Although the superhero comic book has been a duopoly since the early 1960s, only DC's flagship characters, Superman and Batman (who originated in the late 1930s) have established themselves as big-screen franchises. Until now--this is the first runaway hit film version of the alternative superhero X-Men universe created for Marvel Comics by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and others. It's a rare comic-book movie that doesn't fall over its cape introducing all the characters, and this is the exception. X-Men drops us into a world that is closer to our own than Batman's Gotham... City, but it's still home to super-powered goodies and baddies. Opening in high seriousness with paranormal activity in a WW2 concentration camp and a senatorial inquiry into the growing "mutant problem", Bryan Singer's film sets up a complex background with economy and establishes vivid, strange characters well before we get to the fun. There's Halle Berry flying and summoning snowstorms, James Marsden zapping people with his "optic beams", Rebecca Romijn-Stamos shape-shifting her blue naked form, and Ray Park lashing out with his Toad-tongue. The big conflict is between Patrick Stewart's Professor X and Ian McKellen's Magneto, super-powerful mutants who disagree about their relationship with ordinary humans, but the characters we're meant to identify with are Hugh Jackman's Wolverine (who has retractable claws and amnesia), and Anna Paquin's Rogue (who sucks the life and superpowers out of anyone she touches). The plot has to do with a big gizmo that will wreak havoc at a gathering of world leaders, but the film is more interested in setting up a tangle of bizarre relationships between even more bizarre people, with solid pros such as Stewart and McKellen relishing their sly dialogue and the newcomers strutting their stuff in cool leather outfits. There are in-jokes enough to keep comics' fans engaged, but it feels more like a science fiction movie than a superhero picture. --Kim Newman [show more]
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Three feature-length action adventure prequels based on the Marvel comic strip. 'X-men: First Class' (2011) is a prequel to the first three 'X-Men' movies. The film charts the beginning of the saga, following Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) through their formative years in the 1960s as they come to terms with their newfound superpowers. Initially close friends who work together to fight against evil, the two men are driven apart by a conflict of opinion that ultimately leads to the eternal war between Magneto's Brotherhood and Professor X's X-Men. 'X-men: Days of Future Past' (2014) acts as a direct sequel to three separate films, 'X-Men: The Last Stand' (2006), 'X-Men: First Class' (2011) and 'The Wolverine' (2013), with a storyline that alternates between past and present. When the survivors of the battle in 'X-Men: The Last Stand', led by Magneto (Ian McKellen), Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Storm (Halle Berry), discover that total annihilation now awaits humans and mutants alike, they send the ageless Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to try and change the course of events. In the past, Wolverine must team up with the younger incarnations of the X-Men seen in 'X-Men: First Class', Charles Xavier (McAvoy), Magneto (Fassbender) and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), to avert disaster. Will he succeed? Finally, 'X-men: Apocalypse' (2016) is a prequel to the whole franchise. En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac), known as Apocalypse, has been worshipped as the first and most powerful mutant to have ever lived. When he is awakened after several thousands of years at rest, Apocalypse sees what the modern world has become and sets about correcting and cleansing humanity to create a better world for mutants to live in, recruiting Magneto (Fassbender) onto his team. Hearing about the imminent attack, Professor X (McAvoy) teams up with Raven (Lawrence) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult) to try to save humanity.