"Mutation: it is the key to our evolution. It has enabled us to evolve from a single-celled organism into the dominant species on the planet. This process is slow, and normally taking thousands and thousands of years. But every few hundred millennia, evolution leaps forward."
—Professor Charles Xavier
An adaptation of the X-Men comic book franchise to the silver screen, which pretty much singlehandedly revived superhero movies for the 2000s.It holds to the original premise of the discovery of mutants, humans who possess unusual abilities and superpowers and are feared by the rest of the world. The heroes are the X-Men, a team organized by powerful telepath Charles Xavier who hopes to establish peace between mutants and regular people, with a school dedicated to helping mutants understand and harness their powers for good. Various others oppose them, some militants hoping to kill them and, most prominent, Xavier's former friend Erik Lehnsherr a.k.a. Magneto, who leads a counter-team who are trying to establish complete mutant domination.The original trilogy consists of:
X-Men (2000) - New recruits Wolverine and Rogue join Professor X's mutant team to stop Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutants from using a devastating weapon to decimate humanity.
X2: X-Men United (2003) - The X-Men reluctantly team up with Magneto to rescue Professor X and the students of Xavier's School from Wolverine's old enemy Colonel William Stryker who's fully intent on mutant genocide.
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) - An antibody for the mutant gene has been developed, prompting the X-Men to defend those responsible from Magneto's growing army.
Rather than continuing the series chronologically from there, FOX decided to film a series of spin-offs and prequels. In the case of the latter, the First Class trilogy consists of:
X-Men: First Class (2011) - A prequel depicting a young Xavier, Magneto, Mystique and Beast forming the X-Men in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Magneto is very muscular in the comics, but the slender Ian McKellen was cast because he's one of the finest actors on the planet.
Hugh Jackman is a foot taller than Wolverine in the comics, but his performance has won over the fandom, and it's now difficult to imagine someone else replacing him.
X-Men: Days of Future Past: In the comic books, Bolivar Trask is a taller fellow while Peter Dinklage, who portrays him, has dwarfism. He's an Emmy-winning actor whose performances are frequently met with critical acclaim, and since appearance has very little bearing on the character, nobody has made anything of it.
X-Men: Wolverine talks to Rogue on the train to convince her that she can find a place at Xavier's school.
X-Men: The Last Stand has a similar scene where Wolverine catches Rogue leaving to get the cure and asks her if she's sure that's what she truly wants, and if she's doing it for the right reasons.
X-Men: First Class: The many quiet talks between Charles and Erik about the latter's past and potentials as well as their differing views on human-mutant relations clinch how tragic their fall-out and eventual parting is.
X-Men: Days of Future Past: There are plenty of emotional, character-driven moments (especially with the younger Xavier) in between the spectacular action sequences.
Wolverine is played by the Tall, Dark and Handsome Hugh Jackman, whereas in the comics the character was the butt of jokes about his stocky build and short height. Also, rather than an ill-mannered thug, Wolverine is a James Dean-esque bad boy in the film series.
Inverted with Magneto. While not ugly by any means, he's considerably older than the character in the comics and much less physically imposing. While Magneto was a buff and chiseled in the comics, in the movie his white hair is the result of him being seventy-something years old. Justified, since the movies don't have the comics' sliding timescale or the multiple instances of him being de-aged and re-aged, and had to make him the realistic age of a Holocaust survivor.
This gets rectified when you see Erik in First Class, where his younger self is conventionally handsome.
Quill and Callisto get this in The Last Stand, with the former looking like an actual person rather than a freaky man/porcupine hybrid.
First Class does this to Sebastian Shaw, Darwin, and Riptide. Moreover, Professor X in the comics was never depicted being gorgeous like James McAvoy.
Adaptational Sexuality/Hide Your Lesbians: Mystique was bisexual in the comics and had a lover, Irene Addler/Destiny, who she lived with for over a century and adopted a child with (said child would grow up into Rogue). In the films, Destiny is never mentioned, Mystique isn't quite as old, and so far all her romantic interests have been men.
Adaptation Dye-Job: Professor X in the comics was blond before he lost his hair, but his movie counterpart is a brunet.
Origins: Three Mile Island housed a prison where William Stryker experimented with mutants, and the infamous nuclear incident was caused by one destroying a cooling tower.
First Class: The Cuban Missile Crisis was caused by Sebastian Shaw and the Hellfire Club manipulating the military of both America and the Soviet Union trying to cause the Third World War. Then the proto-X-Men foiled his plans.
Anachronic Order: Ever since The Last Stand made it easier to go with prequels. X-Men Origins: Wolverine preceded all movies, then First Class preceded that (while also following the World War II opening flashback of the first movie), The Wolverine was a sequel to The Last Stand (with the opening being set in WWII as well), and then Days of Future Past acted as a sequel to both The Wolverine and First Class simultaneously due to Time Travel. Apocalypse is set to follow the "past" timeline as well.
