So, my brother and I went and watched "X-Men First Class." This was the shot in the arm the franchise needed, especially after the previous two disasters. While I have seen a lot of people calling it "The Dark Knight" of the franchise, I'm not going to go that far.
Let's start with my X-Men background. I think X-Men has always been a great concept, but I think it has a history of being very poorly handled, and I'm including and emphasizing the source material in this also. I'm going to be blunt and say it's not a good comic book. Okay, it's had a lot of brilliant moments here and there. Most of what Chris Claremont did during his initial run was good, even if I wish I could have been editor and taken a red marker to ideas like the Shi'ar and other goofy stuff that I felt had nothing to do with the core concept. Grant Morrison's run was largely brilliant, even if I have my disagreements with some of his story and character decisions. And I loved what Joss Whedon did. But overall, 90% of X-Men canon sucks.
But, really, when I think of the X-Men comics, I think of a bloated, mismatched, poorly thought out and executed mess. I think of time travel stories that were abused and pushed to absurdities, as well as stranger and stranger mutant powers that I don't buy. I also see attempt after attempt to re-create Wolverine with mediocre characters like Gambit and Cable, who were introduced as these "kewl, badass guys with mysterious pasts". Not to mention lame villains like Apocalypse who had too many writers trying to explain who they are and what they want, and contradicting each other. If you're going to create a character, know who they are and what they want before you stick them into a comic book. X-Men has been really bad about this.
Oh, and... *ducks while the Gambit fans throw things at him. Listens, waits. Gets up, ducks back down as one more brick is hurled and stands back up again.* That's right, I said it. ;)
I also hated the cartoon on Fox Kids *ducks again as a kitchen sink is hurled at him* and liked some of "X-Men Evolution" and some of "Wolverine and the X-Men" even though I disagree with several of the creative choices of both shows. But they both did the smart thing and streamlined X-Men. Which is what the first two movies did as well, and the less said about "X-Men 3" and "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" the better.
I liked the plot. As with the first two installments, it's not an idiot plot. Actually, it was pretty ambitious for a superhero film. I really enjoyed the period setting, and how three-dimensionally human everybody was.
James McAvoy was fun as a younger, more playboyish Charles Xavier. I liked his character arc as the movie progressed, as he grows into the man we know he will become. I thought it was well handled.
Michael Fassbender was the real star of the movie as Erik Lehnsherr. He stole the show. If this movie was based on an earlier script for what was "X-Men Origins: Magneto," it really shows. This is the guy I've read in the best comics to feature the character. This is how I've always envisioned Erik's journey to become Magneto. This movie successfully did in one movie what George Lucas failed to do with his three "Star Wars" prequels. If you're a Magneto fan, you will love this movie. Especially the ending.
Okay, I'll admit, I was hoping the name Max Eisenhardt would be worked into his origin, with Lehnsherr being his alias, as the comics did (because Erik Lehnsherr is not a Jewish name), but I can understand that would have confused people to give him three names (although, movie goers can easily accept Kal'El, Clark Kent, and Superman)
Kevin Bacon was nice and sleazy as Sebastian Shaw. While Shaw will not go down in history as the best comic book movie villain, he served his purpose exceptionally. I liked how they interpreted his powers, and how he influenced Erik. And I smiled that they even got the name "Hellfire Club" into the movie.
Mystique was always awesome in the first two X-Men movies, but this is the first time she really gets any characterization, and I liked it. If you wanted to know why she was Magneto's lieutenant and lover in the first two movies, this movie will show you. Her character arc was very well done. In a sense, Erik was really the only one who accepted her for who she was, and encouraged her to be herself.
There are way too many characters for me to go through them all point by point. But I thought they were mostly well done. I was wondering how they would justify Emma Frost's usual attire, and they did.
Speaking of the costumes, you can tell superhero movies have come a long way, because now they're no longer embarrassed to put their actors into colorful costumes. I understand why X1 and X2 did what they did, since they opened the doors for the previous decade's superhero films. Had they been made now, you'd see more traditional costumes. So, I don't begrudge them. That being said, I wish Ian McKellan was wearing that helmet, instead of the one they put on him. You'll understand when you see the movie, I'm not necessarily referring to what you think I am.
Matthew Vaughn is good at this, might I say. He took a terrible comic book in "Kick-Ass" and turned it into a terrific and fun movie. And he took a franchise that was on life support and breathed new life into it. I want to see where they go next now. I am looking forward to their next movie.
I think credit should also be given to Bryan Singer for returning to this franchise, even if he was just in the producer's chair this time. And I am especially grateful that he pulled a Greg Weisman and banished the installments he had nothing to do with from continuity. Seriously, X3 and "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" are now gone, and I for one don't miss them. I doubt anyone else will either.
It's not a perfect movie. I know some people are comparing it to "The Dark Knight" which I think is a stretch. Honestly, it exceeded everyone's low expectations, and that is, I think, making the movie now look better than it actually is. It's not a great movie, but it is a very, very good movie.
I give it an A-