Did It Make The Grade? X-Men: First Class Review
By otakuman5000 On 4 Jun, 2011 At 05:52 PM | Categorized As Featured, Movie News, Reviews | With 2 Comments

No GravatarDoes X-Men: First Class pass or fail?

Both, depending on how you look at it…

X-Men: First Class is a massively successful and entertaining superhero film, trumped only by its monumental failure as a prequel.

DO NOT go into this movie thinking that it’s a prequel.  The movie posters, trailers, and promos would all have you believe that this is where the X-Men trilogy started.  Do not believe the hype.  First Class seems to have a bit of an identity crisis, not sure whether it wants to be a franchise reboot or a prequel.  There are so many continuity errors that it seems impossible to think that the film was intended as a prequel, but for every one of these blatant errors, there’s a line of dialogue, visual cue, or cameo that suggests otherwise.  Trust me, forget about the original trilogy, go in with an open mind, and you’ll be blown away.

The core of the movie is about Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto (“Master of Magnet”), Charles Xavier (Prof. X), the development of their friendship, and the events that will inevitably turn them into nemesises… nemesi?  Nemeses.  Michael Fassbender (300, Inglorious Bastards) and James McAvoy (Wanted, The Chronic-What-cles of Narnia) carry the weight of the film on their capable shoulders, but it’s Fassbender who really shines.  I’ve liked him in everything I have seen him in, but his layered performance as Erik Lehnsherr propelled him onto a new level for me.  If Matthew Vaughn and Michael Fassbender got back together for a Magneto spin-off, I would be all in.  Speaking of Matthew Vaughn, (who got his superhero training while directing KICK-ASS) he does some great things here to revitalize the X franchise.  After the great X films directed by Bryan Singer, the let down that was Bret Rattner’s X3, and the epic failure that was Wolverine, the franchise needed a fresh injection of creative talent and artistic vision.  I am happy to report that Matthew Vaughn brings both to the table.  The movie is shot with style and energy and Vaughn just seems to “get it” when it comes to comic book source material.  A sequence with Magneto in Argentina and a split screen training montage being a couple of the standout scenes in a movie filled with awesome moments.  I would go so far as to say that First Class outclasses all of the other X-Men movies that came before (chronologically after).  I hope the positive buzz and almost assured box office success generate more X-Men movies from Vaughn and co. Let’s hope they get progressively better instead of worse, this time around.

Magneto, Moira MacTaggert, Emma Frost, Azazel, Beast, Havok, Angel, Mystique, and Mr. Tumnus

 

The performances from the rest of the cast are a mixed bag.  This is mostly due to the D-list X-men characters that were adapted for the movie.  Characters like Tempest (Angel in the film) and Riptide just aren’t that deep, and they are not on the screen for enough time to warrant an explanation of their power-sets and backgrounds.  The actors just do not have that much to work with.  The characters you do know, such as Beast, Emma Frost, and fan-favorite Havok are all well represented and are given enough screen time to hit some iconic poses.  Beast fares particularly well and delivers an interesting character arc and some excellent fight work.  Much of this is due to Nicholas Hoult (the kid from About a Boy, all grown up) and his performance which combines just the right amount of Hank McCoy’s bookworm side and the more primal facets of the Beast.  One character that surprised me was Banshee, played by Caleb Landry Jones, who I never really liked in the comics but completely warmed up to during the film.  Most importantly, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender proved to be absolutely perfect casting choices.

"Die, X-Chicken!"

The same way that The Dark Knight was a crime drama with more in common with Heat than Superman,  First Class is more of a spy caper that happens to take place in the X-Men universe.  It’s set against the backdrop of the 60’s and the Cuban Missile Crisis, but handles the “What If” alternate history routine better than Watchmen did, and it feels natural to see these characters in that time period.  Great set design and costumes help sell the 60’s vibe and the movie looks polished overall.  The visual effects, both practical and digital, are a little hit and miss but it’s easy to forgive when what’s happening on screen is so engrossing.  A lot of the visuals looked great on the big screen, but that’s not the reason I would recommend seeing First Class in the theater.  The sound design simply cannot be reproduced at home when the movie gets released on Bluray.  You can actually feel the movie theater shake when Magneto uses his abilities.

The movie’s epic run-time of 2 hours and 12 minutes, is actually deserved.  It will strain your butt & bladder, but it’s worth it.  I can’t really think of anything that could have been cut, as everything shown served the story and pushed the characters towards the inevitable final standoff.  Finally, a final showdown in a comic book movie that’s as good as what we’re used to seeing on the printed page.  The action packed finale is well choreographed, interestingly shot, and paced to showcase everyone’s abilities.  I’ve found most superhero movies that start with a bang unable to properly carry the momentum through the end of the final fight (e.g., Batman tackling Two-Face, Iron Man and War Machine high fiving to beat Whiplash, Superman helping Lex Luthor move an island into space, and don’t even get me started on optic blast heated Wolverine claws cutting off a mouth-less Deadpool’s head which proceed to shoot eye-beams as it spirals and plummets into a nuclear reactor).  Thankfully,  First Class bucks the trend and gives us a great fight and ends with a BAMF… I mean bang.

Recommendati0n: It’s 0n.  It’s worth checking out on the big screen, just remember to watch it as a reboot and not a prequel.

The more you know: Don’t sit through the credits, there’s no secret scene at the end.  No Nick Fury, no Deadpool, nothin’.

Director Matthew Vaughn was originally attached to direct X3: The Last Stand.

The script for First Class borrows from the story for X-Men Origins: Magneto.  That film was scrapped by Fox (probably after the universally panned X-Men Origins: Wolverine) and was instead adapted to tell the story of the birth of the X-Men and not just Magneto.

Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy are no strangers to comic book movie adaptations.  Fassbender was in 300 and Jonah Hex, while McAvoy was in Wanted.

Patrick Stewart is surprisingly cool with the new Professor on the block, even though McAvoy's success guarantees that Stewart will never reprise his role as Xavier…

 

Moments later.

 

 

About - I am a 44 year old Gamer/Geek/Otaku who has been gaming and watching anime since the late 1970's. I am a passionate otaku who loves all types of games, anime and comics. I have been writing about games since I was a young man. I am an entertainment retail expert and an avid game collector. You can always find me playing or watching something geek related.

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  1. roninbearNo Gravatar says:

    super review! My roommate went and saw this Friday while I was otherwise involved in somthing else, looks like I’ll be making the trip with him when he goes for round 2!

  2. ferrydustNo Gravatar says:

    That was an excellent review 🙂 Much agreed with it. Also, Beast was the About A Boy!?

  3. EGDevlinNo Gravatar says:

    Oh man I wish I could go see this! But I walnt be THAT person sitting in the theater with a screaming baby:) I look forward to netflixing it eventually though!

  4. Excellent write up. I look forward to more of your reviews .:.

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