How will 'Man of Steel' measure up?
'X-Men: First Class' (2011)
Following Brett Ratner's disappointing "X-Men: The Last Stand" (not to mention 2009's critically-panned "X-Men Origins: Wolverine"), the blockbuster comic-book franchise was in desperate need of saving. Enter Matthew Vaughn and screenwriters Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, and Jane Goldman, who with "X-Men: First Class" managed to go "back to basics" with a compelling origin story given extra heft thanks to superb performances by Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy as a young Magneto and Professor X, respectively. The supporting cast is mostly solid too, as are Vaughn's kineticallly-staged action sequences and the stylish effects work (ditto the evocative retro stylings of production designer Chris Seagers). While it didn't rewrite the superhero rulebook by any stretch, "First Class" injected new life into an ailing series, and that's a pretty major feat. With original director Bryan Singer back in the fold for next year's "Days of Future Past," the future is looking very bright indeed.
- Chris Eggertsen