X-Men: First Class Review

Posted on June 8, 2011 by

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So, what’s this movie about?

(I’ll give you a hint, it doesn’t involve Charles Xavier forming a postal service, although that would be sweet).

This is the fifth X-men movie, and the second of those to be a prequel. It’s part of the X-men continuity family that started with, obviously, X-Men way back in the year of our lord Primus 2000. Since then there have been two direct sequels (one good, one awful) and two spin-offs, which, following the established trend, have consisted of one bad one (Wolverine) and one good one (First Class).

So yeah, I’ll come right out and say it, so I can get the mushy stuff out of the way. I hate writing nice things about, well, anything, because it’s boring, and it’s hard to be funny (which I endeavor to be with varying levels of success).

I loved this movie. I was trepedacious about it when I first became aware of it, and sort of mentally chalked it up to being rubbish based on the casting choices alone (I mean come on, James McAvoy as Charles Xavier? Seriously?) and thusly I sort of ignored it completely until about a week ago, when trailers started popping up on the internet and I was blown away by the tantalising glimpses of something different. Something genuinely promising. I’d written off the franchise after watching the tumorous, flaccid, awkward mess of X-men 3: The Last Stand (Which might have been better titled ‘Oh screw it’) and so when I sat down in a low cost cinema (Student Loans don’t last forever, kids) I went from being pleasantly surprised to being impressed to finally being downright awed by the end of the movie.

Where should I begin? The story? Okay. The story exists. That alone elevates it above its two predecessors. But not only does it exist, but it is tightly written, emotive, deep and evolving. I’d love to see someone use any of those words to describe Last Stand. Starting things off with a scene of young Erik Lensherr being manhandled by Germans in world war 2 for ethnic reasons, a scene which was shot-for-shot recreated from the opening of the original X-men, something that surprised me and pleased me, and which turned out to be the first of many, many references, shout-outs and bits and pieces that tie all of the movies together. Next we’re shown a young Charles Xavier meeting and befriending a homeless Raven Darkholme, which is a profoundly touching scene. The movie then spends a little while switching between the fun, happy life of Charles, flirting, drinking, becoming a professor, and the dark, tragic life of Erik, pain, torture, revenge, before fate pulls the two men together. I wont delve into the story details, because it would be a crime to spoil this movie.

The characters are great, though I have to question a number of character choices. A very recent mutant, Darwin (the power to create new powers on the fly to defend himself) who only exists to die very quickly (because you need to know that thing’s have gotten real, and are furthermore about to go down, as well as the unfortunate addition of ‘Black guy dies first’). Other Mutants are decidedly C-list, like Banshee (Sonic screams), Angel (Tattoos that turn into bug wings, not the guy from X3), Havok (cyclops older/younger brother- it varies), are all thrown in against what should seem like better judgement to use more recognisable characters- though Wolverine does show up, very briefly, to deliver the funniest line in the movie when Charles and Erik attempt to recruit him and fail), however, there are a number of characters who are added that I really never expected to see, but was pleased by- Such as Azazel, a red skinned, pointy eared, betailed teleporter, who hardcore fans will know goes on to father Nightcrawler with Mystique, and Sebastian Shaw (Played brilliantly by Kevin Bacon, who looks disturbingly like Clint Eastwood.

The actors are all similarly great, I have no complaints about a single casting choice, even my original fanboy knee-jerk reaction to McAvoy being cast was proven wrong, and he filled the role perfectly.

But now, the bad. The plot holes- oh, the plot holes. While the movie does it’s best (And it does a really very good job of it) to tie into the other movies, but there’s a lot of stuff that simply doesn’t make sense- the timelines for example, do not add up. The majority of this movie takes place in the early 1960’s, while the first X-men takes place ‘in the not too distant future’. The problem there is that at the end of the movie, Charles is in his wheelchair, but at the start of X3, when he picks up young Jean Grey, he’s still walking, and those events take place very clearly after this movie. Mystique in later movies shows no sign at all of having had a relationship with Charles (and is totally fine with poisoning him), Mutants are shown to be a recent phenomena in X-men, or at least, only recently public knowledge, despite the fact that after the climax of First Class, everyone should know about them. Alex Summers must be the better part of at least ten-fifteen years older than Scott, and it’s strange that he never shows up in, or is mentioned in any later films. In X-men 2, Beast shows up in human form on TV in an interview, despite getting all blue and hairy by the end of First Class (I’ll let turning into Kelsey Grammer go, because he was awesome as Beast). A pre-weapon X Wolverine gets a cameo, and is magnificent but why does Charles never again mention having sought him out before while trying to help him in the later movies? Storm shows up as a teenager, but that would make her in her late forties by X-men.

Of course, these things can only bother you if you let them, and you shouldn’t, but I had to nitpick and find bad things about this movie because otherwise it would have been a very boring review. So, basically, all in all, X-Men First Class was a fantastic movie and I strongly urge you to see it. It’s a character piece, complimented by thrilling, engaging action set-pieces. I absolutely recommend X-Men: First Class.

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Posted in: Movies, Review