Anti-Villain: Magneto honestly believes what he's doing is in mutants' best interest.
The series has a whole collection of offenses. Mutants cannot be called another species, given that they can still interbreed freely with normal humans. Even if you don't have a biology diploma, it ought to be obvious that there could be no universal "cure" that suppressed all the flashy mutations (but not "regular" ones like, say, heterochromia?) on any given mutant without affecting anything else, and certainly not in a matter of seconds.
Incidental dialogue (particularly Pyro during X2) mentions "the X-gene", implying that all modern Mutations (the controversial superpower kind) stem from a single gene that appeared at some point during human history and slowly proliferated until becoming widely apparent in recent years. The Sentinels also have detectors of said gene.
Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: In most of the films, whatever danger the mutants face from humans is resolved not by the X-Men, but by the Brotherhood. In the first film, it's Mystique's impersonation of Senator Kelly that gets the Mutant Registration Act defeated in Congress; in X2, Magneto stops the machine that Stryker's using to kill all the mutants; and in X-Men: First Class, Magneto stops the missiles that the US and Soviet fleets shoot at the mutants. The role of the X-Men in the films is not to protect mutants, but to protect humans from the Brotherhood. It gives a sense of why the Brotherhood might attract recruits.
Magneto is very fond of this one—in X2 he reverses Stryker's machine to target humans rather than mutants, and in First Class he throws the US and Soviet navies' own missiles back at them. Threatening to shoot cops with their own guns in the first X-Men movie may also qualify.
A notable subversion—threatening to use the Mutant Cure against any mutants willing to stand against the Brotherhood in The Last Stand.
One of Charles' most admirable and flawed traits is his excessive need to protect Raven, who doesn't appreciate his coddling in the slightest. By the end of First Class, it has driven a wedge between the two of them, resulting in Raven's choosing to side with Erik and make her own decisions for the first time in her life.
In Days of Future Past, when 1973 Charles sees Mystique again for the first time in 11 years, he caresses her hair and shoulder as a gesture of comfort while telling her that he will keep her safe among other soothing words. When Magneto then points a gun in her direction, Xavier stands in between the barrel and his adopted sister, and Erik later has to use his power to change the bullet's trajectory so that it won't hit Charles in the head. Despite their estrangement, Xavier is willing to die for Raven to save her life.
It's hinted that Peter Maximoff cares a lot about his little sister by the way he holds her while they watch TV.
Xavier shouts this in First Class when Magneto pushes the coin through Sebastian Shaw's forehead and just before he tackles Magneto to the ground to try to stop him from committing mass murder against the American and Soviet fleets. In Days of Future Past, Charles yells this in panic when the guards try to shoot him and his allies in the Pentagon kitchen.
X2: X-Men United: Bobby Drake presents Wolverine to his parents (who think he's been attending a normal prep school) as "Professor Logan." This in itself is borderline, but when the Drakes ask Wolverine what he teaches, he replies tersely, "Art." The trailers for the film played this to maximum effect by intercutting the question and the response with a shot of Logan, claws extended, screaming and leaping towards the camera.
X-Men: First Class: Raven claims that her eye colour change at the pub was an accident, but Charles knows that she did it on purpose, and the audience understands that Raven's motivation for the "slip-up" was jealousy towards Amy.
When confronted by guards in the Pentagon kitchen, Charles attempts to reassure them that he and Logan are important personnel, but one part of his speech is especially unconvincing.
Charles: We are special operations C-B-F-E-C-I-C.
There's a glitch in Logan's Mental Time Travel, resulting in his past self waking up at the worst possible time, in the middle of a botched assassination, surrounded by strange people (some of whom are blue), days after he last remembers anything. Charles briefly tries to explain the situation to him truthfully, before giving up.
Charles: You're on acid. Someone gave you really bad acid.
Rogue's superpower doesn't allow her to touch the ones she loves.
X-Men: The mutations produced by Magneto's machine are fatal.
X2: X-Men United: Jones can change television channels by blinking, but he never sleeps.
The Wolverine: Yukio's only mutant power is foreseeing people's deaths.
X-Men: Days of Future Past: After slipping into a deep depression, the younger Charles views his telepathy as a curse because he can no longer control it. He is unable to shut out the clamour of thoughts that he doesn't want to hear, and this causes a tremendous amount of agony, to the point where he becomes addicted to a serum which numbs his ability, allowing him to sleep at night.
At the age of nine, Xavier believed that he was mentally ill (schizophrenia, most likely) due to the voices in his head, and it took him three whole years to recognize that he was actually telepathic—as dysfunctional as he is in 1973, his childhood experience must have been downright nightmarish in comparison.
