X-Men: First Class (2011)

First Class Entertainment

Before Professor X and Magneto were fighting one another on opposing sides, they were University Graduate Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Nazi Hunter Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender), drawn together by their mutations, in order to stop a face from Erik's past from creating World War III, and destroying humankind.

Matthew Vaughn does a tremendous job of detailing the past, greatly explaining how they went from once great friends into enemies, fighting for their opposing views, whilst giving us a sense that we haven't been told the entire story. The film opens with a recreation of the original opening scene of X-Men, detailing the larger story of what happened at that time, expanding the scene to get a better hold on the origin of Erik, and to get a better hold on his character.

I'll admit, it was rather strange to see Charles Xavier doing things such as getting drunk, picking up women and saying groovy a number of times, but James McAvoy does an astonishingly well done job of stepping into the role of the young telepath that you don't think anybody else could do such a good job of playing a young Patrick Stewart. But despite how great McAvoy plays his tole, Michael Fassbender gives the best performance as the young Erik Lensherr, perfectly envoking the right amount of emotion, anger and determination into the role to perfectly sell this character's journey, from his revenge-fueled quest of hunting down Nazi's to his scenes to his later scenes alongside Xavier, arguing their opposing views. One aspect I truly enjoyed was how Erik's early scenes were spoken in German and subtitled for the audience, as opposed to having everybody speak English and let the audience down in making them feel like the film was taking place in locations other than America. It's great moments like these where you know this film couldn't be in better hands.

Apart from Beast and Mystique, the first generation of X-Men didn't develop, but to be fair, the X-Men trilogy had always lacked in character development throughout nearly the whole team, especially the first film, and that didn't stop the first two installments from being good. Besides, just because the characters didn't really develop doesn't mean that they're bad characters, in fact, the first generation of X-Men were very much quite enjoyable enough to make you want them to return for another film. Hank (About a Boy's Nicholas Hoult) and Raven (Jennifer Lawrence from Winter's Bone) went through the film desiring to look like normal human beings, rather than have Raven's blue Mystique self and Hank's big feet, as evidenced early on when Raven talk's with Charles about how he doesn't have to hide because of his power. Hank manages to eventually develop a serum to make himself look human, but if you've seen X-Men: The Last Stand, or the trailer's for this film, then it won't come as a shock to know that the serum doesn't give Hank the desired effect, instead turning him into his more commonly known, blue furry self, which I felt made Hoult's vocals sound closer to that of previous Beast, Kelsey Grammer.

What I especially enjoyed about this film was that it managed to pull off some unexpected surprises that even the most die-hard fans of the X-Men films would not have seen coming, by giving Mystique a sisterly bond to Charles, and a romantic connection with Beast, and the unexpected origin of Magneto's helmet. It also gave a number of in-jokes to the fans, with one example being an examination of Mystique's blood cells, which go a long way to explaining how the teenage girl looks like a 30-something Rebecca Romjin 40 years later in the X-Men Trilogy, and another being what I will describe to be the best cameo I have seen this year.

Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon: Now with added mutants!

Kevin Bacon managed to play a formidable villain in the form of Sebastian Shaw, who was the kind of villain who'd do the plotting and allow others to do the dirty work, whilst being not afraid to step in and get his hands dirty, should he need to. January Jones' portrayal of Emma Frost seemed more inclined to show off her body than be as cold or bitchy as her comic counterpart, but this didn't hinder the character too much. Riptide and Azazel were pretty much the typical henchmen that Sabertooth, Toad, Lady Deathstrike, Juggernaut and Callisto were in the X-trilogy, in that they got good fight scenes, but not much else.

The film does a good job in making itself set within the 60's, what with the right soundtrack, the backgrounds, the sets and the tremendous use of colour, it never making you feel like this film was set within any other time. It also helps how the film was set during an actual event within history, the Cuban Missile Crisis. As with the other X-films, the effects are outstanding to watch, with a highlight being Erik magnetically lifting a submarine from out of the water.

While it may have done a good job with having characters actually speak German in the correct setting, it did not do a good job in turning pretty much all of their characters into Americans, as one of the better ideas is to have a diverse X-team, what with Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones) originally being Irish and Moira McTaggart being Scottish, in case you didn't guess by the surname. Also, the actual origin of their known names (Magneto, Professor X, etc) is disappointingly just a lazy scene where the X-teens go "I wanna be called...". The continuity between the X-films has also been messed up in a multitude of ways, but if you are willing to not count X-Men Origins: Wolverine as being in the same continuity as this film and the X-Men Trilogy, then that manages to solve many of the more troubling mistakes.

X-Men: First Class gives outstanding cast performances, great character development and brilliant acting all alongside a great story, proving to be a great watch for fans of the mutant franchise, and a good starting point for any new fans of the series.


Matt Stewart said…
Great work man! I did not like this one so much, but very well written piece.

Hey, I am doing a tournament on my blog where people vote on who are the greatest actors and actresses, if you want to participate drop by and let me know!
Myerla said…
The best moment was the Hugh Jackman cameo. Even I found that funny. You liked it a lot more than I did, we differ on the performance of Kevin Bacon but we do agree that Jones did nothing more than look quite hot. Nice review.
James Rodrigues said…
@Matt S I have been told my stronger written reviews were about superhero films, and yeah, i'll pop over and vote

@Myerla Well, i'm a sucker for superhero films, as you remember from my Green Lantern review
Myerla said…
I'm the opposite. Though I did enjoy Thor. Which surprised me.
Anonymous said…
This was a lot of fun and really stylish which was a lot of thanks to the direction and performances given from the cast, mainly Fassbender. Good review.
Anonymous said…
Nice review and this is one of the best comic book movies I've seen. This movie was really focussed on the development of the Magneto and Xavier characters and the way it mixed it all up with actual events was something which was done exquisitely. The fact that it also had a lot of cool action helped it a lot as well.
James Rodrigues said…
@Myerla well at least you gave the film a chance

@dtmmr cheers, man

@myfilmviews.com I definately agree with you there
Anonymous said…
Nice piece, I'm not generally a big fan of comic book films but this one managed to hold my attention, mainly because of the performances of Mcavoy and in particular Fassbender (that scene in the bar in Argentina was awesome). They actually invested in the characters which was quite refreshing.
James Rodrigues said…
@filmdrivel Fassbender and McAvoy were the best choices for the lead roles, they couldn't have picked better actors, and they did really invest in the characters a great deal