X-Men: First Class

Comic book movies are pouring out of Hollywood like it’s the thing to do; and it is right now. With Thor, Captain America, and Green Lantern also releasing this year, another Wolverine movie in the works, and not to mention the highly-anticipated The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers movies to be released next year, there’s certainly no shortage of comic book movies. But X-Men: First Class is a little different when it comes to reviving, remaking, or re-releasing comic book movies and their franchises. A few years ago, I wrote an essay about comic books being adapted into films. Here’s the link if you want to check it out. This movie, however, took a unique spin on another subject matter that interests me very much: American History. The movie X-Men: First Class opens

virtually identical as the first X-Men movie of 2000. We see Erik Lehnsherr (a very young Magneto) in a Nazi concentration camp in war-torn Germany, 1942. When he is separated from his parents, he manages to bend the steel bars of the massive gates just by reaching out his arms. After the encouragement and training by a Nazi officer who just happens to be a mutant himself, Erik spends his entire adult life searching for him. Simultaneously, we meet Charles Xavier (a very young Professor X) in a huge manor in the English countryside already well-aware of his “special gift.”

Through serendipitous circumstances, they meet a few decades later in the heart of the Cuban Missile Crisis that was the biggest scare in the start of Nuclear War and a potential third World War. In order to help prevent this from happening, Charles and Erik join forces with a government agency in order to recruit other people with similar “special gifts.”

Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963, the X-Men, this movie in particular, addresses very creatively something that has plagued society since the dawn of civilization: equality and human rights. In regards to history, Xavier and Magneto represent Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X respectively. On the one hand, Xavier believes mutants and humans can coexist peacefully while Erik believes that the only way mutants and humans can coexist is by force, violence, and control.

The story (which we all know I’m a stickler for,) is told very well and ties into historical events creatively with actual archival footage of JFK presidential addresses. My only complaint is the actual characters (mutants) in the film are NOT the original mutants as the history of the comics clearly declare. Why? This was a creative decision made by director Matthew Vaughn that may or may not have been better if he would have followed the original storyline. But as my essay says, there are pros and cons for doing that.

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