xavier, still friends with Erik, still going around interviewing prospective mutants. This movie has the two getting their falling-out in the 1960s. Wolverine also shows a middle-aged and still able-bodied Xavier in the 1970s. (Wolverine also shows, apparently, a young Emma Frost a decade after this movie is set where she's a 30-something year old woman.)
This movie contradicts all of that so it seems, to me, that this is hard-reboot of the franchise that is ignoring all of the previous movies and setting its own path.
Which is all fine and good as this was a movie I fully enjoyed though it also felt "rushed" as it seems the Xavier/Erik friendship and falling out could've been stretched out over a trilogy of movies as it's implied in the other movies that the two worked together very closely and were friends for a very long time, here it seems like a matter of months.
But it's all well done and you can certainly see the brash, naive, dreams Xavier has and where Magneto's hate for humans comes from. So I give it an "A", only downgraded from A+ due to murky continuity with the other movies, using a couple of "weak" mutants and what seemed like a truncated time-line on the friendship between the two friends who'd fight each other on opposite sides of a war, yet still remain friendly to one another.
There's also one great cameo in the movie that wasn't expected for me, though it happened right when I began to wonder why they never learned of him, and another good cameo that also wasn't expected.
X-Men fans, comic-book fans should find plenty to enjoy in this movie.