X-Men: First Class (2011)

Theatrical Poster
Source: Wikipedia
X-Men: First Class returns to the founding of Charles Xavier's mutant heroes.

In a concentration camp during the Second World War, Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) is taught to use anger to control metal with his mentor Dr. Schmidt - at the expense of his mother and father. Meanwhile, Charles Xavier (James McEvoy) is growing up with a telekinetic mind with his adopted sister, Raven, who is able to change shape at will.

The years roll on and Erik Lensherr hunts his former mentor and runs into Xavier who promises to help him in his search. As Sebastian Shaw - the real identity of Dr. Schmidt - begins to exert his influence in politics to increase tensions in the Cold War, Xavier and Lensherr must find other mutants in order to help them stop Shaw from destroying the world during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Many will compare X-Men: First Class to Batman Begins for the obvious nod towards showing how comic book heroes began their quest to fight crime. Unfortunately while Batman's prequel was brilliant, X-Men struggled to live up to previous films in the series.

That's not to say X-Men was unwatchable. The story ties up many of the answers that fanboys who don't read the comics have waited years for. In fact, because of the sheer number of characters that are in the film, it does a stirling job of not getting overly carried away and is content to explain how each character has come to be in future films.

The volume of characters brings about the first major flaw in the movie. Many of them appeared to be added for an excuse to show off a special effect and had no other purpose in the film. The background behind the minor mutants was threadbare at best while the focus is purely on Xavier and Lensherr. A view of the future Wolverene though brings about my second problem.

Comic book hero movies have become a huge hit recently - a new Batman film is due out soon and the Green Lantern is to be released imminently. This goes to show that the genre itself does have appeal outside those who read about their heroes in still pictures on paper. X-Men isolated this mass audience with its overly subtle nods to Wolverene and with the inclusion of the other characters who will not be seen in movies that are set further in the future. Many of the 'clever' touches will be entirely missed by those who are novice to the series.

All that said though, the special effects were, well, special. They began poorly in the concentration camp, but during the grand finale they are some of the best epic effects that I have seen in any comic book film.

A good film if you love X-Men. For those who don't know who Charles Xavier is before watching this film, all is not lost - there are plenty of other Marvel heroes about to hit the big screen soon.