1. The Quality of a Film Isn't All That Matters (Though it Should Be)
It is (sadly) the case with comic book movies in particular that the actual quality of the film - as a standalone work of artistic expression - is a diminishing topic in the public discourse surrounding the film. Thanks to the nature of the comic book medium and its fanbase, questions of continuity, interpretation, casting choices, creative liberties and/or changes and even studio ownership are now debated long and hard before someone even asks the question, "Does this film tell a complete story in an engaging, interesting and/or fun way?"
Some fans have already claimed that X-Men: First Class is a fantastic superhero summer action blockbuster...it's just not a good "X-Men" movie. That's a debate for the comment section, for sure, but I do know this: In my understanding, it has always been the job of a filmmaker and his/her crew to convey a story that is complete and well-told. A movie is meant to stand on its own two legs and hold itself up effectively. I had serious problems with Iron Man 2 over this exact issue.
IM2 might've "honored" the source material and kept the continuity of the first film intact - but as a standalone feature film I still view it as failure. Instead of a self-contained, cohesive narrative, IM2 was a "bridge-piece" meant to foster the larger Marvel Movie universe, thereby compromising basic narrative flow and logic in the process.
[caption id="attachment_60471" align="aligncenter" width="570" caption=""People say that I am a proper comic book movie.""][/caption]
If you can't tell from my phrasing, I can see how the opposing case could be made for X-Men: First Class: a film that breaks from source material and continuity, but is able to stand firm on its own as a self-contained story about hope, prejudice, friendship, betrayal, politics and personal values. It's too bad that all that other stuff got in the way, because a good film should be able to be appreciated for what it is, on its own - independent of where and how it fits into the larger scheme of things.
Franchise movie making is great, as is the idea of large cinematic universes; however, as The Matrix and Pirates of the Caribbean franchises have proven with their respective sequels, few people walk away from a two-plus-hour film pleased with only half a story having been told - no matter how many great setups and Easter eggs get planted. For my money, I'd much rather get a complete and fulfilling X-Men experience, rather than a film that has to bend, twist and compromise itself for the sake of comic book fidelity or movie continuity - especially when the films it's trying to fit itself with are X-Men: The Last Stand and Wolverine. But that's just me.
X-Men: First Class has another week for positive word a mouth to bring it some extra box office cash (the only big opening this week is J.J. Abrams' mysterious (too mysterious?) Super 8) - after that, Green Lantern will smash into theaters and capture the attention of the superhero movie crowd (and probably a much wider audience than that). When that happens, First Class will be all but dead in the water (at least in the U.S.).
The future of the X-Men movie franchise is unclear right now. Will Matthew Vaughn be back for an X-Men: First Class sequel? One that perhaps steers the franchise back into more familiar waters? Or will FOX move ahead with plans for X-Men 4 & X-Men 5, bringing the franchise back to the modern era and continuity established in the original trilogy?
I'm sure we'll know more details very soon - in the meantime, debate all the hype, hoopla, and quality of X-Men: First Class in the comment section below.