Arguable, but the Fantastic Racism-is-bad aesop loses some power when the group being hunted have Superpower Lottery powers that can include almost god-like powers like Jean's Phoenix powers in X3; especially as they try to use it as a metephor for homosexuality and homophobia, but generally gay people don't actually pose any risk to others, at least not naturally. However, it seems mutants are hated and feared regardless of if they're villainous, or even if they have useful powers that could harm others, as seen by the apprehension given towards one mutant who only has a blue tongue and another who can control TV channels by blinking who gets shot and taken by Stryker's soldiers, without any issue with doing so on the soldier's behalf. Generally, the metephor seems to work better when compared to mental illness (some mentally ill people pose a risk to others or themselves, but most are harmless or well-meaning and so shouldn't be treated with fear and loathing), but this isn't what they shoot for.
X-Men: The mansion interior was filmed in Casa Loma, a Toronto landmark.
X2: X-Men United: Hatley Castle in Victoria, British Columbia was used for the exterior and most of the interior of Xavier's school.
X-Men: First Class: Englefield House in Reading, UK serves as the exterior for the Xavier mansion. The small island near Cuba is actually Georgia's Jekyll Island with some palm trees.
X-Men: Days of Future Past: The Paris scenes were actually filmed in Old Montreal, and parts of the Pentagon (like the area where we see visitors touring the building, and when Charles and Logan are walking alone in a basement corridor) are from the Arts Building at McGill University.
Cerebus Retcon: Sort of, since the original incident was pretty dark in itself, but Mystique poisoning Charles in the first movie becomes much more sinister in hindsight when the prequel First Class decided to retcon that the two are adopted brother and sister.
However, it is possible that she and Magneto may have known beforehand that the poison would have been ultimately harmless and have intended to simply keep Charles out of the way of their plan.
Changing of the Guard: The original trilogy and Origins featured Wolverine as the main protagonist, but First Class has Magneto and Professor X as the two lead characters.
"...very early on we made the decision that it was young Charles' arc, and that really the emotional story of the movie is watching him go from the guy who's lost his legs, lost his best friend, lost his sister, and in some ways lost his mind, to a guy who will become the all-powerful, benevolent Professor Xavier. McAvoy is really about as far as one can be from the Patrick Stewart that we know from X1, and we're really watching him take the first big step towards owning that chair and being a leader."
Code Name: Yeah, um, all of them. (Many of the characters have real names, but we haven't listed them. There's a character sheet for that.) Greatest lampshade comes in the first movie when Wolverine asks Xavier:
"Sabretooth? (looks at Ororo) Storm? (looks at Xavier) What do they call you, Wheels?"
First Class has a scene where the younger mutants make up code names for themselves, Charles and Erik.
Cold War: This is the setting for the First Class trilogy. First Class dealt with the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the 1973 portion of Days of Future Past included the Paris Peace Accords (which marked the end of the Vietnam War), and Apocalypse takes place 1983.
Origins and First Class have plenty of inconsistencies for supposed prequels, specially with each other.
To be fair, in Origins and The Last Stand, all supposed inconsistencies can be explained away if they're thought about hard enough or if you really try to make them fit. First Class however has no such luck, to the point of many fans believing that it's a reboot rather than a prequel.
Notably subverted with Mystique—her slow aging process is explained by her mutation's side effect, which is actually close to the explanation given in the comics (that shapeshifting into different people renews her cells to prevent the aging process or some such).
In X2, a human Hank McCoy makes a cameo, but in The Last Stand he's blue and hairy.
Examples in First Class: Charles being crippled in the '60s when he's shown walking in the '80s, Magneto and Charles going their separate way earlier than before, Hank's blue furry form, etc.
In Hank's case, at least, his nigh-obsessive displeasure with his mutant appearance could have led him to create a serum similar to what he did in First Class, so that it at least rendered him temporarily "normal". In fact, this plot point got hit on several times in Last Stand.
Both got a Hand Wave in Days of Future Past through a healing serum that temporarily disguises Beast and fixes Charles' spine (though in the latter's case, negating his telepathy, while he does use it in The Last Stand...).
Even worse is Moira MacTaggert—besides being Scottish in Last Stand and American in First Class, for whatever reason she's hardly aged in 40 years.
Then there's Wolverine's cameo in First Class, which, while funny, depicts Charles and Erik briefly meeting him for the first time in the 1960s, despite the original movie seemingly depicting their encounters in that film as being the first time they have ever met. Though Wolverine not remembering them can be explained away by his memory loss at the end of X-Men Origins, that still doesn't explain why the other two men don't seem to remember him or mention that they have met before.
Except for the fact that they met him for ten seconds and didn't see him again until forty years later, during the events of X1.
First Class might have originally been intended as a case of Canon Discontinuity for the films that didn't involve Bryan Singer (Last Stand and X-Men Origins). However, Days of Future Past has decided to tackle the continuity issues head-on...
