Of all the early Marvel comic books The X-men were Stan Lee’s laziest creation. He decided all the X-men would be mutants (meaning they were born with super powers) because he was tired of coming up with creative ways for superheroes to gain their superpowers.
But I’m glad to say the movie X-Men: First Class does not share that lazy inspiration. It’s actually the most energetic, fun movie I’d seen in a while. A warning though, if you’re into continuity X-men First Class might not be your thing. The characters’ ages, accents, and relationships to one another are completely inconsistent with the previous X-men movies and the comic books upon which they are based. This angered a forty year old guy who left the midnight screening at the same time I did, but I’ll gladly allow Professor X to have a full head of hair and speak with an English accent if he’s going to star in a movie as awesome as X-men: First Class was.
Maybe the fact that X-men: First Class played fast and loose with the source material was one of the reasons I loved it so much. Instead of knowing from reading the comic books what was going to happen next I found myself involved in the story. This movie was the smart, logical step toward where comic book movies will have to go if they want to avoid Thor’s realm of mediocrity. Now that we’ve seen the literal representations of all the major comic book characters, it’s time to allow the filmmakers to have fun with them rather than being enslaved.
X-men:First Class’ army of screenwriters and the director, Matthew Vaughn, break away from convention. They set it in the early 1960’s smack dab in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis which allow the characters’ to wear Mod clothes and say the word, “groovy” a lot. It’s like Mad Men with characters flying and bending metal and with Don Draper’s wife prancing around in lingerie.
When Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the X-men in 1963 I doubt they thought the characters would still be around in 2011, much less that the soap opera detailing the X-men’s lives would saddle down the characters with fifty years of back story. There have been some great ideas and adventures along the way, but there have also been times where hacks were put in charge of chronicling the X-men. All the stories, the good and the bad, are part of the canon that many fans take very seriously. The makers of X-men: First Class smartly sorted through all this history knowing where the characters are headed, and cherrypicked the elite stuff giving the X-men a wonderful starting point. The reason why Professor X is in a wheelchair is a lot more poignant now, as is the reason why the beast is blue and furry, and now Magneto’s costume just oozes with history.
The way the filmmakers were able to juggle so many characters and make us care about quite a number of them was amazingly efficient and makes me hope that they’re already working on a sequel. Or at the very least a comic book series where Professor X will continue to use the word groovy and frequent bars inhabited with go-go dancers.