Any successful work of science fiction must succeed on two levels. First, it has to be entertaining: Most obviously, it must have enough cool special effects to bring in the kids and the fanboys. But second, it also has to make some interesting or provocative point about some larger issue: That will bring in the adults. That is, a good piece of sci-fi should be thrilling or chilling, and yet, at the same time, it must also be thought-provoking.

And so it is with “X-Men: First Class.” The film is based on a 50-year-old comic, but the SFX are totally 2011. And at the same time, the film brings a sharp eye to present-day issues, most notably the issues of tolerance and quality in a diverse society. Bullying? Intolerance? Prejudice? It’s all there to be noodled on, woven into a tale of mutants stretching from the Holocaust of World War Two to the nuclear fears of the Cold War. And if it’s easy enough to guess where a Hollywood movie comes down on the issue of gay tolerance, the film’s perspective on human evolution might be unnerving to many on the left, as well as the right.

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