Cosmic Retcon/Canon Discontinuity: ...by making the events triggered by Wolverine's Mental Time Travel eventually erase The Last Stand (aside from Kelsey Grammer being the older Beast) and X-Men Origins (the film even features a different William Stryker) from existence.
Emma Frost, who appears in First Class as a grown woman, despite the film being set decades before a much younger girl with a different background but similar powers (minus telepathy) appeared in Origins: Wolverine. The girl was supposed to be Emma Frost, but this was changed at the last minute by the producers and she is not named in the movie, and even the end credits only call her "Emma" (and not "Emma Frost"). While many accused First Class of creating a plot hole, in reality they are two separate characters.
The Silver Samurai in The Wolverine is two separate characters. Harada, Silver Samurai's civilian ID in the comics is a ninja and Mariko's childhood friend, while the actual Silver Samurai is Ichirō Yashida, Mariko's grandfather.
In X-Men, he is poisoned by Mystique and is in a coma for the entire final act.
In X2, he is subjected to illusions by Stryker's conjuring mutant son, and rescuing him is the plot. Not to mention that his powers were used against the X-Men.
In The Last Stand, he is killed by Jean Grey as she succumbs to the Phoenix. Though he apparently survived by transferring his consciousness into a brain-dead man's body....
Averted in First Class, where Xavier is active, but the bad guys have both Emma Frost and a telepathy-blocking helmet to counter him, and he's not as overwhelmingly powerful as in the chronologically-later films.
Dropped a Bridge on Him: Toad in the first film; Cyclops, Xavier, Juggernaut, Callisto, Psylocke, Arclight, and Kid Omega (Quill?) in the third; possibly Fred Dukes in Origins.
Enemy Mine: X2 has the X-Men teaming up with Magneto and Mystique because of a greater threat to mutant kind, Origins has Logan and Victor teaming up to fight Weapon XI and First Class has the USSR and the US uniting against the "mutant threat."
Face-Heel Turn: Pyro in X2, though even when he was with the heroes he was at best a jerk and at his worst clearly a sociopath.
Fanservice: Mystique (particularly a leg take from below in X2), some shots of the women, and the Lingerie Scene and Mystique's chest view both in First Class. Actually, all of the women in First Class (Mystique, Angel, Emma and Moira) get at least one scene where they're wearing little or nothing; for Emma and Angel it's most of their scenes. It's a little glaring.
For fans of the male form, Origins features Hugh Jackman's naked tush, Gambit's incredible handsomeness, Ryan Reynolds' arms and Liev Schrieber's ripped abs.
The attempts by non mutants to find a cure for mutants in the films and the mutants that are ashamed of their abilities leans more towards a Gay Aesop. This parallel has been explicitly stated to have interested Ian McKellan and X-Men/X2 director Bryan Singer, both openly gay, in the franchise.
X-Men: First Class: Charles Xavier believed that he could help the emotionally damaged Erik Lehnsherr find some measure of peace and happiness by offering the latter friendship and a home, but Erik repays Charles' kindness with betrayal, abandonment, and a permanent (if accidental) spinal cord injury.
X-Men: Days of Future Past: '70s Magneto's sole contribution to the venture is to derail things the moment he sees a chance to advance his cause at the expense of everyone else. As the endings of First Class and X2 show, this is something of a habit for him.
Fire/Water Juxtaposition: Used thematically to set up Iceman's rivalry with Pyro (which is much tighter than the two's relationship in the comics). Their battle in The Last Stand is pretty much the logical extreme.
Four-Temperament Ensemble in First Class: Xavier (leukine), Havok (choleric), Beast (melancholic), Mystique (phlegmatic), and Banshee (sanguine).
Considering that Charles Xavier's and Erik Lehnsherr's friendship only lasted a few months in X-Men: First Class, it was unusually intimate on an emotional level.
Played straight in X-Men: Days of Future Past with the elderly Magneto and Professor X (the moment where they're holding hands is the closest that we've seen them since First Class), but averted with their younger selves. In 1973, Charles never once calls Erik "friend" (although Erik uses the endearment twice), which goes to show how broken their relationship is.
Hank and Charles are each other's Only Friend in between 1963 and 1973, so it's inevitable that they would develop a very close bond. There are moments of non-verbal (and non-telepathic) communication between the two men, like when Xavier gently taps Beast on the chest after he mutters to Logan, "I think I'd like to wake up now." McCoy immediately understands that the gesture means, "You can calm down now, our visitor is not a threat," and he reverts back to his human form.
Hollywood Evolution: In this universe, the concept of evolution is, some people develop a random super(natural) power when they hit puberty.
