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X-Men: First Class Movie Review
Class Is Back In Session, With "X-Men: First Class"!!
In my review of "Thor," I mentioned the names of a few other highly anticipated comic book movies that were heading our way that Summer (i.e., "Green Lantern" and "Captain America"), but I somehow overlooked and forgot to mention "X-Men: First Class" within that group, probably because "First Class" had not received the same type of hype as the other movies mentioned. However, after seeing it, all I can say is "Wow!," I hope that the general public does not make my mistake and overlook this great movie, which will no doubt re-energize the "X-Men" franchise.
While I enjoyed "X-Men: Last Stand" and the "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" film as well, I wouldn't argue, and doubt many people would try to argue, that they were at the same high quality level reached by Bryan Singer's "X-Men" and "X2." So, for those who have been holding their breath waiting for a new X-film to return the X-franchise to form, you can breath easy, because this movie does that and more.
X-MEN: FIRST CLASS MOVIE INFO
James McAvoy as Charles Xavier / Professor X
Michael Fassbender as Erik Lensherr / Magneto
Jennifer Lawrence as Raven Darkholme / Mystique
Rose Byrne as Moira MacTaggert
January Jones as Emma Frost
Kevin Bacon as Dr. Schmidt and Sebastian Shaw
Nicholas Hoult as Henry "Hank" McCoy / Beast
Oliver Platt as "Man In Black"
Lucas Till as Alex Summers / Havok
Caleb Landry Jones as Sean Cassidy / Banshee
Zoe Kravitz as Angel Salvadore / Angel
Edi Gathegi as Armando Munoz / Darwin
Jason Flemyng as Azazel
Alex Gonzalez as Janos Quested / Riptide
Written By: Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
Directed By: Matthew Vaughn
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Run Time: 131 Minutes
X-Men: First Class - Official Trailer
HOW DO YOU RATE THE "X-MEN: FIRST CLASS" MOVIE AGAINST THE REST OF THE X-FILMS?
What is your favorite X-Men movie?
X-MEN: FIRST CLASS MOVIE - THE REVIEW
* * * WARNING, SPOILERS AHEAD * * *
"X-Men: First Class" is a prequel to the "X-Men" film series, and chronicles the early lives of Charles Xavier (a.k.a. "Professor X") and Erik Lensherr (a.k.a. "Magneto"). The movie focuses on the development and eventual demise of Xavier and Lensherr's friendship, and shows how their differing views on mutant integration with human society leads to the formation of the X-Men.
The movie begins in 1944, with a familiar opening scene, of a young Erik Lensherr using his magnetic powers to bend a metal gate after he is separated from his parents by Nazi concentration camp guards. We learn for the first time that Lensherr's outburst was observed by a Nazi scientist, named Dr. Schmidt (K. Bacon), who executes Lensherr's mother in front of him, after Lensherr is unable to similarly move a coin using his powers. Lensherr's rage over the loss of his mother drives him for the remainder of the film, as he seeks his revenge against Schmidt/ S. Shaw.
The story then jumps forward 18 years, to 1962, where we find a grown up Lensherr, who has gained more control over his abilities and is using them to hunt down escaped Nazis, with Schmidt at the top of his hit list. Xavier, on the other hand, is in Oxford, England, publishing his thesis on genetic mutation, and using his abilities and intelligence to pick up on young co-eds, until he is approached by Moira MacTaggert, a young CIA agent looking for an expert on mutations. MacTaggert is seeking Xavier's help to convince her superiors that Sebastian Shaw and his Hellfire Club, are mutants and a danger to the U.S., after she witnesses them threaten and convince a U.S. Army Colonel to advocate for the installation of U.S. nuclear missiles in Turkey (which he does).
Xavier manages to convince MacTaggert's superiors that Shaw is a real threat (by revealing his powers), and helps them track Shaw down. They arrive just in time to rescue Lensherr, who is there to kill Schmidt (but is unaware that he is actually Shaw, and a powerful mutant himself).
After Shaw escapes, Xavier convinces Lensherr to ally with him against Shaw, and together, with an early version of the mutant locating device Cerebro, they find and recruit young mutants to train and teach how to handle their powers, and how to accept themselves and integrate with society. Among those mutants recruited are Army prisoner, Alex Summers, who calls himself "Havok, a cab driver, Armando Munoz, who goes by "Darwin," a female stripper, "Angel" Salvadore, and Sean Cassidy, who is dubbed "Banshee." The genius Henry "Hank McCoy, who becomes known as "Beast," and the shape shifting Raven Darkholme, who dubs herself "Mystique" (and comes up with the "Professor X" and "Magneto" code names), are introduced earlier in the film.
