Review – X-Men: First Class

I saw the film at one of the opening midnight screenings and going into the film I didn’t know what to expect exactly.  The promotional materials for the movie (with exception to the trailers) all seemed uninspired, devoid of creativity and in some instances recycled from the previous X-men movies.  On top of that, I didn’t know what to expect from Matthew Vaughn.  I’ve enjoyed some of his movies and others, like Stardust and Kick Ass, I was underwhelmed by.  I did like the casting of McAvoy and Fassbender though and thought they could bring some dramatic weight to their characters.

Despite my uncertainty over the film, I’m happy to say that X-Men: First Class is a wonderfully fun superhero film.  McAvoy and Fassbender truly do great work as Charles and Erik respectively, adding emotional depth to their characters.  It seems a lot of film critics have pointed out Michael Fassbender’s performance as being the standout role of the movie (and in all honesty it probably is) but I think I was probably just as impressed with James McAvoy.  I’ve seen him in a few films and I’ve never doubted his acting capabilities, but I think this is easily my favorite role of his.  Professor X has kind of been a figurehead in the previous movies and, while not lacking character in those films, didn’t seem to have too much of a personality.  In First Class, McAvoy brings out Charles’ personality and you see the father figure aspect of him that will be formative in his guiding of the X-Men but you see how he tries to pick up women and his sense of fun, which go a long way to fleshing out the character.  Jennifer Lawrence (Raven/Mystique) and Nicholas Hoult (Hank McCoy/Beast) are both really good in the film as well.  Lawrence provides a nuanced performance that really helps convey Raven’s inner turmoil and conflict with coming to terms with who she is.

The movie itself is pretty much an origin film.  We see how the X-men were formed, given their name, etc.  But what is really fun about this origin is that it is set mostly in the 60s and there is a bit of a James Bond feel to some of it, especially the scenes that involve Erik traveling to various countries to hunt down Nazis.  I think the 60s aesthetic, while not overly abundant, was a cool touch to the superhero genre and if there are sequels, I want an X-Men movie set in the 70s and the 80s.

The action for the film is pretty decent.  I don’t know that there are any landmark action scenes but they are still fun nonetheless.  I found the flying of Banshee to be pretty cool and dynamic.  Havok’s powers worked pretty well and I am interested in seeing how they incorporate his brother, Scott Summers (Cyclops) into any sequels if they do that.  Beast was the character I wanted to like the most visually but feel like there could have been more done with him.  I don’t think I saw any really defining characteristics in how he moved or fought.  Perhaps that was on purpose though and the agile and acrobatic Beast will come later as he learns how to use his abilities more.  Angel (or as more people know her, Pixie) was alright.  I don’t really care for her abilities but I didn’t think she was a total waste as one of my favorite action scenes involved her and Banshee in a chase while flying through the air.  I thought Kevin Bacon’s Sebastian Shaw was kind of cool. Oh and there is a cameo in the movie of a familiar character that will surely make you laugh.  It it was really cool that they included that even if it was mostly just for a joke.

Overall, I’d say that X-Men: First Class is a great success and really hope that they can continue the quality of this film with any sequels.  I would very much like to see them continue the X-Men movies using this timeline.  I’m also okay if they don’t completely connect the old X-Men movies to any further installments as I think what they have started here could lead to some really fun stories and allow for some new characters (as well as characters we’ve seen on film before to return in a new way).  I’d hate for them to have to sacrifice anything just to fit it into continuity with the previous three films.  I  personally want to see Cyclops and Shadowcat in this new group of X-Men.  But definitely go check this movie out, it has some pretty good character development and is a lot of fun to watch.  And those are two of the best things to have in a superhero movie.

Rating:  8.5/10

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