Humans Are the Real Monsters: Played with as a motif for the series. The humans for the most part are shown to be intolerant and hateful of mutants (with some like Col. Stryker going that extra mile to make things a living hell for mutants), wishing they could eradicate their kind, while mutants themselves don't want to harm anyone and just live peacefully among humans. Professor X tries to bridge this gap and be a goodwill ambassador on behalf of mutantkind, hoping humanity will lower their guard and learn tolerance while Magneto loathes humanity and wants mutants to use their higher abilities to step over these hateful beings and become the one true inheritor of the planet. However, his methods are often excessive and definitely give good pause to humankind's fear and shunning of mutants, so he's not helping his case. And of course, there are those mutants like Sebastian Shaw who genuinely are evil and destructive, caring not for humans or even fellow mutants (regardless of what rhetoric they try to convey).
I Am Very British: X-Men: First Class attempts to explain why Xavier (who is American in the comics) has a Received Pronunciation accent. He is half-British, half-American (or alternately, he's fully British, but his family moved to the United States before World War II broke out in 1939), and his speech pattern was influenced by his posh English mother. It was later reinforced when he studied at the University of Oxford.
I Just Want to Be Normal: Rogue. In a deleted scene from the first movie, she asks if Xavier can "cure" her. She takes the cure to become human in the third film.
Idiot Ball: Madrox didn't need to sacrifice himself to the military when his dupes could have fought them off while Madrox Prime escaped.
That's not how his power works. If one Madrox goes down, they all go down.
In Name Only: While deviations are to be expected in adaptations, certain characters (especially in The Last Stand) are absolutely nothing like their comic book counterparts. Callisto, Kid Omega, Psylocke, Agent Zero, and Deadpool are among the most drastic examples.
First Class does little better. While at least keeping the powers of most of the cast and a few elements of their personality, most of the mutants bare little resemblance to their comic counterparts. Havocnote Scott's younger brother in the comics, here depicted too old for that to be possible, and a Jerk Jock soldier, Angel Salvadorenote A troubled-though-well meaning Hispanic 14-year-old mother in the comics, here a much older Ambiguously Brown stripper who turns evil , Azazel note A half-demon immortal warlord trapped in another dimension with a handful of powers, here an evil Renegade Russian Nightcrawler reskin , and even Mystiquenote A sociopathic, Morally Myopic, bisexual Dark Action Girl and frequent leader of various Brotherhood of Mutants teams, here Xavier's troubled sister who struggles with self esteem issues thanks to her powers , despite being in the previous movies, are probably the best examples.
InformedFantastic Racism: Government-related parts aside (that being a common thing for the superhero genre) it honestly feels like the movies spend more time talking about how much normal humans hate and fear mutants than actually showing it. This is somewhat remedied in "Last Stand," but still nothing like the comics.
Kill All Humans: In the second movie, Stryker wants to Kill All Mutants, then Magneto changes plans to Kill All Humans. In First Class, Shaw plots the extinction of humans so that mutants can replace them as the dominant species.
Lampshade Hanging: Wolverine gets a lot of screen time, just like in the comics. Magneto likes to point this out in every movie: "Once again, you think it's all about you."
Erik has a brooding guitar theme. If you've made an enemy of him and it kicks in, things are about to get unpleasant for you.
When listening to the complete score on the Blu-Ray release, Charles is associated with a simple orchestral violin melody which gradually evolves into the X-Men: First Class theme. This makes perfect sense because he's the leader of the group. "Rage and Serenity" is actually a combination of Charles' and Erik's themes.
Raven's scenes are usually accompanied by a piano tune.
Schmidt/Shaw plays a record of Edith Piaf singing La vie en rose as an establishing motif in 1944 and 1962.
Radio host: We talked about Xavier's theme which almost acts as the central theme for the film because his story is so important, and it hovers around him. Since the film is about hope, and his character is about hope and rediscovering his hope, kind of a lost soul, where did you really draw the music from [...]?
John Ottman: [...] I knew what the character's challenge was, what the film was about, so I tried to create a piece of music or a theme that could play both sides, sort of despondent and tortured, but also be designed so that it can be hopeful as it evolves later in the movie. I started sketching on an electric piano, and it sounded so cool and vintage [...]. Early in the movie, when it's just very subtly underscoring him, it's a lot of electric piano within the strings.
John Ottman: Magneto's theme is a very simple "baauum baaaaw." That's basically it, it's so simple you can identify with it and feel it. [...] When he does his stuff at the end and you hear that big sound, it's bigger than it ever was before, and it ties things together.
X-Men: First Class: Charles cites this when Raven, feeling insecure about her looks, asks if he would date her... although it falls a little flat coming right after he's answered the question with "of course" in reference to her human form, before she clarifies that she means in her real form. (Charles is being a bit obvious in invoking the trope as the film establishes that she is indeed his adopted sister.)
