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There came a point, about half way through this film, when I emerged
from the world of wonder on screen, took stock of my emotions in that
instant, and realized that yes, by God, I am LOVING this movie.
I didn't really expect to, of course -- although certainly, I hoped for it. With such an incredible cast, an able director at the helm, a story of Bryan Singer provenance and the inclusion of some of my favorite, if lesser known, X-types (Darwin! Tempest! Havok!), I was eager to see this beloved band of merry Marvel mutants redeem themselves after the massive failures of X3 and X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE.
Which they do. And how!
One thing that the avid comic fan must do when approaching this movie, however, is to divorce themselves utterly from almost all established four-color X-Men continuity. Oh, some bears up, but by and large this is a whole new origin story, a reboot of epic proportions, and yet it is a retcon so cleverly done, and one that offers up a such a delicious mélange of complex relationships and sensible motivation, that all of the many discrepancies inherent in having Mystique on the side of good or having Moira McTaggert a CIA agent simply do not matter.
Speaking of McTaggert, Rose Byrne is both comely and convincing in the role, and almost every other actor is perfectly, one might almost say forcefully, cast. McAvoy brings a kind of laddish charm to Charles Xavier that he mixes nicely with both decency and naïveté, and Michael Fassbender's nascent Magneto is relentlessly, even heart-breakingly, compelling. Their chemistry is electric -- theirs' is one of the most multi-faceted and sincere bromances the screen has seen in a good long while.
The younger cast all impress, though particular praise must go to Oscar-nominee Jennifer Lawrence as the petulant but pitiable Raven/Mystique (The Academy Awards have been good to young, hot X-chicks; let us not forget that Rogue herself, Anna Paquin, won for THE PIANO). Former child star Nicholas Hoult is also outstanding as the troubled Hank McCoy, and perhaps the most surprising kudos must go to teenage dream Lucas Till, who conveys the particular anti-social asshole-hood of the turbulent Alex Summers very convincingly indeed.
The biggest letdown in the movie, acting-wise, is January Jones as Emma Frost. True, she is appropriately ravishing, there can be no denying that, but she lacks the the zing of the written character. There is very little intelligence, snark, or even personality behind her interpretation of this most intriguing of mutants; she's just kind of Stand There and Look Pretty -- which, for one playing Emma Frost, is something a travesty.
The only other weight under which this movie really labors is the fact that it is a prequel, and it therefore suffers from the feeling of inevitability that besets all such endeavors. Anakin Skywalker HAS to go Dark Side. Bilbo Baggins HAS to find the One Ring. And Magneto HAS to turn against humans; Mystique HAS to join him; Xavier HAS to end up in a wheelchair. With these definite plot developments looming, their eventuation is bound to be a bit of an anti-climax.
And yet the fun part about X-MEN: FIRST CLASS is the journey it takes us on to get us there. Offering up plenty of surprises, some kickass action sequences, mighty fine special effects, sly humor and a killer cameo, it is without doubt the best comic book movie of the year nay, decade thus far. And considering how overcrowded that list is, this is really saying Something.
Huh. A prequel that does not, in any way, suck.
Amazing, isn't it?
-- Rachel Hyland, geekspeakmagazine.com
Fox can breath easy again because I think it's safe to say the even the
extreme fanboys will be putting down their pitchforks and torches and
smile after seeing this amazing film. I know for a fact that general
audiences are going to love this movie. I know some fans can be
irrational and hold on to their hate because they expect certain things
they read in their books but I can't seeing anyone being that
irrational when faced with a result that delivers what First Class
manages to deliver. It honestly is a genre-defining movie on a level
with any comic based film that has come before it. Everything in this
movie is exceedingly better than what Fox delivered in their last two
efforts with this franchise. Going back to the beginning and re-hiring
the guy that brought us those films was a splendid idea. The acting
here is superb and the dialogue is rich. Every character feels
absolutely believable no matter what abilities they have on display. No
cartoonish villains or cheese in sight, every side of the issue is
presented by people who believe they are the ones who are in the right
and the underlying message of tolerance and bigotry only add to the
depth of this film. If not a genre-defining movie than maybe it
redefines the comic book genre. It restores the sense of epic adventure
and grand-scale storytelling that we saw in X2. In fact, it perfectly
complements that great film and probably surpasses it.
This film is to X2 what Godfather 2 was to the Godfather. Seriously, First Class is an exceptional "flashback" look that links the best of the X-Men trilogy to the past. Instead of DeNiro playing young Vito Corleone we get James McAvoy as young Charles Xavier. Marlon Brando and Patrick Stewart made their respective characters popular but both were more fleshed out by incredible younger talent. I'm not placing the X-Men film itself on a par with the Godfather but both have become legendary in their particular genre. I am, however, saying McAvoy has a bright future as a complex and talented actor. Just like the young cast of Godfather 2 was legendary, the young cast of First Class has many great days and projects ahead of them.
