Movie Review – X-Men: First Class

If you have never been to a midnight showing of a movie, you are missing out on a rather unique experience.  While you could be doing better things like sleeping or socializing at a bar, I rather enjoy the midnight movie viewings.  I have been to Star Wars showings, almost every major tent pole comic book movie and the Star Trek midnight showing.  Now I am aware that the list I have just given is a big red flag for my general nerdiness, but fuck it.  Being in a theater full of like-minded individuals, getting to partake in a cinematic experience is really this one of a kind of feeling.  The anticipation, the hype, the geek aura that permeates the theater (that could be the general hygiene of the crowd), that is what I felt when getting to take part in the midnight showing of X-Men First Class.

With a hotly anticipated movie, a beginning to all things X-Men and a chance to redeem the series that went wayward in the third movie, does First Class find a way to tie the mythos of the X-Men series together or (going to use a pun here) does the latest movie flunk its First Class (groan)?

Plot Synopsis:

As usual I am going to give a brief overview as I want people to go and see this movie.

First Class gives us the origin of how it all begins.  Set during 1962 and Cuban Missile Crisis, the movie takes place in an alternate reality where the world’s super powers were right at the brink of war.  We learn about the origin stories of Magneto and Professor Xavier, how they both dealt with their back story and how they were close friends.  Both Xavier and Magneto find a common enemy to band together to defeat.  We see the early beginning of the X-Men team and the start of the Brotherhood of Mutants.  Both Xavier and Magneto look to stop the main villain, Sebastian Shaw, and the possible start of World War III.

Again, brief synopsis, but the point is go see this damn movie now!

Actors:

Now with the large ensemble cast of characters and actors, I am only going to focus he review on the more pivotal characters.  So Kevin Bacon, January Jones, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, and Jennifer Lawrence will be talked about.  Sad to say, but this review would be far longer if I decided to talk about all the side characters that make up the movie.  And there are a lot of them.

James McAvoy as Professor Charles Xavier:  The man who guides the steady hand of mutant and human relations, McAvoy did an exemplary job portraying the monk like mutant Xavier.  While hard to mimic Patrick Stewarts performance, McAvoy brought a young, vibrant feel to the early years of Xavier.  He had an ego, but always kept a clear head of the objectives he had to complete.  While Xavier is an idealist and hopes that mutants and humans can co-exist, it is his interaction with Magnet (Michael Fassbender) produces the best scenes of the movie.  Their friendship is deep (Bromance) and the eventual heartache that happens when the two spilt ways is beautiful and tragic to watch.  James McAvoy produced an amazing Xavier in both the mannerisms of the founder of the X-Men and his civil rights struggle for mutant kind.

Michael Fassbender as Magnet/Erik Lehnsherr: A character marred in tragedy and fuel with hatred, Fassbender had a lot of to accomplish with portraying the leader of the Brotherhood.  Needing to be both humanized and charismatic, Magneto is a character that is complex, but simple at the same time.  Fassbender brought a sympathetic eye to Magneto considering the arc of the story is him exacting revenge against Sebastian Shaw for what he did to him in Poland during the Nazi occupation.  Fassbender’s emotional display is intricate as you can see him convey numerous emotional cues like intrigue, humor, hate, and compassion in a small time span.  The best scene is where Xavier approaches him for help in forming a team to combat Shaw.  That scene has him change from hatred, to contemplating the offering, and acceptance in help.  I was skeptical at first (which is my default mode) when they cast Fassbender as Magneto, but all that was shattered when you watch the early scenes in the movie where he portrays the hatred he has for humans and what they are capable of.

Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw/Dr. Schmidt:  A cold and dangerous villain in the comics, Shaw was one of the founding members of the Hellfire Club and is the architect for the war between Russia and US.  A powerful villain who sees humans as the weaker breed and evolution has proven that the strong only survive.  Bacon was awesome as Shaw, since you need an actor who can chew the scenery and also just be a badass.  I mean he gets to walk around with an ascot on in almost every scene, be this charismatic villain who wills others to be in the Hellfire Club.  I think Bacon was fun to watch as a very powerful villain and reveled in Shaw’s opulence as a villain.

January Jones as Emma Frost/White Queen: Shaw’s right hand mutant, who has strong telepathic abilities and almost rivals that of Xavier, but also can turn her body in diamond, making her relatively invulnerable.  Sad to say, her character was not developed or used to the best effect in the movie.  The White Queen is strong character in the X-Men universe and very adept at manipulating both sides.  While extremely beautiful, she is also a dangerous combatant, but in this movie, she is there as eye candy and a mechanism to push the plot forward.  I was not a fan of January Jones as her performance was just cold and expressionless.  I didn’t get the vamp, manipulative side of the character at all, but I will say this, she looks fucking smoking in her lingerie get up.

Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique/Raven: Wow, expressionless as can be.  Watching her portray the shape-shifting vixen, Jennifer Lawrence just brought a flat characterization to the character.  She has some bright spots in the movie, generally when she is talking to Magneto about her identity.  You can see inevitable change of heart during these conversations between Mystique and Magneto, since she is by his side in the previous movies.  Lawrence throughout the rest of the movie brought one look to the screen and felt like a teenager who just discovered girl power, or in this case mutant power.  Her interactions with beast felt very high school as she was able to find someone who had a physical defect like her, and latched onto that character.  She would end spouting some sort of positive reinforcement of mutant kind and the best emotional came from her reaction to seeing what happened to Xavier.  She does look dynamite in blue paint I will say. But towards the end of the movie, her character started to show her true self, and I wanted a lot more of that since Mystique is a confused mutant without an identity.

Story/Direction:

Matthew Vaughn assembled a fantastic group of actors and orchestrated a grand, sweeping comic book movie.  Despite all the terrible posters and press kits that went out for the movie, he was able to shatter expectations and bring that cool Brit-pop vibe to the movie.  He interjects humor into the movie seamlessly so that it doesn’t detract from the story or movie experience and he throws that hardcore fans a couple of bones when it comes to easter eggs in the movie.

Vaughn, in my opinion, captured the overall theme of the X-Men, which is the struggle of the rejects of society.  In every scene, there is some discussion about the co-existence of humans and mutants.  It is what fuels the ending the movie, where both Magneto and Xavier have to confront their individual beliefs and the future of mutant and human kind.  X-Men is about their civil rights struggle.  Not to take anything away from the struggle of Blacks and Gays in society, but that is the essence of the X-Men comics.  They are the dregs of society that no one wants or accepts.  Much like satire is used to comically portray political issues (The Daily Show), X-Men was about the personal struggle of those who aren’t deemed normal.  With Magneto and Xavier, you get two sides of the coin where one believes that human can be understanding and one that feels humans will never accept them.  Xavier shares this belief that since they are gifted with powers beyond that of humans, they must use them for good and gain acceptance.  Magneto, having lived through the Holocaust, knows that humans fear those that are different from them.  He knows what atrocities than can commit in order to remain at the top of the hierarchy.  Both characters represent different belief structures that eventually split them apart.

Vaughn did an amazing job at creating tension and tragedy between both sides.  I never felt sadder than when we have to witness both Xavier and Magneto fracture their relationship because of their stance on human and mutant relations.

Music/Visuals:

As with any comic book movie, I expect to be wowed by the super powers that each mutant possesses.  I loved the look and feel of the 1960’s that Vaughn portrayed.  When it came down the costumes of the X-Men, it had the old school first generation look to them, although the costumes are leather since that is pretty sexy looking.  I must say that everyone, mutant and human alike, looked rather stylish in their lounge suits and Madmen style outfits.

When it came down to the portrayals of the mutant powers, they looked awesome.  There is something unique about taking a super power from the comics, in 2D, and bringing them to life on the big screen.  It looks grand and powerful to watch as the powers have a life of their own.  They are unique to their wielder and this each have their own little flair and life.  The action set pieces were visually pleasing albeit short in some instances.

Overview:

I am not going to lie, I was grinning from ear to ear as I watched this movie.  It is rare when I find myself immersed in a movie as much as the X-Men series has done for me.  Vaughn was able to make a movie that appeases not only the casual audience member, but the hardcore fans as well.  Showing the early incarnation of Cerebero, secondary characters like Darwin, one of the best cameo’s ever, all made for a fun movie to watch.  X-Men has always had a special place in my heart, since it was the first comic book series I ever read and it pushed me into geekdom.

This was a movie that made me sympathize with both sides.  The portrayal of Magneto by Fassbender was one the most humanizing portrayals of an X-Men in the entire series.  To get you to sympathize with a man whose ultimate goal is mutant dominance is hard, but getting that much  needed back story helps flesh out a character that was generally one-dimensional in the previous movies. I loved every minute of the movie and hope that they continue this series.  Keeping with the theme and tone of the movies and the never-ending battle between the Brotherhood and the X-Men.  Go out and watch this movie as soon as you can, from a comic book nerd who has a high regard for comic book movies, this is a must.

Rating: 4.5/5

About Nick
I am just another blogger putting his thoughts into a website. My love is movies so most of my musings will be movie related. I work as an online marketer for an advertising company and when I am not earning a paycheck, I moonlight as a vigilante film blogger.

4 Responses to Movie Review – X-Men: First Class

  1. pointhalf says:

    I loved this movie as well. And the power portrayals to the big screen were amazing. My only complaint is that sometimes when they cut to a certain part of the final battle, they made it seem like that was the only thing happening. Like the battle could only handle one cut scene at a time giving the impression they more or less took turns fighting. But then again, I saw it at midnight among the rest of the loyal and fanatic followers and I may need to watch it again. Alone. On my own TV.

  2. pointhalf says:

    BTW. I’m trying to get wordpress to cooperate with me and change my primary blog (and the one that you get when you click my name) to http://nairmybrain.wordpress.com/

    *****It’s cool if you don’t approve this comment. I just wanted to let you know********

  3. Pingback: Movie of the Day – X-Men: First Class « Another Plot Device

  4. aculturedlad says:

    I really liked this movie as well. People who know me definitely didn’t expect me to enjoy it but it was a really well made action movie with a fantastic script by Jane Goldman and others. I personally didn’t like Kick Ass at all, I hated it, but Matthew Vaughn’s direction here was excellent.

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