It all started very simply. It wasn’t in Paris, Milan, or even New York, and I wasn’t a plucky young woman looking for love and laughter, independence and attention. No, I was younger. Six. Five even. It was one of those rare occasions that found me inside, hiding from the scorching sun. The sun that made me burn red, brushed my hair with white fire, and left me thirsty and itchy. So there I was, plunked on the floor, leaning on an obliging dog, scratching at bug bites surreptitiously so my mom wouldn’t catch me. It was a Saturday morning, and my brother and sister fought for the couch and the remote. Saturday morning cartoons. The good ones designed for older kids. I’d given up most cartoons a few years earlier, dismissing them as something for babies. I nearly abandoned my comfy seat for the companionship of a book, a flashlight, and a sheet fort in the bedroom I shared with my sister. But then the credits rolled, and I stayed.
That’s when I fell in love. I fell in love with the X-Men. I didn’t know a cartoon could be so cool. For weeks I played geneticist, trying to magically change my molecular structure by mixing strange concoctions of smashed peaches, rose petals, and soda before chickening out, pouring them out on the ground, and deciding the path to becoming a mutant was to concentrate so hard that my genes simply had to mutate. Sentinels and spandex altered my vision and made me want to be a super hero. And even though somewhere in the back of my knotted, little head I knew that was something I couldn’t do, I was still determined to practice for it.
I liked Gambit the best. There’s something wrong with a kid whose first crush was a cartoon. Especially one who talks about himself in the third person, is a serial flirt, and has some kind of a mix between a mullet and a high top. But that’s unrelated.
This weekend, I remembered my love for the X-Men. Although there was no Gambit involved, much to my chagrin (although the guy who plays him ain’t Gambit), the new movie blew me away. There was action, romance, teenage angst, and an insanely good-looking young Magneto, who is, by the way, the best-constructed villain ever. Not to mention James McAvoy, who could run me over with a truck, and I’d still think he’s sexy. But it wasn’t all the sex appeal or the inside jokes that really made me love this movie. It’s the way they wove in history. World War II. The Cold War. I can’t explain how great that was for a nerdy little person like me. And I know I wasn’t the only one in the theater, wetting myself with excitement.
The characters, the pacing, the pseudoscience all brought me back to a time when I was five or six, curled up inside on a hot summer morning, and that, my friends, is what makes a franchise film worth watching.