Review: high marks for “X-Men: First Class”

June 10th, 2011 at 8:23 am by under Entertainment

 ”X-Men: First Class” has action, a good story, good acting, and its well made – its the best in the franchise since “X2″ (2003).  Fans of the “X-Men” movie franchise will really like this movie, but die hard comic book fans already know that the movies in this franchise have been telling a slightly different story that what was on the pages of Marvel comics.

“X-Men: First Class” was a pleasant surprise with a solid storyline, good acting, and good character development that, sets up for more prequels or just connects to the originals.

 (My spoiler-free review)

The story takes us back to 1944 where Erik (Magneto) and Charles (Professor X) have very different backgrounds that lead them to the point where they meet and ultimately why they disagree on human/mutant relations.

Director Matthew Vaughn clearly has a eye for developing characters, especially superheroes, giving the same kind of attention here to Erik and Charles and Mystique like he did with “Kick-Ass” (2010).  Vaughn gets you to understand why Magneto believes what he believes and even makes him someone to root for in this movie… that’s an accomplishment considering how much of a villain he is in the other movies.

Between Michael Fassbender (Erik/Magneto) and Kevin Bacon (Sebastian Shaw) we get some of the best acting performances we’ve seen in this franchise as both actors easily convey the many layers of their characters.  James McAvoy is perfectly cast as Charles Xavier plus Jennifer Lawrence and January Jones were great choices for Raven/Mystique and Emma Frost.

There’s a good mix of story and action that makes the movie interesting enough to work as both a superhero movie and just a plain old action movie.  However, one of my concerns with the story (and I know I’m not alone here) is that the story does start to feel a little long and the 2hour, 12 minute running time starts to become noticeable before we get to the final action sequence.

But this movie is a perfect chapter in the Marvel movies universe that is very respectable and not over-the-top/corny.  The special effects are great, especially for the transporting abilities of Azazel.  This chapter in the franchise also gets back to what made the first two movies so successful: the very relatable feeling for the young mutants that they didn’t fit in, the trademark moments of humor, a setting in the real world (during the cold war/ cuban missle crisis).

“First Class” also features one of the best/most effective cameos ever (a one line 3 word cameo from a Marvel Universe character) – if you’ve seen it you know what I’m talking about.
Being a big fan of the X-Men from the cartoon series (1992-1997) and the comics, but not a die hard original comic book fan I recognize that there will always be some things that are different than what you previously knew about the characters.  And just like the last three “X-Men” movies I noticed a few things that didn’t fit the chronolgy of the story or didn’t fit what I knew about the character.  We know that the studio had to adapt some things because they couldn’t fit all the characters into the first two movies, so some storylines were askew.  But these kind of issues that I had with “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (2009) or “X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006) were not as significant this time around.

My issues were the noticeably long time it takes to get to the climatic scene… those of us that know the later relationship of Charles and Erik (or saw the first three movies) know where this is going to end up, but the story meanders a bit getting there.

This origin story explains a lot of things about the characters and ties things to “X-Men” 1-3:
* How Charles, Raven, and Erik meet
* The differences of opinion between Professor X (Charles) and Magneto (Erik) are highlighted in their childhood and early adult lives and this quote: (Erik:) “you believe they’re all like Moira”… (Charles:) “you believe they’re all like Shaw”.
* Raven (Mystique)/Hank (Beast) – feeling different because of appearance ties in well with “X-Men 3″
* Mystique’s age/appearance
* Beast’s appearance
* the origin of Magneto’s helmet
*Cerebro
*why Sebastian Shaw (of the Hellfire Club) is here
*Why Charles and Erik recruited mutants together
*Charles’ physical condition
*the beginning of Erik/Raven’s relationship
*the reasons Raven loses respect for Charles

THE BOTTOM LINE:

“X-Men: First Class” is a great addition to the franchise, the Marvel movies universe, and movies in general.  Other than a little editing to make it shorter (this feels more like a director’s cut, although we know from the clips and trailers released earlier that parts of scenes were trimmed) … I give it 8.5 out of 10 … I definitely recommend it to anyone who is a fan of this genre or this franchise, and I mildly recommend it to everyone else, which is why waiting to rent may be best for some audiences.

 “X-Men: First Class”

(2011) (rated: PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexuality and a violent image)
(2 hrs, 12 min)

Starring:
James McAvoy as Charles Xavier 
Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto
Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw 
Rose Byrne as Moira MacTaggert 
Jennifer Lawrence as Raven / Mystique 
Oliver Platt as Man In Black Suit 
Zoë Kravitz as Angel Salvadore 
January Jones as Emma Frost 
Álex González as Janos Quested / Riptide 
Jason Flemyng as Azazel 
Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy / Beast 
Caleb Landry Jones as Sean Cassidy / Banshee
Edi Gathegi as Armando Muñoz / Darwin
Lucas Till as Alex Summers / Havok
James Remar as US General
Rade Serbedzija as Russian General
Don Creech as William Stryker Sr.
Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine (uncredited)

Director: Matthew Vaughn ["Kick-Ass" (2010), "Stardust" (2007), "Layer Cake" (2004)]

Genre: Action/Adventure/Drama Sci-Fi/Comicbook/Superhero

The Plot: In 1963, Charles Xavier starts up a school and later a team, for humans with superhuman abilities. Among them is Erik Lensherr, his best friend… and future archenemy.

So what did you think?  Please post a comment!

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“X-Men: First Class” poster courtesy 20th Century Fox

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