The Life and Times of Charles Xavier (or The Rise and Fall of Erik Lehnsherr): X-Men First Class Review

Before I even get to talking about the movie itself, lemme say that adaptations of any sort are able to still be just as good as the source material it’s based off of, even in the case that it takes liberties with the characters and their relations with each other. Just look at Batman: started off as a detective in bright blue and grey tights fighting crimes and adaption after adaption has changed the character to the point that his movies have been described as pretentious.

Like it or not, X-Men was one of the first comicbook franchises to hit during the new wave of big budget superhero movies. And regardless of liberties being taken here and there, each movie was at the least able to stand well on its own, taking an interesting spin on the source material. Now, nearly 11 years since the first movie hit the screens in the summer of 2000, X-Men: First Class—the second in line of movie prequels for the series continues to flesh out the movie mythos of some of the older characters, giving more insight between the characters of Erik Lehnsherr and Charles Xavier.

With Erik’s backstory clearly being defined as taking place in the ‘40s in previous movies, not only has a clear time period been set, but so has the fact that in this movie universe, actual events from the real world are acknowledged as well. As such, the movie ends up meshing pieces of history (both in a textbook and pop cultural sense) with the general theme that’s been driving the franchise all this time: mutants. The film starts off with Charles and Erik’s separate stories, allowing viewers to get a good idea of their general upbringing and thus their separate yet similar ideals. As Erik begins to fall further and further into his obsession with revenge, you begin to feel even more for the character, anticipating when he crosses paths with Charles. Their odd-couple dynamic is played off in such a sincere manner that you really get invested in both of their causes, wanting to support both of them since you were literally shown where they were each coming from, but at the same time know that one must overcome the other eventually. The movie’s certainly not a bromance by any stretch of the imagination, but the budding friendship between the two is still clear.

While the other mutants in the film aren’t the same “First Class” as the original lineup from the comics, each still has something to add to the table. Besides the future Magneto and Prof. X, there’s a young Mystique, who as expected has real body image issues due to her mutation. However, regardless (or maybe even because) of it, she has quite the bubbly personality at times, making for an interesting character to interact with the more serious Charles and Erik, to say the least. There’s also something of a relationship between her and a young Beast, who only wishes for mutations to be hidden from public view. Yes, their relationship isn’t “canon,” but it makes sense in the context of the movie. Other additions to what eventually results in the first mutant team are Angel (played by Zoe Kravitz, daughter of Lenny Kravitz and girlfriend of Ben Foster, who played a different Angel in X3), Banshee (played up as a comic relief character, but has his moments in fight scenes, too), Darwin (the one black guy that sadly serves as the role of the one black guy), and Havoc (pointed out by my sister to be Lucas Till from that one Taylor Swift music video). The team works well together and isn’t nearly as angsty as the mutants in the previous movies, this time more anxious to come to the rescue without the fear of any persecution yet, which makes for a fresh take on things.

As for the baddies of the movie, I don’t know exactly what it is, but they each give off something about themselves that screams the old Superman movies from the ‘70s. Maybe it’s the slightly-flashier-than-others outfits, or the fact that they spend their time scheming while in the luxury of a boat or a men’s club, or the fact that they’re clearly not as young as the film’s hero’s, but not old enough to play off the whole “youth vs. geezers” theme… whatever it is, it works well for the movie, which doesn’t come off as trying too hard to tell the viewers just exactly what time period it is.

But like most good prequels, the movie especially works on the level that the viewer’s seen at least some of the previous movies in the franchise. Knowing the fates of most of the characters from the later movies, First Class does a particularly good job of setting everything up, establishing each character at a vulnerable point in their life, for the dramatic fall that concludes everything, either destroying the characters in a literal or mental sense. And once the dust is cleared and the sides are clearly established, you can’t help but be pumped, even fully knowing what direction things go.

As a whole, I’d describe the movie as “fun,” but that’s not to lump it in with other (crappy) movies that I’d describe as such just because the plot itself sucked so hard. On the contrary, X-Men: First Class plays to its strengths without coming off as too preachy or a full-on action movie. I’d say it undid the rep of the prequels caused by X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but I never even bothered seeing that movie after all the hate it got.

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