The movie reaches an exciting conclusion when Xavier's team is forced to act during the Cuban Missile Crisis, to avert Shaw's manipulative attempts to start World War III. Lensherr and Xavier's philosophical differences also culminate in Lensherr's inevitable transformation into Magneto, after he kills Shaw and attempts to wipe out the U.S. and Russian Navy fleets, which ends with particularly harsh consequences for Xavier.
X-MEN: FIRST CLASS MOVIE - THE GOOD
Directing & Acting
Director Matthew Vaughn (of "Layer Cake" and "Kick Ass" fame), who also co-wrote "First Class," is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors. Vaughn definitely brings his "A" game here, by successfully creating a complex and compelling, character driven film that still manages to be a fun and entertaining piece of summer cinema.
The idea to re-imagine actual historical events, like the U.S. placing nuclear missiles in Turkey and the Cuban Missile Crisis, as being manipulated into place by an Armageddon seeking mutant, was genius and makes for even more gripping story. Additionally, the 1960's setting provides the film with a lot of style, including some great elaborate '60's dÃ©cor sets, and vintage cars and clothes. In fact, the Cold War era backdrop, and use of secret government agencies, gives the whole movie the feel of a classic "James Bond" film.
I'm not sure if Vaughn was a fan of the comics, but he clearly has a strong grasp on the X-characters, particularly Charles Xavier and Erik "Magneto" Lensherr. He does a great job developing their characters and making their differing views on mutant and human integration equally compelling.
As for the acting, after seeing the first two "X-Men" films, I never thought that any actors could match Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan's respective performances as "Professor X" and "Magneto." However, McAvoy and Fassbender's sharp performances easily rival those of Stewart and McKellan. These two have a natural on-screen chemistry that permeates every scene they are in, and they play off each other extremely well. Fassbender in particular (with Vaughn's direction) does a great job making Lensherr sympathetic, and his eventual turn very believable.
If not for the fantastic performances of McAvoy and Fassbender, Kevin Bacon (who's role is surprisingly downplayed in most of the movie trailers) would have stolen the show as the world-class villain, Sebastian Shaw. Bacon's portrayal of Shaw emulates some classic "Bond" villains, and with his secret submarine lair, revolving secret doors, and plot to destroy the world, he could have easily given Bond baddies "Dr. No" and "Blofeld" a run for their money.
THE GOOD (continued)
Action & Effects
While the greatest strength of this film definitely lies in the strong direction and performances of McAvoy, Fassbender, and Bacon, there is more than enough action and effects to satisfy even the most die hard X-fans. There are some great training sequences with Havok and Banshee, and there is an attack sequence by the energy absorbing Shaw, the whirl-wind creating Riptide, and the teleporting Azazel on the CIA's secret "Division X" headquarters that has to be seen to be believed. Azazel's scenes in particular are fondly reminiscent of Nightcrawler's incredible invasion of the White House at the beginning of "X2."
The climactic "Cuban Missile Crisis" battle between Xavier's recruits and Shaw's Hellfire Club also has some fantastic scenes. The Beast v. Azazel match-up is particularly fun to watch, and there is a great final showdown between Magneto and Shaw. However, watching Magneto stop and take control of all the U.S. and Russian missiles was unbelievable.
"First Class" also does a great job answering questions surrounding "Professor X" and "Magneto," that were never developed in the other X-films, including: How did their friendship begin and end? Where did Magneto get the helmet to block Xavier's telepathic powers? How did Xavier end up in his wheelchair? and Where did Xavier get that awesome stealth jet? Hopefully the comic aficionados will forgive Vaughn's deviations from the official comic lore, but in hindsight, even Bryan Singer's X-films played pretty fast and loose with "X-Men" canon.
There are also some fun cameo appearances in "First Class," including a classic scene with a certain hairy, foul-mouthed, claw wielding, cigar-chomping, Canuck (who hilariously drops the only F-bomb in the entire movie). All in all, there are way too many great scenes and moments for me to get into here.
X-MEN: FIRST CLASS MOVIE - THE BAD
I really had to get nitpicky to find much of anything that I did not like about this film. The only thing that bugged me a little while watching this prequel to the other X-Men films, was the obvious inconsistencies with the other films (granted, these continuity glitches probably will not be obvious to most viewers, but hey, I did say I was reaching a bit here).