Love this entire cast but Michael Fassbender delivers the best performance with an amazing presence and command of the screen. Everyone was extraordinary. What many expected indeed happens. By that I mean every scene that Fassbender and McAvoy are in together absolutely sing. It won't surprise anyone to know that Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt and Jennifer Lawrence are superb in supporting roles but Nicholas Hoult did stunning work as the Beast and deserves some love as well. January Jones and Rose Byrne are hot as can be but aren't just simple eye candy. Sure, the story is compelling and the action is amazing but the performances elevate this movie far above a common summer flick.
Movie of the year so far...
What you need to know about this movie before you go and see it. 1. Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy are superb. Each one, alone, would have made the movie terrific, but together? Forgetaboutit! Every step of the way, every scene, every emotion, these two men own the movie and watching their bromance is a treat from start to finish. Make no mistake about it, even when the world is on the brink of utter destruction what really matters is how these two men relate to one another. And when you watch the movie, you will care. 2. Everyone in the cast is good. Kevin Bacon has never been better, and Jennifer Lawrence is wonderful. Rose Byrne and January Jones aren't given much to do, Ray Wise and Michael Ironside only have a few short lines, but - across the board - the entire cast are a delight. 3. The story is tight. You've got a bad guy with a plan, which he sets about executing in A/B/C fashion. Against him, the good guys work together. Their motivations are different, of course, but they pretty much want him stopped so they unite. That's it. 4. Charles and Erik are fascinating characters. They debate. And viewers can debate endless about them, and about who is right, etc. As you watch you desperately wish they could stay friends, but you understand why they ultimately can't. Even if they themselves, in these early days, don't understand it yet. To have that so perfectly captured in a Summer Blockbuster movie is part of what makes this a treat and a future classic. But, aside from their relationship to each other, the movie takes time to make each of them interesting in his own right. We get to see Charles as a teacher, for instance, and come to understand how he impacts upon the lives of those he tutors. Some of Erik's best moments (away from Charles) are in his comments to Mystique about her appearance, making it clear that this man has more to him than the shadow of his past. 4. Most supporting characters have very little screen time. But that's okay, since this isn't THEIR story, really. Of the bunch, it is Mystique and Beast who are best served. Both have terrific character arcs that - in a lesser X-Men movie - might have been the highlight of the film. Here, their stories serve as quality background material to the main event (Charles and Erik). Beyond that, we just learn enough about everyone to know what they can do and like them a little bit, mostly through their banter and most obvious character traits. Once scene where most of the supporting characters are clearly terrified will certainly go a long way towards making you care about them for the rest of the movie. On the downside: Shaw's two henchmen don't get ANYTHING to do except use their powers, and at the end of the story we know as much about Emma Frost as we did at the beginning. But these are the exception, not the rule. 5. Visually, this movie is a treat. The FX are good, no surprise, but - much better - the actual sets/costumes are beautiful. Whether it's a remote CIA lab or a lap-dance club, whether it's the Magneto helmet or Mystique's everyday clothes, you are always admiring 'the look' of what's on screen. 6. There are action scenes all during the movie, but - having said that - the movie builds as it goes. The first half is more story-heavy/character-heavy so that when the action REALLY starts we care about everyone. And, again, it works. Even with the scant details given their characters, when Banshee and Havok (for example) go into battle you are invested in them to a certain degree. 7. There are surprises. Deaths, betrayals, cameos and name-dropping. But, as well as being cool, all of this makes perfect sense for the story/universe of the movies. Superb! Rock-solid script, two amazing lead performances (the film is basically a bromance). Haven't been this excited about the X-Men franchise since X2: X-Men United.
There are plenty of big action scenes throughout but it's the first
half of the film that really impresses. Establishing these characters
and the entire universe is done remarkably well and in a remarkably
moving manner. This new spin on familiar "bad guys" Magneto and
Mystique does give the actions and emotions for the characters a new
level of appreciation and helps give them so much more depth and
pathos. Both sides of the fence (Xavier's vision and Magneto's
contempt) are advanced and the brilliance of the plot is that both
sides are understandable and relatable. The viewer can simply sit and
watch it unfold but also be emotionally invested in the journey. During
the second half, plot threads move towards resolution and action picks
up. Xavier is a shining example and his journey throughout the film
matches that of Erik.
