It has definitely been the year of the comic book and super hero movie, with Thor, Green Lantern, Green Hornet and Captain America rocketing to the top of the bestseller charts. Next year we will get to enjoy The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises. There are also rumours of another Superman movie called The Man of Steel due in 2013 after the less than enthusiastic response to the last one. (But this humble writer believes Superman has always been dull compared to the infinitely varied Batman.)
I had admittedly well-founded reservations around seeing another X-Men movie. X-Men Origins (directed by South African Gavin Hood of Tsotsi fame) was nothing less than badly-written tripe and X-2 was abysmal in its poor character development and lacklustre writing. Even the first one had ruined and/or ignored some beloved characters (namely Rogue and Gambit). So when I settled in to watch X-Men: First Class in 2D, I was pleased to see that some attention had finally been paid to the script, taking out the usual trite cliche that makes up superhero movie writing and putting in some character development. Magneto’s backstory was given adequate depth beyond ‘Holocaust survivor’ and Xavier’s younger self is explored rather charmingly. Usually X-Men has had a lot of ‘what do we do now, Professor?’ so it was good to see some understanding of how he had come to be so respected. There were some well-handled scenes around Mystique’s difficult childhood, Magneto’s struggle to avenge himself and the special effects were nothing short of mind-boggling. (See especially the mutation of Beast.) For history buffs, the Bay of Pigs invasion is a fun alternative universe scene. But, as pointed out in this review at Reelviews, it is an origin story, so a lot of pieces are put together more than a story being developed and concluded.
Prequels are often produced as cash cows, almost as bad as entire gritty reboots of long-running series. (See the reboot of the entire Justice League that DC is currently doing.) I know that I thought a prequel to the Hannibal Lecter series (Hannibal Rising) was rather unnecessary since Hannibal didn’t actually need to be made sympathetic. He was infinitely more interesting being unapologetically evil. But I think that X-Men: First Class was an excellent rescue of a flailing, failing franchise. We are living in an age of complicated heroes (and they are always more interesting that way), and Christopher Nolan was the first to rescue a franchise from the doldrums with the excellent Batman Begins. Add to this Robert Downey Jr‘s interpretation of the long-neglected Iron Man and there is proof that a superhero/comic book movie can have depth while being exciting and stunning to watch. Even if one isn’t a massive follower of X-Men, this incarnation is definitely worth the purchase. Get your copy now at Exclusives.co.za!