The hip thing to do with comic movies now seems to be the reboot. They’re doing it with the Superman and Spiderman universes, in spite of the very recent and successful movies previously made. The theme seems to be, new producers and directors = reboot comic book movie franchise.

 

I know what you’re thinking. Some of the reboots have been more successful than their original predecessors, such as Batman (If you touch it, I’ll murder you) and the latest attempt at The Incredible Hulk.

 

Setting all of those aside, let’s think about the genre of comic book movies as a whole for a second. Over the past decade, we’ve basically been bombarded by at least one comic book movie during the summer movie seasons. This summer I counted seven, including those based on graphic novels. When I was thinking about writing this, I found myself wondering what kicked that off originally.

 

We have older super hero movies with the ever beloved Christopher Reeve as Superman, and the amusing yet questionable attempts at the Batman universe after the Adam West television show. But that was basically it aside from the other television shows and cartoons back in the day.

 

So, what started the massive box office insanity of the modern comic book movie, with budgets that would make me faint and actors that manage to do the same? (Yes, that’s yours Hugh, and a bit for Chris Hemsworth. Okay, and have you seen Michael Fassbender?)

 

If you’ll remember, the first live action X-Men movie directed by Brian Singer, and released in the summer of 2000, was one of the first modern comic book movies that not only captured the essence of what we loved about the characters, but made the story and the idea real enough that it didn’t appear campy or head-tiltingly awkward.

 

This summer, over a decade later, we got our fifth X-Men in X-Men: First Class. (Yes, I counted Wolverine. But don’t be miffed by that. Be miffed by the fact that they’re making another one.) Some may consider this to be a kind of a reboot for the X-Men series, and a much needed one at that. After the last two movies, the franchise that started the comic-book-to-movie insanity that we’re seeing now was left starving, clawing desperately in the dark for its “precious” fan base (and some fresh fish).

 

But, is it a reboot at all? It may be, but more in the way that Terminator Salvation was a reboot for the Terminator series.

 

Moving away from that pointless debate, X-Men: First Class is equal to its first two predecessors in story, casting, characterization, humor and everything else we loved about those movies. It doesn’t overwrite them, and that’s important. I would say that First Class hits audiences even more realistically than the first two X-Men. Because it is a prequel by definition – it takes place forty plus years in the past, in the early sixties – one of the main jobs of this movie was to take the characters we already love, and help us as the audience to know them better through their past experiences.

 

This was achieved magnificently, especially in the main two characters, Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto/Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender). The story, of course, mainly focused on these two, bringing in their pasts, and how it influenced the decisions they made when they were older, thus leading to their separation, and well known debate on “mutant superiority” carried out by the talents of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in the earlier movies.

 

That idea was portrayed the most fluidly in Magneto. In First Class Magneto/Erik is a sympathetic character, almost more so than Xavier. Together, they balanced each other out as characters, and as actors – so much so that we looked forward to further scenes with the pair of them. Though it was close to a “Hey, by the way, Anakin becomes Darth Vader.” ending – the curse of the prequel – there was still hope that somehow, they would remain friends, and Xavier might actually help Magneto further out of his own darkness.

 

I won’t spoil it more than that for those who have not yet seen it.

 

As for the rest of the movie, there were your typical comic book takes; there was a very single-minded villain, Shaw, played delightfully by Kevin Bacon, and a massive risk of the destruction of the human race caused by said villain. I won’t go into it much more than that. My attempt to describe it would only cheapen it, and it wouldn’t be accurate at all.

 

Instead, I’ll move on to something that struck me personally, as a fan of science-fiction/fantasy in general. Actors who cannot act as though they are using their powers, gifts, or magic wands convincingly have irritated me since I was a kid. That is why I appreciate the adults in all of the Harry Potter movies so much. First Class is no exception either. Each actor did a fantastic job in “acting out” their powers. Again, I was deeply impressed with James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender in particular. (Kevin Bacon did an excellent job as well.) When you’re given an invisible ability to portray that will only be seen in when the digital effects are added to the film, I can understand that it would be a difficult task. McAvoy acting in such a way that he knew everything that was going on once he entered a room was wonderful. Fassbender, straining, and breaking out into a sweat as he tried to “move” an enormous metal object made me want to applaud in the middle of the theater.

 

First Class is a great movie with emotion, action, humor, (Two words: Bald. Jokes.) and very talented actors. When you do see it, don’t think of it as a reboot. Think of it more as a continuation of a universe and characters that deserve to be portrayed so well. That is exactly what it is.