‘X-Men: First Class’: History lessons in superhero cinema?

June 05, 2011 | 3:57 p.m.
jfk and professor x in xmen first class X Men: First Class: History lessons in superhero cinema?

"X-Men: First Class" (20th Century Fox)

Kids used to hide their comic books inside their school textbooks, but these days it feel like history-class homework is being tucked into superhero movies.

X-Men: First Class” uses the Cuban missile crisis and World War II as the major backdrops for its sleek and smart tale of retro-melodrama. In July, “Captain America: The First Avenger” goes into the battlefields of 1940s Europe, although director Joe Johnston already has some superheroes-in-wartime experience with “The Rocketeer,” which featured actors playing Howard Hughes, Clark Gable and W.C. Fields and used some archival footage of Adolf Hitler.

In “First Class,” digital wizardry and editing sprinkles real-life historical figures into the film’s tapestry of superhuman mythology — not unlike Zack Snyder’s Watchmen,” in which masked mystery men shared the screen with Richard Nixon, Elvis Presley, Henry Kissinger, John Lennon and Albert Einstein. John F. Kennedy was in “Watchmen,” too, and he seems to be an especially compelling character for spectacle-film directors — he’ll be back in Michael Bay’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon” this summer.

— Geoff Boucher


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3 Responses to ‘X-Men: First Class’: History lessons in superhero cinema?

  1. eagle1 says:

    Emory University bioethics professor Paul Root Wolpe explores the science and ethics of human genetic mutation and how it applies to the X-Men.

  2. Mike Foughty says:

    I enjoyed the movie very much, but had some problems with numerous historical inaccuracies. The worst was that the Soviets did not deploy a surface fleet during the Cuban missile crisis (they did not have much of one to speak of at that time). They did deploy numerous submarines — which could have folded in nicely with 'Shaw's' submarine as a plot element. The U.S. flagship is shown as BB-61 (USS Iowa) which was in mothballs at the time. Should have used a carrier if the producers wanted a 'big ship.' 1962 male haircuts was also an issue — especially for the 'Soviet general.' Way, way too long. Shaw's hair was too long also and Xavier's was borderline. M-16 rifles were brand new in 1962 and were being used by Special Forces only. Probably okay for the CIA but not for US Navy crewmen. Should have used M-1 carbines instead. Finally, the X-Men aircraft was an SR-71 with a passenger section – the regular version also brand new in 1962 and designed by the Lockheed 'Skunk Works.' Should have used more imagination on this aspect.

  3. Artas says:

    It's was OK to have USS Iowa as the flag ship, since it was a blockade, an aircraft carrier would not really fit there. I mean, no one would put a carrier in a blockade – too risky, the carrier should be 100 km away at least from such a blockade.. Now, the Iowa class BB were used later in the Vietnam war, so it was no error to put one there. My biggest problem was the Kirov class large guided missile cruiser, that was put in the movie – that is such a BS. Those cruisers were commissioned in the 80-ies, not in '62, my gosh, what a huge mistake…

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