By 2011 the comic book movie age was in full swing. The Marvel Cinematic Universe had found its footing with two Iron Man movies and "The Incredible Hulk" already in the books, and both "Thor" and "Captain America: The First Avenger" on their way. The MCU had teased their ambitious ensemble "The Avengers" to audiences that ranged from excited to skeptical. On the DC side, Christopher Nolan's "Batman Begins" had paved the way for "The Dark Knight", a movie that promised to change the game as far as comic book films were concerned. But X-Men movies had been coming out for a decade, and this was one of the first comic book film franchises to truly stumble. "X-Men: The Last Stand" was still considered a laughingstock, and the only "Origins" movie was so middling that the planned series had been largely abandoned. Instead, it was up to "X-Men: First Class" to relaunch the series, bringing familiar characters back along with some new ones in a sort of prequel that vaguely connects back to the original trilogy's timeline (calm down, we'll get there). Rebooting a franchise to prove that there is still life in it isn't easy (I'm looking at you, "Amazing Spider-Man" and "Fantastic Four"), so how does "First Class" do?
Since the days of Christopher Reeves as Superman, there's been a pretty consistent standard for comic book movies: Superhero movies are for everyone. That means they need to be kid-friendly, or at least PG-13. Sure, we'll let Tim Burton make a creepy Batman, every Punisher reboot can be an occasional exception, and Chris Nolan can haunt our nightmares with the Joker, but at the end of the day, comic book movies are PG-13. This is because in conventional wisdom, comic book movies are for kids and teenagers and so the movies should be made with those audiences and mind. Oh, and PG-13 is the sweet spot for making the most money, the driving factor behind every blockbuster film.
When I looked at my list of Marvel movies for my next article and saw "The Wolverine", I thought for sure there must be some mistake. After all, I wrote about that Wolverine movie last week! It took a moment to refresh my memory - there was another solo Wolverine film. And it involved Japan somehow. But when did it take place again? Was it after "Origins" but before "X-Men"? Or after "Last Stand"? I have definitely watched this movie before, but couldn't remember almost anything about it except the Japan part. So this week I got a chance to watch it for the first time... again.
Remember after the shaky ending to the X-Men trilogy, when it was announced that there would be a series of movies focused around individual characters in the X-Men Universe? They were going to start with Wolverine, then do Magneto, then maybe branch out to Gambit? Why on Earth didn't that happen? After all, the only thing they needed to do to ensure that this was a good idea was make sure the first "Origins" installment wasn't a total mess.
I'm a pretty forgiving moviegoer. Your dialogue is poorly written? That's okay. Plotholes? No problem. Time travel paradoxes? Whatever. I would rather enjoy a movie, so I give the writers, directors, and actors lots of leeway. I was even more forgiving when I was younger - I'm older now, more mature, and have higher expectations - but I vividly remember walking out of the theater having just seen "X-Men: The Last Man" as a high schooler thinking: "Was that movie... bad?"