Sunday, June 5, 2011

X-Men: First Class is a first class film! Review...

Matthew Vaughn had a tough, tough task with X-Men: First Class.  He was asked to re-invent the franchise that was the catalyst to the superhero movie genre.  The film is actually a prequel, which has a completely different cast and a much more complex script than seen before in the franchise.  I can't wait to talk about it, so let's go!

What I liked about the film:
The Director
There were so many things working against Matthew Vaughn.  Let's start with a one year schedule from pre-production to release date.  That is unheard of in this superhero genre.  Vaughn quickly put together his cast and was off and running.  He did a lot right!  The pacing of the movie is intense.  Like I said before, the script is complex and has a lot to cover, so it was imperative to get the pacing right.  The editing, costume, set design and score were magical and helped create the world of America in the 1960's.  The casting is perhaps Vaughn's greatest achievement...

The Cast/Characters
James McAvoy plays Professor Xavier; he does a great job of being the leader of the X-Men.  You can see the character is optimistic about the future through McAvoy's eyes.  He sees the world with a bright and beautiful future.  Kevin Bacon plays the primary villain, Sebastian Shaw and does well.  He is a conniving, manipulative character pitting America against Russia during the Cold War. 

The support cast of heroes and villains are good.  January Jones turns in a mundane performance as the villainous Emma Frost, Shaw's right hand woman.  Jennifer Lawrence plays Mystique, the part Rebecca Romijn made famous in the first trilogy.  She does well playing the character as tormented and conflicted; she grew up with Professor X.  Rose Byrne is the liason between the CIA and the newly formed X-Men, she was great, I'm becoming a big fan of her work.  The rest of the heroes really only have minor roles in comparison, but did a good job.  Hopefully they will have more to work with in the sequels.   

The man who steals the entire picture is Michael Fassbender.  This man is hypnotizing on screen.  He plays Magneto, a Holocaust survivor who meets Professor X on his journey to kill the people who murdered his mother.  Fassbender portrays the character beautifully.  And I do mean beautifully.  Even though we see the character doing horrible things, we care about him, we see the pain and hurt that has scarred him for life.  He also has a swagger and arrogance; Sir Ian Mckellen showed that when playing the older version of the character.  Magneto knows he is a very powerful mutant, he knows what he's capable of and we see that in Fassbenders face and mannerisms.  I hope Michael Fassbender keeps his momentum going and continues to do great things.  Last time I said that, Sam Worthington became Genre Man with 'hits' like Clash of the Titans; hopefully Fassbender wont follow in those footsteps.

The Brotherhood
We know from the later (earlier) pictures, that Magneto is a character that was very close with Charle's X, as close as brothers.  Their ideals have always been different, but they have always had a mutual respect for one another.  There are a few scenes in the film that show you how that relationship was shaped and how it changed over time.  I loved the scenes featuring McAvoy and Fassbender just talking.  The actors nailed it!  There is just this great chemistry between the two that really helps with the emotional undertone of the film.  The scene when they meet gave me chills, excellent!

The Story
This could have been a much different movie in the hands of another director.  There is a lot that must happen during the film.  The origins of several main characters, the manipulation of Bacon's character on the Americans as well as the Russians, the training of the new recruits, the list goes on and on.  That being said, it is very easy to follow.  A lot of credit must go to the screen writers and the director.  It is a clean story that does a lot with the time he has.

The Fanboy Winks
Even if you haven't seen the original franchise, this film will work for you.  BUT!  For those of you who have read the comics, know the characters, and have seen the original franchise, you will love the 'easter eggs'.  Everything from cameos, to name dropping, to jokes about the obvious future of the character.  I really like how they included the hard core fans and made it accessible to non-fans as well.  FYI, the cameo in the movie is hilarious and I will not spoil the surprise like other idiots on-line.

What I didn't like about the film:
The Sequel Setup
I have to be very careful here not to give anything away.  I believe, by the end of the film, they've given away too much.  I wish there would have been a few open doors for future films instead of rushing to the obvious.  It's like Star Wars Episodes I-III, we know what is going to happen, but George Lucas was able to stretch it out for three films.  Not that I EVER want this franchise to become like that one, but the concept is what I was looking for.  Watch it and then email me if you agree, don't want to discuss too much here.

The Verdict:
A beautiful film in so many ways
The movie will rank among the best in the superhero genre.  The threat of a nuclear attack was very real in the 1960's.  That fear of the unknown worked perfectly for 'First Class'.  Mutants were just being discovered and no one knew what to make of it.  The relationship between Professor X and Magneto is wonderful.  The movie is not perfect, but again, considering the one year turn around, bravo.  Thank you Mr. Vaughn and company for continuing my hot streak at the movies this Summer.  Please see the movie and let us know what you think.

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