Three years ago, Kick-Ass director Matthew Vaughn reinvigorated the Marvel franchise with the clever historical revisionism of 2011’s X-Men: First Class, which boasted a superb new cast, cool retro style, globetrotting intrigue, and a refreshing emphasis on character. Bryan Singer, the series’ original creator on board as director for the first time since 2003’s X2: X-Men United, confidently carries that same momentum, combining the gravitas of the early films with the playfulness of Vaughn’s follow-up. Making for exceptional pacing and relentless drive, Singer pulls together an ambitious, suspenseful film and secures a future for the franchise at the same time he continues to reinvent it.
The X-Men series has always been somewhat unique among its kind because it wears its allegorical heart on its sleeve. By chronicling the adventures of a despised minority, it pokes around some interesting social and political issues. The theme of ostracized, oppressed outsiders empowered to fight against their social stigma in ways both good and evil runs throughout the seven films to date. The central conflict is the endless moral argument between Professor X and Magneto, between the idea that mutants should fight for the redemption of mankind and the insistence that they should defend themselves by any means necessary. This time around, their misunderstood humanity is amplified by extreme physical vulnerability, their struggle framed by a genocidal battle in the near future.