After battling myself on which of the X-Men franchise to consider as part of a whole, and which order to do them in, it seems that the most logical method is to look at X-Men: First Class, X-Men, X2 and X-Men 3: The Last Stand. The reasoning for this is simple – these films form a cohesive story and share many common plot threads and relationships. Furthermore, despite First Class being a prequel, it fits so well into this series that it could have been planned from the start. George Lucas; take note.
X-Men: First Class opens with the same scene that X-Men had opened with many years earlier, showing a young boy (Eric Lencheir) being dragged kicking and screaming away from his doomed parents. It is here, in this terrifyingly intense setting that he unleashes his powers. This film, instead of jumping many years into the future, spends time exploring how the Germans treated this child – with the facility head eventually shooting Eric’s mother in front of him to anger him, and force him to unleash his powers.
We move to the home of Charles Xavier, a child with unique insight, who finds a young girl in his house disguising herself as his mother. This scared and starving girl is Raven, who Charles immediately offers food and befriends. This scared and starving girl will eventually become Mystique. Raven’s journey, like that of Eric and Xavior, is explored closely throughout this film, allowing you to understand their motivations in both this and previous (though set in the future) films. Despite having an engrossing story to tell, and the time it spends delving into these characters, the other’s all have time to shine before the end credits.
It is here that First Class truly defines itself compared to the other movies: while the “Original Trilogy” are ensemble films focused on the X-Men, this film is an ensemble focused on the relationships across both sides. The motivations of the films heroes and villains are well established and we find ourselves having a firm emotional investment in the characters (to the point that, when one of the protagonists dies, despite having had only a few short lines, it really feels poignant). In many ways, I find the characterisation in this film exemplifies the relationship between Xavior and Magneto in the first films, explaining the bond between them.
If you, like many others, have been put off this movie by X-Men 3: The Last Stand and Wolverine, fear not, this is one is back to the Marvel standard!