For instance, with the introduction of January Jones's "Emma Frost," we are asked to ignore the fact that a younger teenage "Emma Frost" already appeared in the "Wolverine" film, who's scenes chronologically took place approximately 17 years after this film. We also have to disregard the opening scene of "X-Men: Last Stand," which showed a "twenty years ago" flashback (i.e., 1986) of Professor X (somehow still walking) and Magneto, still appearing to be friends and allies, some 24 years after "First Class," going to recruit a young Jean Grey, all of which definitely is not consistent with this story.
If "First Class" was being billed as a complete reboot to the X-franchise, then these inconsistencies probably would not have bothered me. However, it is clear (from some cameo appearances in the film) that it is supposed to take place in the same X-universe as the previously released films. That being said, I do think that, for the most part, Vaughn did a good job trying to connect all the dots, no doubt with some help from original "X-Men" and "X2" director, Bryan Singer, who produced and co-wrote the story for this film. Who knows, maybe Singer simply told him to ignore the X-films that he didn't direct (some fans are doing that anyways). Regardless, Vaughn clearly decided that in some instances past continuity needed to be ignored in the interests of simply making a good film (and in that he succeeded).
Also, while I liked seeing the transformation of Lensherr into "Magneto" at the end of the film, I was a little disappointed that it happened so soon (instead of being simply alluded to, and left for the sure-to-be-made sequel). The most compelling part of Professor X and Magneto's rivalry to me, has always been the fact that they were friends for years before their differing philosophies finally drove them apart. However, in "First Class" we see their friendship form and apparently end, in just a matter of a few months (I've got milk in my fridge that I've had a longer relationship with than that).
My only other gripe is that some interesting characters were given short shrift. It would have been nice to hear a little bit more about Alex "Havok" Summers background, and why he was in a military jail when Prof. X and Magneto found him. I was also disappointed that "Darwin" was eliminated so quickly, and that Oliver Platt's character (who's name was never given) was literally "dropped" from the film, quite abruptly, which seemed like a waste of his acting talent. Of course when you have an ensemble cast this size, it is inevitable that certain characters will get the short straw when it comes to screen time and character development (just ask Halle Berry after the first "X-Men" film).
The main problem with doing a prequel is that everyone knows where the characters will eventually end up. Much like another well known prequel, the audience seeing "First Class" know that Erik Lensherr is eventually going to turn to the dark side and become "Magneto," and turn on his best friend, Obi -Wan ... err, I mean Charles Xavier. Yet, somehow Vaughn successfully manages to make the journey there so interesting and engaging, with enough added twists and surprises that the audience is absolutely hooked from start to finish, and left wanting more. If the rumor is true that this movie is just the first part of a new X-trilogy, you can count me in.
I believe in my "Thor" review, I stated that Marvel had hit a home run with "Thor." That being said, "X-Men: First Class" would have to be categorized as a Grand Slam!! "Green Lantern" better have that ring fully charged because the competition is looking pretty stiff.
4 and a half stars out of 5
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE X-MEN: FIRST CLASS MOVIE?
How Many Stars Would You Give "X-Men: First Class"?
MORE SEQUEL NEWS!!
Bryan Singer, the director of "X-Men," and "X2," and the co-producer and writer of "X-Men: First Class," has officially announced that the title for the sequel to First Class will be "X-Men: Days of Future Past." For all longtime X-Men fans this is music to our ears, and for those not in the know, "Days of Future Past" is the title of one of the best X-Men comics story lines, which was published back in 1981. Without giving too much away, the story deals with time travel, and alternates between the present and the future, where due to an event that occurred in the past, mutants are hunted and kept in internment camps, and the present day X-Men must race to try to prevent that event from occurring. How close the movie will stick to the original story remains to be seen.
More exciting casting news for X-Men: Days of Future Past has come in with the announcement that Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan will reprise their roles as the older versions of Professor X and Magneto, respectively, and Hugh Jackman is in talks to have Wolverine also appear in the film. Obviously the time travel story line will make it possible to have the younger and older versions of Professor X and Magneto appear in the film, and with Wolverine's slowed aging, Jackman can play Wolverine in both timelines.
Singer has also stated that the next film will have close connections to all the prior X-Men films as well. Singer has also hinted in a recent interview that he will use the next film as a means of undoing some of the horrible things that happened in the third X-Men movie (under Brett Ratner's watch), such as the death of Cyclops and Jean Grey. Let's hope!!
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