|June 3, 2011|
|Ashley Edward Miller|
|Sheldon Turner (story by)|
|Bryan Singer (story by)|
|20th Century Fox|
|Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence; some sexual including brief nudity and language
|X-Men: First Class
X-Men: First Class both fits into the franchise with ease as well as reboots the series. Set in the era of the Cuban Missile Crisis, this historical event works perfectly as a launching point for the struggle between humans and mutants.
The film opens in building the backstory of both Professor Xavier and Magneto as children. Magneto’s childhood takes the cake, showing that the young Erik Lehnsherr (later to become Magneto) can move a metal Nazi gate with his mind. Thus raises the interest of arch-villain Sebastian Shaw, played wonderfully by Kevin Bacon, who takes Erik under his wing, but not before killing his mother.
A sad fact is that I did not care about the side characters in X-Men: First Class. Though the death of Darwin should have effected me, it opened a sorry truth… the side characters were underdeveloped and miscast. From first discovering them, to training them, to putting them in action, I never found myself really caring for any of the them (this including Banshee, Beast, and Havok of the X-Men and Angel, Azazel, and Riptide of the Hellfire Club). Though they all had speaking parts, it was basically filler, all of which leading up to the epic struggle between Xavier and Magneto, as well as the teetering of Mystique. Had the supporting cast been just as stacked as the leading cast, this film would have been unquestionably better, but for whatever reason, it remained sub-standard.
The females of the film failed to fair much better than the rest of the supporting cast. Despite the fact that I know Jennifer Lawrence can act, she left much too be desired in the role of Raven / Mystique. Her dialogue came off unconvincing and uninspired. January Jones appeared to follow suit, acting mainly as a bra-wearing distraction rather than a compelling part of the plot. And Rose Bryne acts more as a plot device to bring the mutants together more than an actual character of the film.
X-Men: First Class’ saving graces, however, were the stellar performances from James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, who took an otherwise lackluster group of people and made them extraordinary. Michael Fassbender as Magneto adds a sophistication to the film from the moment he steps on screen. In fact, the beginning portions of the film, introducing both Xavier and Erik in their own rights was a completely different film experience than the second half of the film after they introduce the “first class”. The moments that place McAvoy and Fassbender together were like striking two gorgeous sticks together to make fire.
Almost every scene these two spent on screen together caused for the most incredible portions of the film. Beginning with Erik trying to raise the submarine out of water for the first time and Xavier stopping him. Or Xavier and Erik in Russia approaching Emma Frost (January Jones) for the first time. The moment between Xavier and Erik moving the satellite is most touching of all and shows the true connection between the characters. As does the moment when Xavier is shot in the spine and even with Erik well on his way to turning evil, takes the time to run to the aid of his old friend. Showing a villain’s softer side makes him a better character in the long run. Not to say Kevin Bacon’s villain of Sebastian Shaw isn’t great, but these villains are great for different reasons.
The multi-layered nature of the film pans out wonderfully, with friction between the U.S.A. and Russia over the Cold War acting as the backdrop to the fight between Xavier’s first class and Shaw’s race for mutant supremacy. Among Xavier’s class you have the growing friction of Erik’s ideals and the conflict of Raven’s self-discovery. The reason the supporting cast then falls to the wayside is due to no connection to any of the major plot points, creating a void.
X-Men: First Class offers much more than previous installments. Though continuing the dark overtones of the prior films, there is a range of emotion (comedy, allure) extending beyond just action and tension. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender steal the show, with a dynamic even greater than that of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan. The females of the film are absolutely stunning and make it hard to look away. Though the supporting cast is lacking in a few areas (mainly the “henchmen” and some of the young mutants), surprise performances like Kevin Bacon’s overshadows most inconsistencies in the casting department. Fusing actual historic events with the concept of the fantastic (mutants) works perfectly and adds a compelling nature unmatched by any other comic book adaptation. This is my favorite of the X-Men films, slightly over the first and the second, and after a few more viewings, could top the list of favorite comic book films yet.