The X-Men are back! After the less than stellar Wolverine spin-offs and the horrendous X3, it’s good to see Fox actually giving the Marvel property some respect, viewers and critics know it can work when it’s given the proper time and attention, as illustrated by X-Men: First Class, as well as the first two films.
And with return of Bryan Singer to the director’s chair, I knew I was going to enjoy this one. I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did though. This one takes all the good and the bad (though it happily glosses over a lot of the badness that was X3).
An inventor by the name of Trask (Peter Dinklage), after he is assassinated by Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) in the 1970s, has his weapon plans come together with his sentinel program. These giant robots are able to target mutants by scanning their genetic structure. It then eliminates them. This has gone on for 50 years, people, mutant and non alike, have all been targeted, and the world is ruined, and it seems mutant extinction isn’t too far off.
Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) alongside Magneto (Ian McKellen) have come up with a plan, using Kitty Pryde’s (Ellen Page) gifts and Logan’s (Hugh Jackman) regenerative abilities, they plan to project Logan’s consciousness back in time to inhabit his former self, and with Xavier’s (James McAvoy) and Magneto’s (Michael Fassbender) help, they stop Mystique, and give their future another chance.
This gives the story a chance to marry all the brilliant things we liked in the first two X-Men films, with First Class, unifying a film world, that until now, hasn’t seemed truly connected despite sequels and spin-offs. There is some fudging of timelines, but it totally works in service to the story.
The story is smart, engaging, and the visual effects are fantastic. I love the fact that almost all the actors who originated their X-Men roles return for this outing, even if their dialogue is at a minimum, some are even reduced to mere cameo status, and yet their appearance makes the film a stronger picture because of the established continuity.
We do get to see a couple of new mutants this time around, including Quicksilver (Evan Peters), who gets some very nice moments.
The story also sets up some great character arcs, particularly for McAvoy’s Xavier, because despite the crippled condition we see him left in at the end of First Class, he’s walking around, and the reason actually left me a little shaken, because, in his way, Xavier has become a bit of an addict.
Jackman seems to enjoy himself working opposite all the talented actors in these roles, and it’s hard to believe that he wasn’t the actor originally chosen to play Wolverine. Now, it’s hard to imagine him not.
The film is epic in size and scope, tying all the films together, and filled with some amazing set pieces. This is the X-Men movie we’ve been waiting for since X2.
For me, there wasn’t a missed opportunity or moment, everything about this one just works, the images, the sounds, the design, the acting, I don’t have a single complaint, and X-Men comic fans will love the things that are hinted at in the post-credit tag.
Do you have to see all the other X-Men movies to enjoy this one? No, but it certainly gives you a fuller and more emotional experience if you do.
If Fox is going to hang onto this property, let’s hope they continue to crank out films like this one. I think since they’ve seen what Disney/Paramount/Marvel are doing with theirs, I think they realize the bar has been raised, and as a fan of comic book movies, that’s a good thing for me.