X-Men: First Class – Before Moving Forward, We Must Look Back (Pt. 1 of 2)

First Class: The origins of the X-Men

The latest saga in the X-Men film franchise, releasing June 3rd, is a prequel that dates back to the 1960’s, telling the story of how Charles Xavier founded his school for Mutants. At its core, X-Men: First Class is, in all aspects, about Professor X’s first class. Being a prequel, it should be noted that much of the continuity from recent films has, in fact, been broken. Characters that were introduced as children in X-Men Origins: Wolverine are featured here as teenagers or full-grown adults. Seeing as this film takes place about 20-30 years prior to the events of Wolverine, it becomes apparent that Hugh Jackman’s solo-outing may be completely disregarded (not that bad of an idea, seeing as the movie’s third act butchered any chance of respectability to what was, to that point, a well-told origins tale).

That said, because this is a prequel, there are certain things we knew about this film before filming had even begun. We knew, from X-Men 3: The Last Stand, that Hank McCoy was among Professor Xavier’s first students and that Xavier and Eric Magnus had recruited young Mutants together before their falling out. From the trailers alone, we will find out how Hank McCoy turned into “Beast,” as well as what led to the falling out between the two confidants.

In what was a surprising turn of events, plans were scrapped in-production to cast a young Scott Summers and Jean Grey. The film’s development went from one that would focus on the younger characters we were left with in X-Men: The Last Stand, to a prequel based around the love triangle of Scott Summers, Jean Grey, and Emma Frost, to its final incarnation which explores the earliest beginnings of the X-Men and allows a franchise the is very much about oppression to take place in the oppressed era of the 1960’s.

With rumors of a legitimate sequel to the X-Men franchise to follow, fans are left with high-hopes that credibility will be restored to what has turned into a disappointing franchise. This film, produced by X-Men and X2: X-Men United director Brian Singer may be its best shot at re-establishing such credibility. 

Back in September, 2009, after first watching Wolverine on bluray, I came up with an in-depth plan of how to bring the franchise back while managing to stay true to what was, to that point, a misdirected continuity. With a Wolverine sequel having been greenlit, X-Men: First Class, X-Men Origins: Magneto (which has since been scrapped), and a Deadpool spin-off in the early stages of production, with X-Men 4 and a Gambit spin-off rumored, there were six different projects needing to somehow be interwoven.

Perhaps the single biggest misstep of the Wolverine film was Wade Wilson’s transformation to the popular comic book anti-hero, Deadpool. By turning him into a cyborg, the movie hindered whatever chance it had of branching off into its own franchise. If the character was created for the Wolverine movie, itself, the development would have actually made sense, but to have a beloved character who has his own intriguing origin story be misused in such a way was enough to turn the comic-book faithful away from the film. The back-handed resolution was to claim that Weapon XI was an experiment using a clone of Wade Wilson. The more intricate way of explaining this?  Wade Wilson’s healing factor rejects his newly acquired powers, including the blades that he was provided with surgically, as this was an unnatural enhancement to his body’s structure, as opposed to Wolverine’s claws, which are part of his mutation. That Fox has decided to reboot the character for Deadpool is off-putting due to lack of continuity, but it very well may be the best way to move forward here.

Ryan Reynolds is still attached to the role of Wade Wilson for Fox’s upcoming Deadpool

Under the impression that First Class was going to be a film that featured previously established characters as the first class, and having seen Scott Summers, Emma Frost, and Jean Grey as children being recruited by Xavier in prior films, I expected the original X-Men team to consist of the three, along with Hank McCoy and Ororo Monroe. I hoped that Jean’s lack of control over her powers, which eventually led to mass-destruction in The Last Stand, would be further explored, with Magnus playing instigator.

While I may have written it from a different standpoint, its not to say it would have been better. This franchise was in a stalemate and First Class looks to be a huge step forward. Check back tomorrow to read more about how I would have approached The Wolverine, X-Men 4, and the Gambit spin-off as a means to tie it all up. Hint: Things were going to get Sinister.


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