But after Bryan Singer's film, everything exploded and a decade later, theaters are an embarrassment of riches with Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger (who will join Hulk and Iron Man for Joss Whedon's ultimate nerdgasm flick, The Avengers) representing Team Marvel and Green Lantern hoisting the DC banner until The Dark Night Rises and Man of Steel will arrive next year with the rebooted Tobey Maguire-free Amazing Spider-Man.
But I've always been partial to the X-Men movies; X2: X-Men United is my pick for the best comic book movie ever. I don't get the nerd rage against X3: The Last Stand. It wasn't as good as X2, but that's like saying Angelina Jolie in Wanted is a dog compared to the way she looked in Mr. & Mrs. Smith because she's too skinny. The Wolverine movie was a bit of a botch, but compared to Ang Lee's Hulk or Elektra, it was X-Men. The ironic connection between the maligned X3 and the new X-Men: First Class is that director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) was slated to direct the former before leaving the project, forcing the rushed job Brett Ratner did, and with one fell swoop, reinvigorates the franchise with verve and style.
Because it's after
Is it any good? Absotively YES! It's easily the near-equal of the first two films.
How are the new stars? Uniformly good from top to bottom with few exceptions. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender don't make us forget the stellar Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as Professor X and Magneto, but they don't make us miss them either. By setting the story in 1962, the age differences are mooted.
Jennifer Lawrence is going to be a huge star off of this, setting her up for mega-stardom when The Hunger Games hits next spring. She's got a ripe, voluptuous face and figure which may not match vintage Scarlett Johansson for sheer vavoom, but the fact she doesn't seem up her own fine ass with smugness counts for a lot. With ScarJo banging Sean Penn now - all together now....ICK!!! - after dumping Green Lantern, she's about to be less the object of nerd desire than she was when cast as Black Widow in Iron Man 2.
Kevin Bacon is a pimp here and he makes playing "6 Degrees" a hella lot easier now that he's in the same movie as Ray Wise, Michael Ironside and James Remar. The other mutants on each side get short shrift on screen time, but they make it count. Ironically, January Jones as curvy Emma Frost seems the flattest. She doesn't wreck things, but could've been livelier.
They were still shooting this thing about four months ago. How badly rushed does it look? It doesn't. The special effects look slick; the score is dialed in; perhaps a few tweaks in editing may've made it even better, but it doesn't look or feel slapped together. If anything, the hectic pace and locked-in release date may've worked in its favor since Vaughn didn't have time to Kubrbick out and shoot a zillion takes of people opening doors.
I hear they've messed with the comic book timeline. They do to a degree, but oh well. The biggest change from previous films is the prologue of X3 where a walking Charles and Erik go to meet a young Jean Grey has been retconned out of existence as we see how Charles got put in the wheelchair here.
How's the Stan Lee cameo? There isn't one, much to the nerd rage consternation of my sidekick, McHatin. However, a very crowd pleasing (and not really unexpected) cameo does occur. (Hint: Snikt! Snikt!) UPDATE: Reading around the Intartoobz, there appears to be a 2nd cameo from a familiar face, though I totally missed it for they aren't as recognizable as you'd think.
You want to play Duke Nukem, so what's the bottom line? It's really, really good. If the were selling Blu-rays at the popcorn stand on my way out, I would've bought one. I hope they make more along this line with Vaughn helming. X-Men: First Class is a first-class movie indeed.
Score: 9/10. Pay full price if you're an X-Men fan; do a matinee if you're casual.