Oh my God, I can’t believe how good X-Men: First Class is. It’s so good, I held my pee for at least 90 minutes because I didn’t want to miss anything. Also, I shouldn’t drink coffee in movies.
This is the best prequel ever, because it actually tells a story. It’s not just setup, although there’s plenty of that too. The characters are actually different at this stage of the story, not just younger imitations. Xavier (James McAvoy) uses his telepathy to pick up babes, and has a cocky swagger that’s in no way reminiscent of Patrick Stewart. Mystique as a child is sweet and heartwarming, and once she grows up to be Jennifer Lawrence she’s a lovely lady, not yet the cold, hard edged Rebecca Romijn version.
The superpowers get to be delightful at this stage because they haven’t totally become burdens yet. The kids get to train and experience the joy of discovery, like the best parts of Spider-Man and Iron Man. It’s just plain awesome, Azazel teleporting humans to the sky and dropping them, Magneto turning a knife into a boomerang or turning barb wire into snares. It’s beautiful and tragic too. Spoiler alert, but not all the mutants grow up to be X-Men, especially not the ones who don’t have well known comic book names.
The film really emphasizes the practical uses of mutant powers. Xavier even comments that his telepathy is being blocked, like, “Oh well, it’s not working right now so I can’t help you today. Maybe I need to call tech support.” It’s momentous, triumphant, powerful and still debates all that important philosophy. It totally invalidates the prologue of X-Men: The Last Stand but something tells me no one will mind that.
I love the way Matthew Vaughn shoots. He creates Hitchcockian suspense, only instead on knowing there’s a bomb under the desk, we know that Magneto is going to bend some metal. But will it be the gun or the coin or all the metal in the room? Vaughn’s camera captures little details that make the scene feel real, like Magneto’s reflection in a gold bar.
More obvious details make the world feel even more real than the Bryan Singer films. Yeah, it’s a period piece, but using the period details grounds the film where X2 will still feel generically modern long after 2003. So they play “Palisades Park” in a go-go club and the fashion is disco. Just showing Mystique brushing her teeth gives her a real world context.
First Class is this year’s great comic book movie, up there with Spider-Man 1 and The Dark Knight, maybe somewhere in between them. (Sorry Green Lantern, it won’t be you this summer.) It’s the summer movie I’ve been waiting for. Actually, it makes me realize I might have been settling for others before this.