X-Men: Days of Future Past: Lampshaded by the older Professor X when he mentions that Mystique was like a sister to him. It's later alluded to when a nurse wonders if the blue, scaly woman at the Paris Peace Accords has a family, and Raven replies, "Yes, she does."
Like Cannot Cut Like: Adamantium blades, such as Wolverine vs. Lady Deathstrike and Wolverine vs. Deadpool.
Averted with Mystique, who does all her shapeshifting nude and forms the clothing of her disguises with her body.
Played straight with Wolverine as Phoenix's attacks destroy all the rest of his clothes, as well as skin and muscle, but his pants remain. The same thing happens in The Wolverine when he shields Ichiro after the atomic bomb is dropped.
Make Me Wanna Shout: An Xavier student in X2 (implied to be Siryn), and Banshee (who is Siryn's father in the comics) in First Class.
In First Class, it's Jennifer Lawrence. But when Magneto says he might sleep with her "in a few years," she briefly becomes Romijn.
Meaningful Echo: Between two movies, highlighting the difference between the Xavier School and Magneto's views on mutants. In a deleted scene from the first movie, Bobby asks Rogue her name, she says "Rogue," and he says "What's your real name?" She tells him "Marie." Then in X2, on the plane, Magneto has a conversation with Pyro:
Magneto: What's your name? Pyro: John. Magneto: What's your real name, John? Pyro: Pyro.
Monumental Damage: The Statue of Liberty in the original, Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island in The Last Stand, Three Mile Island in X-Men Origins, and both RFK Stadium and the White House in Days of Future Past.
Movie Superheroes Wear Black: Producer Tom DeSanto thought about the original costumes, but eventually decided they would look silly and changed to leather ones (something Stan Lee and Chris Claremont approved). Lauren Shuler Donner added that the costumes helped the X-Men "blend into the night."
In First Class however, the 1960s founding members of the team wear blue and yellow costumes similar to their first appearance in the '60s comics.
Mythology Gag: Wolverine complains about the costumes. Cyclops: "What would you prefer, yellow Spandex?" Then in First Class, the uniforms are yellow and blue bodysuits, and the reaction of one character is "Do we really have to wear these?"
The explanation for how Rogue acquired the signature strands of white hair
Allusions to Wolverine's past
The way Mystique approaches Wolverine disguised as Storm– and how he identified her– is very similar to a scene from The Dark Phoenix Saga, where a Skrull named Raksor, also impersonating Storm, tried the same trick on Logan, with a similar result.
In the second, there is a brief exchange between Nightcrawler and Mystique who are mother and son in the comics.
In First Class, the helmet Erik seizes from Shaw and the repainted version in the final scene of the film resemble his helmet in the comics much more than the helmet worn by Ian McKellen, Banshee's wings are striped only to resemble the comics counterpart, and given that the movie is set in 1962, Xavier opened his school the following year... when the actual comic first debuted in 1963.
In the second film, Magneto says "When will these people learn to fly?", referring to the fact that some of the X-men can fly in the comics.
Nice Guy: Professor X opens his heart and his home to mutants who feel persecuted by the outside world.
Logan: There's not many people that will understand what you're going through, but I think this guy Xavier is one of them. He seems to genuinely want to help you, and that's a rare thing for people like us.
Gambit doesn't sound remotely Cajun (in fact, he almost sounds like he's from Texas).
Somewhat justified in Gambit's case, as Louisiana and Texas, being right next to each other, share a significant degree of dialect between them.
While Halle Berry attempts some sort of accent in the first film, by the third she's not even trying anymore.
Same with Anna Paquin and Rogue, who has a slight Mississippi accent in the first movie which disappears in the sequels. Somewhat justified with Rogue as she's a teenager and growing to fit in with her classmates.
The North Albertan bartender in X-Men Origins: Wolverine seems to be from Tennessee for some reason.
First Class de-accentizes Banshee and Moira (though the latter goes from Scottish to American).
Basically, if you're not Nightcrawler, you WILL lose your trademark speech pattern in the movieverse. (However, it's less glaring than you think in some cases—in the original comics, after being taught English telepathically, the X-Men are noted on-panel to have no accents. It's just that we hear that once ever, characters' talk is positively filled with random words from their own languages, and every adaptation ever keeps the accent.)
Also based on Mystique's origins in First Class, she probably should have gained a British accent after spending 20 years there but has none. It's kind of funny how even though they're not related British Charles's "sister" sounds completely American.
The Xaviers lived in Westchester, New York when they took in Mystique. Charles has the accent because him and his parents are British. He and Mystique only moved back there in their late teens/early twenties so he could attend Oxford.
Novelization: The second and third films have novelizations by Chris Claremont; the one for the third film shows a lot more of what's going on in Jean's head than the movie is able to, appropriate from the man who wrote the Dark Phoenix Saga.