First Class never undermines the audience nor talks down to them and does all that is expected of it. It delivers great action, humor, effects and a strong connection between heroes, villains and those developing in between. The retro design is suave and making this a period piece gives it a cool and unique flavor. The collaboration between Singer and Vaughn apparently was a perfect blend. Vaughn did a brilliant job and Singer's vision from the first two films stayed in tact and was enhanced. I have to add that the score had a perfect heroic theme but was also moving and very well done. The overall impact of this film leaves you with a great sensation of a job well done. Fast paced yet filled with depth, spellbinding visual effects and a gripping finale. In the end, they succeeded in re-establishing these characters in a superb and interesting manner. There is more to offer and more depth to appreciate. I certainly can't wait for a sequel and inclusion of Scott and Jean from the original trilogy.
Beginning with a crime-thriller and a fantasy film on his directorial
résumé, it is safe to say that Matthew Vaughn may have already found
his niche genre in the super-hero field despite only directing four
films in seven years. His first super-hero project, 'Kick Ass,' opened
in 2010 to solid critical acclaim and a finalized gross of three times
the film's ordinary $30 million dollar budget. And after only two
years, Vaughn returns with 'X-Men: First Class,' an origins story to
accompany the Bryan Singer/Brett Ratner X-Men trilogy released between
2000 and 2006. It's intelligent, enthralling, well-acted, stylishly
directed, and most importantly by focusing heavily upon the
relationship between the two central protagonists, it does not feel
like a conventional super-hero film.
Set within the political context of the Cuban Missile Crisis in the early 1960's, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is an up-and-coming Professor whose life is drastically altered when he is introduced to the other members of society who also share the same mutant gene as himself that supplies them with super-human abilities and traits. After stumbling upon the shape-shifting Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) within his mansion, the telepathic Xavier then encounters Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), the son of Jewish parents who were murdered during the holocaust by the narcissistic former Nazi scientist, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon). Erik, who can manipulate all metal objects around himself, wants retribution and nothing more from Sebastian who is now a successful and evil underground figurehead who commands a team of mutants (Azazel, Emma Frost and Riptide) to do his bidding for him. But, once his plan for world domination is revealed, they find that it far exceeds the constraints of humanity, and Xavier, Erik and a rag-tag band of young, hide-away mutants (Havok, Beast, Darwin, Angel and Banshee) who were discovered by Charles, must combine their powers in one last attempt to stop Shaw from destroying the planet and humanity as a whole.
Instantly where 'X-Men: First Class' works is in regards to its two central characters; Charles Xavier played by an incredibly affluently sounding James McAvoy and a rage-fuelled Erik Lehnsherr played by a stern-faced Michael Fassbender. Their instant on-screen chemistry provides the drive and ammunition for the plot to carry itself forward. Both characters have differing ideologies and their constant clashes due to this aspect allow the script to be brought to life. Instead of simply infusing their relationship with formulaic violent clashes, Vaughn has instead opted for more articulated verbal battles between the two characters regarding their stance within the society they are now becoming a part of. Xavier is an intellectual being who believes that humans will eventually be accepted within society as equals alongside humans, while Lenhsherr believes that mutants will always be hunted and unable to live peacefully side-by-side with the human race, his evidence for this resides in the anti-Semitism and hatred he received at the hands of the Nazi party during the holocaust. This heavy-set contradiction in ideologies allows their relationship to be imbued with pessimism, while they may be shown as friends and fighting together initially, fans of the comic books and films in general know this does eventually turn into a bitter rivalry and it's this development which drives the plot forward.
Aside from the script, it would also be rude to not praise the action-sequences which take place within the confines of the 1960's X-Men universe. With a modest running time at two hours and ten minutes, there are more than a few well-choreographed action sequences that would adequately satisfy any of comic-book-to-film aficionado's wishing to see this film. Each character's power or ability is at some point represented in a destructive or defensive capacity, taking full advantage of the fact that while many super-hero movies tend to concentrate on the aesthetic nature of the artillery characters can be seen to withstand from governmental agencies or blindsided human opponents, here it is shown and constantly emphasized that human reaction would be futile due to the overwhelming power the mutants possess. These scenes also allow the less important characters to show their physical presence on-screen. For example, during the climactic fight sequence at the conclusion of the film, every mutant character that is identified to the audience is finally shown using their abilities to full capacity, most notably the henchmen of Shaw and the rag-tag team of Xavier and Lehnsherr. This therefore accounts slightly for the lack of depth that has been attempted in these secondary characters due to the time and story constraints.
