The X-Men trilogy was plagued with the ever so common trilogy disease where it starts off good and ends tragically (Spiderman I’m looking at you). I’ve done a good job at blocking X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine from my memory and I’d like to keep it that way. Thankfully, X-Men: First Class was actually good!
Back when the rumors about First Class started coming out my expectations were pretty low. Now I’m not an X-Men expert at all, but I knew enough to know that this “origin story” was a bit off… really off. First Class? As in the first team of X-Men? Where’s Angel, Cyclops, Iceman and Marvel Girl? Professor X has hair and can walk… wait what?! It was as if the writers took all the pages of X-Men comics added a few of their own, threw them all in a blender and out came the First Class plot.
Then came the cheap Photoshop 101 poster, which didn’t help with my already low expectations. However, the trailers were FC saving grace. They gave me some hope; perhaps it isn’t going to be so bad after all. But I still held my reservations; we all know trailers can be very deceiving.
On to what you came here for, a non-spoiler review.
“In 1962, at the height of the Cold War, two men from different backgrounds pool their resources to bring attention to the plight of those with genetic mutations, some that give them extraordinary powers, others that make them look different. Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is an academic in genetic mutations, while Erik Lehnsherr (Mike Fassbender) is a Holocaust survivor bent on getting revenge against those responsible for his parents’ death in the concentration camps. In particular, he’s after Klaus Schmidt (Kevin Bacon) who years later has turned up as a wealthy power broker known as Sebastian Shaw, who has become involved with playing both sides of the conflict between the United States and the Soviets.” [via Superhero Hype]
First Class does a wonderful job at balancing several storylines going on at once, which is no easy task (just watch Heroes season 2).
The best storyline hands down goes to the gradual tearing of Charles Xavier played by James McAvoy and Erik Lensherr played by Michael Fassbender friendship. Both McAvoy and Fassbender are superb at depicting the growing rift between these two powerhouse mutants.
McAvoy gives us the calm, cool and collected soon-to-be Professor X we know and love. But he also shows us a naïve kumbaya’ish “can’t we all just get along” Charles who even uses his ability to benefit his pick up lines in some funny scenes.
Then there’s the scene-stealing Fassbender who expertly embodies Erik Lensherr’s deep anger, vulnerability and vengeful qualities that shape him into the Magneto we know. In First Class, Erik is like an angry mutant James Bond, and I mean that in a good way!
Jennifer Lawrence as Raven Darkholme/Mystique is great at depicting Raven/Mystique’s subtleties and depths in ways never explored in the previous films.
Vaughn directs several impressive fight scenes which are bound to make you giggle at how utterly cool they are, especially the Tarantinoesque bar fight with Lensherr/Magneto. There are also two well placed cameos that connect First Class with its predecessors that are sure you make you clap, laugh or at least smile really really wide.
The casting seemed to be either a hit or a miss. Everyone in the theater snickered whenever Kevin Bacon who plays the baddie Sebastian Shaw came on-screen for a reason; he dangerously flirted with camp and charm.
The beautiful January Jones (Mad Men) gave us… well absolutely nothing at all. She just stands there hoping that you are too busy staring at her scantily clad body and don’t notice her robotic and vapid portrayal of Emma Frost and her cringe-worthy scenes.
The American and Russian government and soldiers in the film were caricatures to the point where it was laughable.
Some storylines are better and stronger than others. For example, the budding romance between two blue mutants is heavy on the cheesy factor and could have been handled much better and more subtle.
X-Men: First Class did good job at telling an origin story of X-Men even though it wasn’t necessarily the real origin story. I can see (and hope for) more X-Men movies taking place between First Class and X-Men (2000). There are a countless number of mutants to include and since they aren’t exactly telling the (or any) story in order, or even one happened, I wouldn’t mind it as long as it’s done like First Class.
The sins of X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine aren’t forgiven, but they can be forgotten thanks Matthew Vaughn. FC gives us what we need in a superhero movie, it’s smart (enough), has a decent story, provides comic relief, some stellar acting (for the most part) and good special effects.
Comic book fans, if you can look past how erratically parts of the series have been put together, you’ll enjoy this. It may not be the best X-Men movie, but it’s a good one. For those who only know these mutants from the movies, it gives you enough material to broaden your understanding of these extraordinary youngsters. Here’s hoping for a Second Class.
Oh and save yourself a few minutes, there’s nothing after the credits.