The “X-Men” franchise is brought back to life with “First Class”

Just when you thought that the dreaded “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” was the final nail in the proverbial coffin for the “X-Men” franchise, director Matthew Vaughn (“Kick-Ass”) explores the origins and formation of the X-Men in “X-Men: First Class”.

Set in the 1960’s, the story follows telepath Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Holocaust survivor Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) aka Magneto. They meet for the first time during a recon mission in which Erik was attempting to kill former Nazi officer, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon).  Shaw has been secretly manipulating the Soviet Union and the U.S. into attacking each other. With the fate of mankind in their hands, Charles and Erik put their differences aside to assemble a team of young mutants that include Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and Beast (Nicolas Hoult) in order to prevent Shaw from fulfilling his sinister mission.

Going back to the beginning always seems to be an indication that a franchise is in need of a reboot. After the bloated “X-Men: The Last Stand” and disastrous “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, Along with “X2: X-Men United”, “X-Men: First Class” is one of the best movies in the franchise that could serve as a bridge between this movie and Bryan Singer’s 2000 “X-Men” unless potential sequels are spawned from this movie.

This maybe Matthew Vaughn’s second comic-book movie that he has directed, but the tone in “X-Men: First Class” is quite different compared to the satirical and ironic tone of “Kick-Ass”. He manages to pull off several noticeable action set pieces including an astounding scene where Erik uses his power to lift a submarine out of the ocean. One particular shot which seems like it was lifted from an actual comic-book panel involves a death scene that involving a unique weapon of choice.

The ensemble of “X-Men: First Class” is great and everyone does a superb job in their roles from   Oscar-nominee Jennifer Lawrence to Kevin Bacon, but the real stars of the film are McAvoy and Fassbender as Xavier and Magneto. Watching the evolution of this relationship between the two is the one of the most compelling aspects of the film as moviegoers will bear witness to how these two become allies at first and eventually become enemies. Their different views and beliefs are highlighted in a serious moment between the two where they raise valid points like two politicians in a debate. It is more interesting to see Xavier and Magneto as allies, especially when the time comes to recruiting and training young mutants that includes a scene featuring a surprising and funny cameo.

As written by Vaughn, Jane Goldman and “Thor” co-writers Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz, the film is nice mixture of an action-packed comic book movie that has some dramatic gravitas. Setting this film in the 1960s is different and unique take compared to usual comic-book movies including the injection of ‘60s images like President John F. Kennedy addressing a concern nation or the sight of the War Room from “Dr. Strangelove”. The overlapping of real history and fantasy is seamless, especially with the orchestration of the Cuban Missile Crisis in the climax. There are also many references to “X-Men” cinematic universe that answers shows the origins of Xavier’s Cerebro device, the evolution of Hank McCoy from man to beast and how Xavier ended up in wheelchair. There is even a shot-for-shot remake of the Holocaust scene from producer Bryan Singer’s first “X-Men” movie.

“X-Men: First Class” is the best summer movie and possibly the best movie of the year thus far that reboots life back into a tarnished franchise just like “Batman Begins” and “Star Trek”.

“X-Men: First Class”: 5 stars out of 5

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