X-Men: First Class

I do seem to be closing in on completion of the superhero film genre “to watch” list (at least for the ones that interest me). Last night I watched X-Men: First Class.

At least for my taste, I believe I saved the best for last.

X-Men: First Class is (for me) the most engaging and entertaining of the X-Men film series to date. More objectively speaking, I think it may use the best storytelling of the lot. Or it has the deepest story, at any rate. This film is the puzzle piece that pulls the entire series together.

Here we see the relationship originally established between the Charles Xavier (Dr. X) and Max Eisenhardt (Magneto) as they form their friendship, and we come to understand the complexities of Magneto in particular. As outstanding as Patrick Sterwart and Ian McKellen are in the roles of the elder versions, the youthful ones portrayed by James McAvoy (Charles) and Michael Fassbender (Erik) might actually have been just a bit more compelling for me. (I can’t believe I’m saying that!) I was actually exhilarated at certain points by this story, which is as much attributable to the zest with which these youthful characters are brought to life, as it is to the film’s well-executed action.

No doubt it helps for me as a film-viewer that I know nothing of history of the X-Men in the comic books. (I probably bought around a dozen of their comic books as a kid, and enjoyed them; but I started buying comics in 1967 after the X-Men’s backstory had already been published; I just bought whatever caught my eye on the drug store comics carousel–there was no comic book store that I knew of to find back issues in my home town at that time.) So the exhilaration is also attributable to the sense of discovery and surprise at who these characters are in their early development. Charles as a charismatic, dashing young womanizer, and Erik as a ruthless, deadly-effective, and single-minded assassin of Nazi war criminals was something that I did not expect.

The plotline of mutants being feared by normal humans, and at risk to be isolated and controlled by the government–both for the powers they possess as a threat to “the world as we know it” and for national defense–is not hard to buy. From Erik’s vantage as a Holocaust survivor, his vision makes perfect sense. We can certainly have sympathy for Magneto on this basis, at least in terms of basic motivations if not end-goals and methods.

Jennifer Lawrence is wonderful ever as Raven/Mystique. Thankfully we see the character explained and developed. Her motivations in the succeeding films make much more sense, accordingly.

All the other performances are very good. Nicholas Hoult does a fine job in particular as Hank McCoy, aka the Beast.

So that’s about it. This flick is a blast, and has become my favorite X-Men film by far. Fitting it into my ranked list of favorites (not “which film is objectively better” but rather ones I enjoyed most for my own idiosyncratic reasons), here is the revised list with this film now added. (Yes, I liked it that much!):

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy
  2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  3. The Avengers
  4. Captain America: The First Avenger
  5. Iron Man
  6. X-Men: First Class
  7. Hellboy
  8. The Wolverine
  9. Thor
  10. X2: X-Men United
  11. Daredevil
  12. Spider-Man
  13. Iron Man 2
  14. Thor: The Dark World
  15. Man of Steel
  16. X-Men
  17. Superman (1978)
  18. The Dark Knight Rises (Yes, here, above The Dark Knight and Batman Begins)
  19. Hellboy II: The Golden Army
  20. Batman Begins
  21. The Dark Knight
  22. Superman Returns
  23. The Amazing Spider-Man
  24. Batman (1989)
  25. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
  26. X-Men: Days of Future Past
  27. X-Men: The Last Stand
  28. Iron Man 3
  29. The Fantastic Four (2005)
  30. Spider-Man 2
  31. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
  32. Spider-Man 3
  33. Green Lantern
  34. The Incredible Hulk
  35. The Phantom
  36. The Crow
  37. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
  38. Mystery Men
  39. The Punisher
  40. Hulk
  41. Judge Dredd
  42. Batman Forever
  43. Batman and Robin
  44. Batman Returns
  45. Superman II
  46. Superman III
  47. Catwoman
  48. Blade
  49. Darkman
  50. Superman and the Mole Men
  51. Batman (1966)
  52. The Mask
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X-Men: First Class

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