May 25, 2015

Review: X-Men: First Class (2011)

The X-Men series was in a rut ever since the release of Brett Ratner's X-Men: The Last Stand in 2006. Although the money was still coming in, the last thing Fox wanted was to see their Marvel baby die a slow death. The idea of a "young X-Men" movie had actually been kicked around during the production of The Last Stand as a spin-off/prequel movie and it made sense to move forward with the idea as Fox eventually did. They just took their sweet time getting there.

Bryan Singer, director of X-Men and X2 had been contacted about directing which would've made for a nice reunion. He had to drop out due to his commitment to Jack the Giant Slayer, although he did stay on as producer. Lucky for us, Matthew Vaughn was brought in after the surprise success of Kick-Ass. Interestingly enough, he had originally been hired as the director of X-Men: The Last Stand. He didn't stay long because of "personal and professional issues" according to Wikipedia which is probably a good thing for us. After all, maybe he would've never signed on to First Class if had ended up working on a movie that he would've most likely slogged through.


At a Glance

Genre: action, adventure, sci-fi
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Produced by: Gregory Goodman, Simon Kinberg, Lauren Shuler Donner, etc.
Written by: Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman, etc.
Music by: Henry Jackman
Running time: 132 minutes
Production company: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Bad Hat Harry Productions, Donners' Company, etc.
Distributed by: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, 20th Century Fox, Twentieth Century Fox C.I.S., etc.
Country: United States, United Kingdom
Language: English, German, French, Spanish, Russian
Budget: $160,000,000
Box office: $353,624,124 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence, Oliver Platt, Álex González, Jason Flemyng, Zoë Kravitz, January Jones, Nicholas Hoult, Caleb Landry Jones, Edi Gathegi, Lucas Till, Corey Johnson, Demetri Goritsas, Glenn Morshower, Don Creech, Matt Craven, James Remar, Laurence Belcher, Bill Milner, Morgan Lily



In Nazi-controlled Poland, German scientist Dr. Klaus Schmidt (Kevin Bacon) tries to force young Erik Lensherr (Bill Milner) to show him his ability to manipulate metal with his mind. Across the world in the United States, telepath Charles Xavier (Laurence Belcher) befriends homeless shapeshifter Raven (Morgan Lily). Following the end of World War II, Erik (Michael Fassbender) is on a mission to track down Schmidt while Charles (James McAvoy) graduates after having done a thesis on mutation.



X-Men: First Class feels like a comic book movie in the best possible sense. It looks cool, it sounds cool and above all it's entertaining. At times it'll go back to the relative cheesiness that was found in X-Men and X2 when it comes to the romance subplots for example, but for the most part Matthew Vaughn finds his own path to follow and you can't deny that it sure is a stylish one.

Certain scenes are quite powerful and definitely memorable as well. That especially goes for scenes involving Michael Fassbender's Erik Lensherr as he tries to track down Dr. Klaus Schmidt who later goes by Sebastian Shaw. Can't go by a Nazi name forever now can you? I've always loved Fassbender and he just drips awesomeness in First Class. Haunted by his past and driven to help his mutant species survive, the screenplay does a great job at showing how Lensherr becomes the Ian McKellan Magneto that we're all familiar with.

Charles Xavier's story isn't as interesting as Lensherr's is, but it's adequate. James McAvoy was a great casting decision just like Michael Fassbender though and he does a good job at showing the character development that Charles goes through. He's a completely different kind of guy compared to Patrick Stewart's Professor X, not as stoic or mature and that makes sense. Like Erik Lensherr, he struggles with the question of where his loyalties lie. He knows that humans fear his kind but still he does what he can to help and protect them.

I'm not terribly impressed with the romance between Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult), but what comes of it is pretty interesting in the end. I just wish the beginnings didn't have to be so rushed and forced. There are time constraints and I can understand that I suppose. It's something that reminds me of the romance between Rogue and Iceman from the first X-Men trilogy actually. Slightly cheesy, but kind of cute at the same time.

What I will say is that the action sequences of First Class are particularly impressive. There are a lot of standouts, even with all the CGI that's being used. The climactic battle is particularly CGI-heavy, but comes out relatively unscathed at the same time simply due to sheer awesomeness. Probably one of the best things about First Class however is just how well the mutants' powers are used. It all seems logically thought out instead of simply being some kind of superpower fashion show which is nice. Kevin Bacon makes for a pretty good villain as well. 

I have to say that I enjoyed X-Men: First Class even more than the first time I saw it. I'm not sure why it rubbed me the wrong way the first time I saw it, but that definitely wasn't the case this time. The way I see it now. the action is slick and the storyline is interestingly weaved into the Cuban Missile Crisis. It also helps that James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender were such great casting choices. Issues regarding human/mutant relations are still there as they should be since it adds another layer of depth to what is generally a great superhero franchise. With everything that Matthew Vaughn is doing these days, he deserves another X-Men movie. Do we?



Related Reviews:

X-Men (2000)
X2 [X-Men 2: X-Men United] (2003)
X-Men: The Last Stand [X-Men 3: The Last Stand] (2006)
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
The Wolverine (2013)

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