Movie Review - X-Men: First Class

This seems to be the summer of comic-book movies.  It doesn't matter if they've been done before; there are refreshes and reboots and rehashes.  The upcoming Avenger series is building up steam, the Green Lantern is about to hit theaters, a new Spider-Man franchise is spooling up.   And yes, we're seeing yet another iteration of the (becoming) venerable X-Men franchise from the folks over at Marvel Studios.

What we have in X-Men: First Class is another origin story, but not done the way X-Men Origins: Wolverinewas done.  This is, however, at it's core a Magneto story, as much of the concept of the film was taken from the now-defunct X-Men Origins: Magneto project. The basic premise of the film involves the orignal meeting of a sullen and bitter Holocaust suvivor named Eric Lenshere and a cocky and self-assured rich-boy named Charles Xavier, how they came together under the auspices of a secret CIA project to form the X-Men, and how they eventually went in very different philosophical directions.  And to that end, the movie does a spectacular job.

Along the way we meet Raven, a blue-skinned little girl who has the ability to turn into whatever she wants, Hank McCoy, a brilliant scientist with extremely large feet, the evil Sebastian Shaw, former Nazi scientist now bent on causing nothing less than extermination of the human race, Emma Frost, a misguided beauty with the ability to turn into solid diamond, and a host of other X-Men characters from the pages of Marvel comics. 

And yes, Wolverine, too.  But you'll have to see the movie to see what happens with him.

There's a lot going on here in one movie.  The film deals with issues like personal identity, descrimination, alienation, liberty and deception.  There are clear parallels between struggle in America for civil liberties and the mutant's struggle for equality and identifty, with Xavier playing the role of MLK (an equal, blended society) and Magneto playing the role of a Malcom X ( mutant pride).  There are divisions among the mutants as the lines are drawn in the struggle to come, and it is all too well played out.

As with the prior X-Men movies, most (but not all) of the sexuality in the films revolve around Raven/Mystique.  She, as always, seems to enjoy running around naked, and the CGI effects do nothing to downplay that. Those with small children might be uncomfortable with the amount of screentime this gets.  Emma Frost's character seems equally sexual, and the same caveat applies there.

As with most X-Men films, there is plenty of violence, although it seems a bit more raw in this film, especially when it involves Sebastian Shaw.  He is brutal as a Nazi, brutal as a super-villan, and his final scene is, shall we say, brutally memorable. There are explosions and deaths galore, of course, but no real gore.  The PG-13 rating allows film makers one use of the f-word, and it is not wasted. (I will fully admit I laughed)

There's a lot here in this film, but it is clearly deeper than a shallow comic-book spin off.  This is no Green Hornet.  There are deep issues in this film, and I would caution parents about taking their children to it without screening it first, if for no other reasons than to be prepared for an intelligent discussion on what it all means.


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