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
RECENT AND RELATED