X-Men: First Class – once more into the breach dear friends, once more

"We have it in us to be the better men."

Tonight saw Paul and me finally get to see X-Men: First Class. There’s a theory amongst some in filmmaking that the more scriptwriters a film has, the worse the film will be – kind of along the lines of too many cooks. However, this film is the exception.

Earlier scripts and story ideas were put together by so many, including Bryan Singer (director of the first X-Men film) and Sheldon Turner. The final script is a collaboration between two pairs of writers:  Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz and Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn (director of this film and of Kick-Ass).

Paul and I were lucky enough to attend a panel at London MCM EXPO last month. The panel was done by Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz. We’d been desperate to see the film since the panel. Hearing the writers of a film speak about their baby, in person, is a rather compelling force in making you want to watch a film.

While X-Men Origins: Wolverine had been a reasonable romp into comic book film making, Paul and I had both been bitterly disappointed by X-Men: The Last Stand. And what’s clear is that First Class doesn’t really synch with these last two films, but that’s okay – that was the intention, because Miller and Stentz didn’t want it to deal with the “baggage” from those two films:

“[We] want to respect continuity, but not be a slave to continuity.”

Ashley Miller

And so the writers of First Class were more concerned with telling a compelling story – something that the more vocal members of the fan community will probably be unable to understand. This isn’t a straightforward adaptation of any part of the Marvel universe, but it blended elements from it and the first films to tell a tale that is worth watching.

The film had a lot of ground to cover and yet not, considering that it was an origin story. They knew that most of the film’s audience, after four films, would know how things would go. The writers used this as an opportunity to play around with the relationships between characters in a manner that had not been seen since X-Men 2. But this wasn’t pointless exposition as these interactions were perfectly used to move the plot along.

Starting with the Holocaust (as the first film did) and using the background of the Cuban Missile Crisis to bring the major forces of the X-Men franchise together and to set up future relationships places the franchise in a historical setting that further grounds the franchise in an alternate version of reality that is believable. I say “believable” because – while it is a fictional text – it makes it easier to understand the issues being faced by the characters in the film and feel empathy towards them.

Also, while I would often cringe at the use of montages, the particular one used in First Class seemed natural rather than forced. Mainly because it was properly broken up with straightforward scenes. It didn’t seem lazy, because character interactions were still clocked.

I’d highly recommend watching X-Men: First Class when you get the chance. Just don’t bother sitting to the end of the credits – there’s no extra scene this time. Oh, and there’s no Stan Lee cameo either.

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