Action Movie Fanatix Review: X-Men: First Class

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Witness The Moment That Will Change Our World.

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Bacon, Rose Byrne, Nicholas Hoult, Lucas Till, January Jones, Caleb Landry Jones, Edi Gathegi, Oliver Platt, Jason Flemyng, Alex Gonzalez, Zoe Kravitz, Don Creech, James Remar, Hugh Jackman

Director: Matthew Vaughn

2011  |  132 Minutes  |  PG-13

“Go fuck yourself.” – Wolverine

When X-Men: First Class first came out I actually avoided it like the plague.  I had become so sick of the entire X-Men movie series that I had no desire to see my favorite comic series of all time brought down any lower.  To my surprise a number of people I trust came back and said it was quite decent.  Maybe even good.

Before Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time.  Before they were archenemies, they were closest of friends, working together, with their first team of mutants, to stop the evil Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) from starting World War III.  In the process, a rift between them opened, which began the eternal war between Magneto’s Brotherhood and Professor X’s X-Men.

 

Many people weren’t happy with the idea that this group of mutants are the first X-Men in the Fox movie universe.  The thing is, they are never called X-Men so it’s easy to say that this isn’t the first X-Men team, rather this is a government run mutant team that will eventually lead Charles Xavier to create the X-Men.  No matter what, the original X-Men can’t possibly be Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Iceman and Angel, as they are in the comics.  The previous few movies have completely removed that possibility.

The main purpose of First Class is to explain the friendship as well as the fundamental philosophical differences between Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr.  It is because of this background that they are forever destined to be enemies as well as friends.

X-Men First Class Xavier Magneto

The X-team is made up of mostly second rate mutants.  Havok is cool.  Beast is awesome.  Banshee is pretty decent.  Mystique is alright but we all know she’s really a bad guy.  After that we have Darwin and Angel Salvatore.  That’s not much of an X-Men team.  Yet somehow it feels like a better representation of the X-Men’s team mentality than any of the other X-Men movies have been able to achieve.  First Class is the first time an X-Men movie feels like an X-Men team movie instead of a Wolverine and the X-Men movie.

Havok comics

I don’t hate this kid playing Havok but I can’t stand his hula hooping red ring blasts.  #1 – Havok’s blasts have always been something between a white and a yellow color.  I know this is nitpicking but it is all a part of his signature look.  #2 – Havok has always looked like a total badass, even with the weird white ring design he had on his head for a while.  He’s often pictured with energy literally surging out of his hands and chest.  Why, oh why would anyone ever think it’s a good idea to have him swiveling his hips to wing energy hoops at mannequins?  I also can’t stand the concave chest plate that he is equipped with to control his powers.  Does anything make a man look less manly than a concave chest?

X-Men First Class Havok

It took me a while to pinpoint what exactly it was that I didn’t like about the Beast makeup in First Class.  Then it occurred to me that he looks like he just walked off the set of Jim Carrey’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  Now I can’t get it out of my brain.

X-Men First Class Beast

Banshee is a pretty decent X-Man but he doesn’t get a huge amount of screen time in First Class.  I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed his “learning to fly” scene.  They pulled off the look of his powers perfectly in quite a few different ways throughout the movie.

Moira was already established as a character in The Last Stand where she was approximately 38 years old now some 40 years earlier she is 32 years old.  It’s decisions like these that really make one question whether Fox has any oversight over these movies to even make a slight attempt at some cohesion between all of the movies inside their “universe.”

The Hellfire Club suffers from the same problem as the not-quite-X-Men.  There just isn’t a whole lot of star power behind the mutants that were chosen to make up this team.

Kevin Bacon knocks Sebastian Shaw out of the park.  I’m generally a pretty big Kevin Bacon fan but I found the scuzziness he imparts here to be absolutely perfect for the mutant socialite.  My lone complaint with Shaw was the effects used to bring his powers to life on screen.  I found them to be a bit cheesy looking.

Sebastian Shaw powers

January Jones certainly looks the part of Emma Frost – beautiful, blond and scantily clad – but she is devoid of all the personality that makes The White Queen such an interesting and beloved character.  I don’t blame Ms. Jones (who could), the character is written as something of a side note, similar to what Juggernaut was in The Last Stand.  I am also not fond of giving Frost her diamond form at this point.  She didn’t get her diamond form in the comics until many mutants received second mutations, which was kind of stupid anyway.  And where did her magic Azazel whistle power come from?

X-Men First Class Emma Frost

Azazel isn’t the worst character in X-Men lore but he also isn’t exactly the most interesting either.  He’s most well known for knocking up Mystique to produce Nightcrawler.  Spoiler alert?

Then there’s Riptide.  Yep.

The real treat of First Class is that it continues to cement the X-Men’s history into events of our own history with much of the events of the film revolving around the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Above all else it is this history that separates the X-Men movie franchise from all comic book movie competitors.

Last but not least I have to give props to the costume designers.  I love the X-Men blue and yellow being finally used in an X-Men film… and used well.  They look like something that could realistically be worn in battle… by a mutant team.  Plus the ‘60s era formal wear of the Hellfire Club looks like something straight out of the comics.

X-Men First Class uniforms

X-Men: First Class is far from a perfect film but it quickly became my favorite of the series.  The simple fact that it intangibly feels like an X-Men movie just makes it work for me, despite not having Wolverine, Cyclops, Jean Grey and the like.

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