Near the beginning of First Class, Raven points out to Charles that she is his only friend. Presumably an affable fellow like Xavier would have numerous acquaintances, but his sister figure is only person he fully trusts.
Charles becomes this to Erik in First Class.
In Days of Future Past, after Past Charles isolates himself from the outside world due to his severe depression, Hank becomes his sole companion. Hank also doesn't seem to have a social circle, as he has taken it upon himself to be Charles' caretaker, which appears to be something of a full-time job.
It's somewhat unavoidably noticeable if he was speaking German the moment before and he's meant to be from the Eastern bloc.
Handwaveable with Magneto as he's spent years living all over Europe and learned at least four whole languages (Polish, German, French and English). It's quite possible he spent some time in the Emerald Isle and picked up a few tics.
James McAvoy's English accent is very good, but he reverts to his native Scottish whenever he shouts or cries.
The English Nicholas Hoult's American accent is consistent, but he frequently messes up on the word "professor."
Opposed Mentors: Pyro in the second X-Men movie had the choice between Magneto or Xavier. This is often the case with some characters in the comics too.
"At the beginning of the film, Charles is medicating, and very possibly on hallucinogens, so we had that come through in his shirt. As he pulls himself together, he wears a nice blue oxford like all good, put-together men—a progression from that psychedelic Cat Stevens-wear."
Patrick Stewart Speech: (what did you expect?) First and second films. The DVD of the third shows it would also have it.
X-Men: Professor X briefly takes control of Toad and Sabretooth.
X-Men: Days of Future Past: Xavier possesses various people around Mystique at the airport to talk to her in a casual display of how creepy his power can be when he gets creative. At the end, he also controls Magneto when Mystique knocks the latter's helmet off to free himself from the metal debris that fell on him earlier.
Bobby Drake's dainty facial features quickly communicate to the audience that he's a good-hearted person. This is especially true in the first movie, where he was only a minor character, but viewers were able to tell right away that "the cute guy" is sincere when trying to befriend Rogue. Moroever, being forced to abandon his family in the second film is more painful when his expression is very much like a puppy dog who has just been kicked.
X-Men: First Class: Appearance-wise, Dr. Charles Xavier is strongly defined by his boyish appearance: he has a soft, round face, baby blue eyes, reddish lips (the colour is so deep at times that it almost looks like he's wearing lipstick), and is of shorter-than-average height. It's symbolic of his sensitive, nice guy qualities. Erik even calls him "adorable" when Charles tries the Cerebro machine for the first time.
X-Men: Wolverine keeps his vow to Rogue by nearly dying trying to save her life in the climax.
Logan: I'll take care of you. Rogue: You promise? Logan: Yeah, I promise.
X-Men: First Class: Charles managed to uphold his promise not to use his telepathy on Raven for 18 years until the shock and pain of a bullet in his spine became too much for him to bear, compromising his concentration.
Raven: You promised me you would never read my mind. Charles: I know. I promised you a great many things, I'm afraid. I'm sorry.
Logan: Whatever happens today, I need you to promise me something. [...] The X-Men, promise me you'll find us. Use your power, bring us together. Guide us, lead us. [...]
1973 Charles: I'll... do my best.
Logan: It's good to see you, Charles. It's good to see everyone.
Professor X: (smiles warmly) Well, I had a promise to keep.
Psychic Radar: It's X-Men with Professor X. This was going to come up. Cerebro provides him with a massive boost, allowing him to mentally trace people all over the world. He knows as soon as he scans the school that Rogue has up and run away, too.
Now subverted in Days of Future Past, where Trask has been retconned as a different person altogether.
In First Class, both Banshee and Moira MacTaggert (Irish and Scottish respectively) are changed into Americans.
Blink is played by Chinese actress Fan Bingbing in Days of Future Past.
Radiation Immune Mutants: Mutants are naturally immune to radiation, which makes Magneto's mutation device harmless to them (but lethal to humans) and it's part of Shaw's plan in First Class, since mutants would live just fine despite an atomic war's fallout.
Ret Canon: The movies inspired a number of elements that made their way into the comics and the various cartoons:
During Grant Morrison's run, the X-Men adopted black leather outfits in order to better match their movie counterparts. This lasted up until Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men run, where the team started wearing colorful outfits again in order to seem less threatening.
For a time, Mystique adopted her scaled, reptilian appearance from the comics.
The depiction of the Xavier Institute as an actual school for mutants was also taken from the first movie. Prior to that, the school aspect was just a cover, and the only real "students" were the X-Men themselves.
Retcon: At least one character per movie: Sabretooth, Lady Deathstrike, Juggernaut and Deadpool.
Considering the way the movies have changed around some of the comic book characters' generations, there's likely to be more in the future if more movies are going to be made based somewhat on the comics.
