June 14, 2011

X-Men: First Class (USA 2011)

Reboots and prequels are the next best thing in Hollywood, the difference between the two being that prequels are generally consistent with the previously established continuity of the series. Whenever a (successful) franchise runs out of ideas, they now simply replace the cast with younger actors and tell the origins of the story. The most popular examples are the Star Wars prequels that for many fans managed to destroy a myth. But thankfully there are prequels that do stand up to the quality of the original.

"X-Men: First Class" certainly does and is actually more fun than Bryan Singer's original "X-Men" from 2000. It is already the second prequel after "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" which focused only on the Wolverine character. Now we learn how two other important characters met and became who they are: Professor Charles Xavier and Eric Lensherr as "Magneto", played by the two classy actors James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, respectively. Their conflict is what drives the story, the rest is mostly conventional superhero movie stuff.

It should be noted that the movie is set in the 60s which gives it some nice period details. But unfortunately the screenwriters couldn't resist to integrate real political events of the time such as the Cubane Missile Crisis into the story. There is even stock footage of John F. Kennedy and the first scene is - in a nod to the original film - set in a concentration camp during World War II. The resulting allegories made to Nazi Germany are quite tasteless and ridiculous. "X-Men: First Class" could have been a better movie if it would have focused more on its characters and their main problem - being treated as outsiders by society because of their special skills. That is what is relevant and the reason we as audience members relate to them in the first place. As a result, the strong scenes of the films are not the action scenes but the ones where the superheroes have to fight an entirely different fight: the one with themselves.

"X-Men: First Class" is first-class entertainment but it should have sticked to that and not taken itself too seriously by infusing the film with too much meaning. In comparison, Matthew Vaughn's own superhero movie "Kick-Ass" was a true original. It didn't have any political subtext but instead offered unadulterated fun. And was all the better for it.


Superheroes with a touch of 60s class

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