2011_x-men_first_class_web.jpgThe summer of sequels has struck again, this time with a story that explores the origins of its main characters.  But can it still be called a sequel?  Sure.  It’s got characters from the original, just younger.

In X-Men: First Class, we get to see how the X-Men came to be.  Charles Xavier (played by James McAvoy) is a professor of sorts who is fascinated and captivated by the aspect of mutations.  His childhood friend, Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), looks up to Charles and doesn’t see him as a sibling, as he sees her.  But when times get tough, a person’s true colors always show.

Enter Erik Lensherr, A.K.A. Magneto (Michael Fassbender).  Erik was held in a Nazi concentration camp for years, being experimented on because he could bend metal. When Erik’s archenemy, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) re-surfaces as a villain trying to start World War III during the Cold War, Erik sees his opportunity for avenging his mother’s death; who  Sebastian killed in an effort to tap into Erik’s powers.

Because of the conspiracies being enacted, CIA Agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) goes to Professor X for help.  Professor X recruits the country’s mutants to become special CIA operatives and fight for American justice.  Is this a superhero movie or what?

Other mutants of note are Riptide (Alex Gonzalez), Azazel (Jason Flemyng), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones), Darwin (Edi Gathegi), and Havok (Lucas Till); with cameos of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and an older Mystique (Rebecca Romijn).

Screenwriters Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman, and Matthew Vaughn (with story by Sheldon Turner and Bryan Singer) took the X-Men of a decade ago and gave them new life.  In most “origin” stories, the screenwriters don’t put in enough effort because they’re counting on the audience being familiar with the story and the characters.  Basically, the screenwriters phone in their work.

Not so with First Class.  There’s a real plot to this story.  Granted, it’s a bit far-fetched, but the incorporation of actual events – the Cuban missile crisis and the Cold War – helped move the plot along without it festering in cheese.

Don’t get me wrong.  This is not a glowing review for X-Men: First Class.  I found a few quirks with this film.  Like, why is Darwin, a black mutant, the first of the mutants to die?  How did this film get a PG-13 rating when there are clear sexual situations?  Even though the situations were cleverly executed without vulgarity, it’s still a little too racy for the little ones.

And, why do director Vaughn’s female mutants have Barbie doll bodies?  January Jones (Emma Frost), Lawrence, and Zoe Kravitz (Angel Salvadore) all have big boobs and tiny waist lines.  I know this is supposed to be a guy’s film, but X-Men looks like a long-running Victoria’s Secret ad.

Then again, Fassbender makes quite the sexy Magneto.  Ian McKellan, who originated the film role, is quite a fine actor.  Fassbender, whose been in Inglorious Basterds and 300, is a fine actor and just plain fine.  So, there is eye candy for both sexes.

This is the way origins stories should be told.  They should be able to stand alone and be a great film.  Incorporating true life events isn’t a new concept these days, though.  You can look for this new phenomenon in Captain America, as well.

So far, X-Men has lived up to the hype of the summer blockbuster sequels/prequels.  It is a definite must-see; although the kids under 13 years old probably shouldn’t. 

Kimberly Grant may be reached at KAliciaG@aol.com