First Class retcons certain elements of The Last Stand, notably the fact that Charles and Erik were still shown to be working together while middle-aged during the flashback sequences in the latter film.
Most (if not all) fans expected the young Professor X to be bald in First Class, but the studio wanted James McAvoy to keep his hair in order to retain the actor's sex appeal.
James McAvoy: I had showed up on the first day of X-Men: First Class, and I had shaved my head because I wanted to check what it looked like about a month before we started shooting—and it looked quite good—and they were like, "No, no, no, no, we want you to have long hair."
In the March 2014 issue of Empire magazine, the actor states that he was more than willing to get rid of his luxurious locks for Days of Future Past, but once again the producers nixed the idea.
James McAvoy: I wanted to go bald in this one, [...] but they didn't go for it. I was gutted.
In X-Men 2, she seduces a guard by taking the form of a hot blonde so she can use him in Magneto's escape from prison. She later uses it on Logan by trying to seduce him in the form of Jean Grey. Logan catches her, and she goes through several other forms, including Storm and even Rogue, but he tells her to leave.
In X-Men: First Class, she upgrades her age about 15 years to please Magneto, which doesn't really work for her until Magneto tells her he prefers her without the shapeshifted appearance.
Charles Xavier in X-Men: First Class and in his elderly years is always well-dressed as befitting a professor and principal. Costume designer Louise Mingenbach refers to Professor X as "Mr. Fancy Pants" in the "United Colors of X" featurette on the X2: X-Men United DVD, and Sammy Sheldon has stated in the "Suiting Up" documentary on the First Class Blu-Ray that she made Charles' attire as stylish as she could while keeping him "honest, real, studious."
Almost everyone in First Class, with Azazel and Riptide standing out the most.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine took this to an extreme, much to the delight of Hugh Jackman fangirls. During a dramatic escape scene, not only does he erupt from a tank of water completely shirtless (and indeed naked, muscles + dripping water...), but he then proceeds to escape, running and fighting his way out of the building. Viewers get a lovable full-body shot (in which censorship is barely provided by his leg from a mostly-side-shot) when he jumps off a waterfall.
Smart People Play Chess: Xavier and Magneto in the first film, First Class and Days of Future Past, less obviously in the second movie when Magneto's in his plastic prison, and alluded to again in the third at the end where Erik is at a park with a chess board...
The chess motif is also there to establish the attitudes of both men as The Chessmaster.
Spandex, Latex, or Leather: Black leather. First Class has them wear spandexy-Kevlar and denim (modelled after real life battle fatigues), and DOFP has kevlar plates mixed with spandex and regular pants.
Spoiled Sweet: Charles Xavier is filthy rich and he is a gentle, caring person. Certainly the most altruistic character in the franchise.
Sean Cassidy: (in awe of Xavier's mansion) This is yours. Charles Xavier: (smiles) No, it's ours.
Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Wolverine. He's the main character of the first three movies even though he is central to the plots of none of them. See where he and ostensible team leader Cyclops are on the page image.
Cyclops. Double points for being killed by his lover! Triple points for being a rare male example!
In Origins, Temporary Love Interest Kayla. Then subverted when we learn her death was faked and Stryker was specifically invoking this so Logan would agree to join the Weapon X program, and double subverted when she is Stuffed into the Fridgefor real. Also, the old couple who help Logan and are killed by Agent Zero, and arguably John Wraith when he is killed by Victor.
Alluded to by Stryker in X2, and the intro to Origins.
Mystique rescues several mutant soldiers stationed in Saigon in Days of Future Past.
What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: As with the comics, as mutant powers are seemingly random, some students at the school have powers are rather... unthreatening, though these characters are pushed to the background because, frankly, people don't want to watch a film about characters who's 'power' is 'being mute and having a lizard tongue'. It helps to humanize mutants as a whole, as it shows that, while some mutants are fairly dangerous and so it makes sense to be weary, they're just as likely to be harmless, and so hunting them down and treating mutants as a whole as inherently dangerous beings is rather unfair. Because of this, mutants are fairly similar to people with mental and social disorders, who're similarly just as likely to be harmless and/or benevolent despite their condition, despite being perceived as dangerous by nature.
Waistcoat of Style: Professor X frequently wears one with his elegant suits, and it adds a little extra flair to his aura of academic professionalism while also being an indicator of his upper-class status.
Wolverine Publicity: Wolverine is one of only two characters to appear in every film (the other is Xavier, but he's played by two different actors). One occasion was a cameo (First Class), while others were whole movies about him (XMOW and The Wolverine).
World War II: The first film begins with a flashback as Jews are being herded into a concentration camp. X-Men Origins: Wolverine has an even shorter one in the opening credits. First Class has an extended version of the concentration camp scene from the first film. The Wolverine opens in a prison camp in Nagasaki minutes before the second atomic bomb is dropped.