Title: X-Men: First Class
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Writers: Screenplay: Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman, and Matthew Vaughn/Story: Sheldon Turner and Bryan Singer (created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby)
Distributed By: 20th Century Fox
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne, Kevin Bacon, January Jones, and Jennifer Lawrence
Release Date: June 3rd, 2011
When Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) and the Hellfire Club use their powers and influence to change the course of the Cold War, the CIA plans to thwart whatever this new mutant threat is. To do so, CIA agent Moira MacTaggart (Rose Byrne) hires Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), a brilliant professor on mutations and a mutant himself. With time running short before the Hellfire Club stats World War III, Xavier must recruit a team of mutants to combat the Hellfire Club’s own, as well as work with Erik Magnus (Michael Fassbender), a holocaust survivor hellbent on killing Sebastian Shaw after what he did to him in the past.
After a two week hiatus of summer comic adaptations, it’s good to once again start reviewing some brand new material being released on the silver screen. And what better way to kick it off again, than with X-Men: First Class? I admit, it might not be the most hyped about film out there such as the upcoming Green Lantern. But hey, it’s the X-Men. And the only bad apple there was X-Men: The Last Stand (yes, I did find X-Men Origins: Wolverine to be entertaining enough).
First and foremost, I have to say that out of all the movies released this year (that I’ve seen), X-M:FC has the best written story. OK, maybe it’s not the perfect script ever written, but then again, what is? There weren’t any major plot holes that I could think of. Maybe when I watch it sometime later on DVD I might catch one or two, but I highly doubt that. And one thing it’s also got going for it, is that everything weaves smoothly in together. You’ve got Charles Xavier’s story, Erik Magnus’s story, the Hellfire Club, Cuban Missile Crisis, CIA investigating the mutants, and the formation and start of the X-Men. Now, if badly written, trying to write that all in together could’ve been a disaster. Thor certainly wasn’t a disaster, but as I stated in my review, its story got stretched too thin. Here, nothing is stretched too thin, thanks to every part of the story playing into another. The only major complaint I have with it, is that some of the mutants, specifically the ones who are famous, don’t get used to their full potential. X-Men rule #1: If you don’t have a cool power or name, you’re not going to last for a very long time there.
Now, I do know one complaint that everyone’s going to have there. By and large, they threw the X-Men comic continuity out of the window. You have Moira MacTaggart as an American CIA agent, who knows what relationship they’ll make between Alex Summers and Scott Summers (father/son???), Banshee isn’t Scottish, all the characters are well into their fifties during the X-Men and the mid to late sixties now, and a ton of other things even the most casual X-Men comic fan can point out. Even film wise things don’t always add up, such as many of the characters being younger in other films (such as Emma Frost in X-Men Origins: Wolverine) or how Charles Xavier has a British accent when he resided in America ever since he was a child. But relax, let it go. Just think of this as a What If? or an Ultimate, instead of thinking this as a transcript of the original comics. Just enjoy the story instead of thinking about what’s correct or incorrect.
However, you can’t have a great story without great actors to support it. Fortunately here, X-M:FC did an amazing job with the casting. I can’t think of any weak links. Like I said before, many of the characters don’t get used to their full potential, but that’s more because of limited time than anything else.
James McAvoy does a great job portraying Charles Xavier. At first I wasn’t sure how he would manage after Patrick Stewart’s memorable portrayal, but the thing is, there’s no need for comparison. McAvoy plays Professor X as youthful, much more confident, and energetic. But in a way that’s not opposite of the Professor X that we all know about, just one who’s at a very different time in his life.
Michael Fassbender may not be as familiar as some of the actors, but I’m sure he’ll definitely be remembered for this role. What’s important about Fassbender is that he puts passion and torment into Magneto’s anger, plus it’s cool that it’s an actual German playing a German.
Kevin Bacon is awesome as Sebastian Shaw. He isn’t like the flamboyant, Renaissance comic character, but I’m glad he’s not, because the way Bacon does it fits the role perfectly.
Also one of the main characters throughout the entire film is Mystique played by Jennifer Lawrence. Lawrence is on a roll, last year with Winter’s Bone and this year withe X-M:FC. She makes the character human, rather than simply a good guy who we all know will be going down the dark side. Plus, her performance fits in with Rebecca Romijn’s portrayal in the previous X-Men films.
We also have January Jones playing Emma Frost. Let me put it this way. Emma Frost is not one of my favorite X-Men, but she is in this one.
And of course, there are so many other good performances, but I’ll leave it there. However, I will say I enjoyed Oliver Platt as The Man in Black (CIA agent), and Rose Byrne has shown that her performance as Moira MacTaggert as well as her previous role as Jackie Q in Get Him to the Greek is proving that she is quite the talented actress.
All the other elements needed to make a good summer film are here, as well. The special effects are the best looking and most natural out of all the X-Men films. The soundtrack is a great mix of sixties songs and original scores. The set and props look and feel like you’d imagine in the early sixties (as in not the Hollywood counterculture sixties or the sixties accidentally shown as the late fifties). Costumes are amazing; they actually make the original X-suits and Emma Frost’s wardrobe look cool. And although I said that the continuity was screwed up, they definitely captured the spirit of the Lee/Kirby X-Men, and even threw in a few cameos and comic references (even a few Children of the Atom ones).
I know I’m probably sounding very enthusiastic about the film, but it’s true, X-Men: First Class is really good. I didn’t expect it to be; in fact, I thought it was going to be terrible. But low and behold, not only did it pass my decency standard, it excelled it. Now, I know some of you might be asking, “Is it the best X-Men film?” Honestly, I never liked comparisons to begin with. Especially since this is so different from the first trilogy. It’s like trying to compare the Lee/Kirby X-Men with the Jim Lee X-Men. But let’s put it this way. I felt the same way about this film as I did with watching X-Men for the first time about ten years ago.
Now, all we can do is hope that this film does well, and gives us an X-Men: First Class trilogy, a second Wolverine film, maybe another spin-off, and perhaps even a fourth modern X-Men film.
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