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X-Men: First Class
Quite Possibly The Best Superhero Film Ever Made Next To "The Dark Knight"
To quote Jeff Daniels from one of my favorite comedies, "Dumb and Dumber": "Just when I thought you couldn't get any dumber...you go pull something like this...... AND TOTALLY REDEEM YOURSELF!!!"
When I first heard about this movie, I must admit that I was a tad skeptical considering how poorly written the last two "X-Men" films were. Therefore, the thought of another film didn't exactly thrill me. Then when I heard that Bryan Singer would be coming back, I started to become curious. Would this still be the same Bryan Singer who gave audiences the only two "X-Men" films that ever gave the franchise justice? Or would this be the same Bryan Singer who failed miserably trying to reboot "Superman Returns?" Then when I also heard that Matthew Vaughn was directing, I knew this film was in good hands. After all, if there was any man who knew how to make a great comic book film, it's definitely Vaughn, as he proved with "Kick-Ass." However, would the collaborative efforts of both Singer and Vaughn work to revive a franchise that's already lost so much credibility among some of it's own die hard fans? I guess we're about to find out.
Before I jump into my review, I would like to point out that die hard comic book fans probably won't like this film. Regardless of what I say in this review, or how good the movie actually is, there are many fans out there who I've spoken to in many online forums that have said they would boycott this movie at all costs. Why? It's basically because Fox Studios has taken a lot of liberties with the franchise. Changing certain story lines in an effort to adapt the "X-Men" for the big screen. Whether or not you agree with these changes is up to you, but there are many fans that are upset by the many liberties taken with the "X-Men" film franchise up to this point; thus the boycott issues. Look, I certainly would never condemn anyone that didn't want to see a movie, as I feel that's entirely up to each person. To put it simply, if you're one of these fans that expects every comic book adaptation to be a hundred percent faithful to the source material, or damn near close, then you probably won't like this movie. However, if you go into this movie with an open mind, while accepting the fact that the movies and comics exist within their own perspective continuities, then you might actually find "X-Men: First Class" to be arguably one of the best superhero movies ever made.
"X-Men: First Class" is essentially a prequel to the franchise, where it shows the humble beginnings of how Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) became friends, and how they would eventually come to be inevitable enemies due to their different ideals about society. Charles Xavier is portrayed as the rich college student that discovered at an early age that he was always different in society. Using his unique gifts to try to discover other mutants out there like himself, while majoring in physics in an effort to discover the cause behind his own mutation. Erik was a child who was the victim of torture within a Nazi prison camp during World War II; particularly by one Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), who isn't exactly all he appears to be.
The film takes place within the 1960's era, where the infamous "Cuban Missile Crisis" serves as the climax of the story. Although one could question some of the historical inaccuracies of "X-Men: First Class" in regards to how short some of the dresses are during the early sixties but for the most part, the movie does a fairly good job tying it's own intricate story line into coinciding with the events of that era. For those of you who may fear that some of the X-Men's weapons like their patented jet might seem too advanced for that era, then you shouldn't worry. As Vaughn and Singer seemed to have created a very plausible quasi-realistic world that invokes a certain feel that one would see in an old "James Bond" movie, where even the high tech gadgetry fits well into that era.
However, the biggest strength of this movie lies with the actors themselves. James McAvoy made an excellent young Charles Xavier, who tries to find the good in anyone that he encounters, and views the world in a idealistic manner even when confronted with some harsh realities about society.
Whereas Michael Fassbender, he portrays the young troubled Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto with a strong charismatic conviction like no other. I'd be even so bold to say that I think he plays a better Magneto than Sir Ian McKellan. I know that might sound blasphemous to some fans saying that, but please hear me out before making judgments. Unlike the Magneto that we've seen in the past that was manipulative and calculating in the previous "X-Men" movies, Michael Fassbender portrays him in a rather more sinister and psychotic way. A man who's so hellbent on revenge, he's willing to kill anyone that gets in his way. In a word, you will fear Magneto in this movie, as he's one man that's determined to get what he wants by any means necessary. Sure, he may have a few tender moments where him and Charles bond together, as Xavier tries to console and understand Erik's troubled past, but don't let that fool you. Regardless of the counseling that Charles tries to push onto Erik, Magneto never loses sight of what he wants and like Shaw, they're both men that'll kill countless of lives in order to get what they want.
And unlike Sir Ian McKellan's Magneto, where he was more of a cunning mastermind who rarely ever chose to get his hands dirty, Michael's Magneto is by far more sinister. Not only is he not afraid to do any of his own dirty work, you can almost sense he was enjoying it. Not because he enjoys the suffering of others. No, because it somehow makes him feel liberated, as he seeks to hurt those that wronged him in his life by any means necessary. Truly, this is one man that you wouldn't want to mess with.
It is because the movie focuses so much the perspective transgression of Charles and Erik that it allows the audience to see how their friendship begins, as Charles becomes the only person to ever try to help him in his life. However, as time goes on, this also creates the perfect tension and tone for the epic climax, where the viewer can see just how badly their ideals causes them to become sworn enemies in spite of their new found friendship.
Of course, lets not forget about Kevin Bacon, as he plays the perfect villain for this movie. Not only is he manipulative and calculating in all his nefarious deeds, he's one deadly villain you wouldn't want to mess with either. Watching Kevin Bacon play Emperor Palpatine to Michael Fassbender's Darth Vader was a stroke of genius in "X-Men: First Class." If anything, a part of me wishes "Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith" would've been as planned out as this movie was apparently, as it's clear that Matthew Vaughn clearly did his homework. Not only does the film tie into every loose end that the films had, it fills in the gaps on how the "X-Men" came to be. Explaining little things like how Xavier is able to afford his operation to what exactly led Charles and Erik down their perspective paths.
Sure, there's a few things that may contradict the earlier films like Xavier's ability to walk in flashback scenarios in "X-Men: The Last Stand", and Emma Frost's cameo in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." However, it's not enough to where it ruins the movie, as I doubt most audiences will even notice. Besides in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine", they never exactly say that the girl who turned her body into a diamond hard shell was Emma Frost, as it was more implied than anything else. Again, this is another reason many fans are choosing to boycott the movie but as I said earlier, if you keep an open mind, then you'll definitely find this movie enjoyable.
Before I announce my final score of this film, I would also like to give credit to Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique/Raven), who does an excellent job portraying the young and confused Mystique. During the film, you could almost sense how she yearned to be like everyone else; even harboring secret feelings for Charles Xavier. However, Charles only sees her as a little sister figure, which leads to a lot of interesting character developments as the movie plays out. Sure, she has a brief love affair with Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), but even he never fully accepts her. All this ultimately leads audiences to figure out how her allegiance to Magneto began, as he becomes the first person to ever truly accept her for who she is.
If it were up to me, I would probably rate this film a half point higher but as many of my readers know, I always have to consider the target audience. That's why I'm giving "X-Men: First Class" a three out of four. Truly one of the best comic book films ever made if you're willing to give it a chance, as I would definitely put it up there with "The Dark Knight." However, if you're expecting a hundred percent faithful adaptation from the comic book to the big screen, then I doubt you'll even want to see the movie, as most fans have claimed. In fact, you might not even like it if that's truly what you're expecting. However, if you just give the movie a chance, then it may just surprise you. Truly, one of the best summer movies thus far if you ask me.