While it is a very good and accessible comic-book/super-hero movie, 'X-Men' does also contain two central flaws. The first is superseded in a way by the strength of both McAvoy and Fassbenders performances, as Kevin Bacon is constantly overshadowed as the one-dimensional antagonist of the piece. His plot to ultimately destroy humanity becomes second fiddle to the ever intricate complex relationship between Xavier and Lehnsherr, and his appearance seems too modelled upon that of a James Bond villain. He has the slick hair, the beautiful women and the villainous underground Club to boot, but Bacon unfortunately doesn't have the charisma to be accepted as a worthy opponent to the protagonists. The other flaw has to do with a minor aspect of the production itself, as the non-diegetic music, most notably during the action sequences, begins to diminish in its impact as the film carries on, leading to it eventually becoming the generic, genre-related fanfare associated with the conventional comic-book films.
'X-Men: First Class,' is not your typical comic-book movie, it may contain certain elements associated with the comic-book genre, but by placing a heavy emphasis upon the strength of the plot and the script at the film's core instead of the action-set-pieces taking place, Vaughn has intended, and succeeded, in transcending the stereotypical conventions of the genre and has created a film which will appeal to a wide range of audience members.
Xmen: First Class is simply fantastic. Strong emotion and explosive
action. The acting is top notch. Delivery from every actor is at it's
best, more so from Mystique, Beast, Xavier and Magneto.
The story is more character based than action, however the action sequences are still superb. Personally i'd have liked to of seen it being a 15 and have a more adult but it wasn't a big issue. Also some more background story from the bad super's would have been good but again this wasn't too much of an issue and would leave some nice room for upcoming xmen movies.
I don't want to say too much but to break it down... Go see this film no matter what you are into. There is something for everyone. 9/10 easy
Of the original trilogy, the first X-Men movie still rates the
This prequel is an absolute stunner - from storyboard, script, mutant characters, pace, cinematography, Foley FX, VFX....you get the picture. In fact, the subtitle for this movie could also be X-Men: Origins. The poignant beginnings of Magneto and Mystique are recounted, as well as the extraordinary powers of Professor X. Yes, indeed! The good professor had plenty of goodies (and hair) in his formative years at Oxford University.....^^
I cannot wait to see X-Men prequel II and III, 3D or not.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Normally prequel movies are made because the main characters of the
first movie died (or in the end achieved their goals) and the producers
still want to make money out of the franchise. Think Butch Cassidy &
The Sundance Kid, Psycho, the (still to be made?) I am legend and of
course George Lucas's Star Wars saga. X-Men First Class also falls into
that category, but I cannot imagine that anybody will be complaining
about that. Director Matthew Vaughn created a great, thrilling and
sometimes even moving picture that without any doubt will get raving
reviews and be a huge commercial success. God knows both movie and
director deserve it.
What makes X-Men First Class really work is the great story. It tells us about the beginning of the mutants and especially the friendship between professor X (a charming James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr/Magneto (an impressive Michael Fassbender). Although they will drift apart at some time, you know that they will always have respect for each other. In this stage they even become close friends.
The movie opens during World War 2, when young boy Erik is taken to a concentration camp (like the opening of the first X-Men movie). There he meets Sebestian Shaw (a great Kevin Bacon), a scary Joseph Mengele-like scientist who likes to experiment on Jews and is especially interested in mutants. In order to force Erik into helping him he shoots his mother. Erik never forgives him for that and spends his whole life looking for revenge. Unfortunately he learns that Shaw is also a mutant. The scientist is even so powerful that it's almost impossible for Erik to kill him. Luckily he bumps into Charles Xavier...
What I also like about First Class is that the movie takes place in the past (the sixties) and uses historical events (the Cuba crisis and the Cold War) to make its point. Erik claims that no matter how many times mutants save the world, normal people will always see them as enemies. Professor X still wants to believe in the good of the people. With that message the foundation is laid for X-Men 1-3.
The performances in First Class are first rate. Kevin Bacon is a brilliant villain. His German is actually quite good and his opening scene can already be considered as a classic. He also speaks Russian in the movie by the way. Michael Fassbender (Magneto) represents the most exciting drama in the story. He's kinda like Darth Vader. You know he will turn to the Dark Side but you still hope that somehow he will stick with professor X.
First Class will be the beginning of super stardom for actress Jennifer Lawrence. She plays Raven in the story, a girl Xavier adopts as a real sister/best friend. She later becomes Mystique. Jennifer won critical acclaim with her role in Winter Bone and will play the lead in the much anticipated The Hunger Games movie, to be released in 2012. She is a great, vulnerable Mystique who later on chooses Magneto over 'her brother' Professor X.
So what's more to tell? January Jones as Emma Frost is sexy as hell, the special effects in the movie are great and there are not one but two cameos from actors from the first X-Men movie (and no, the second one is not Patrick Stewart). Unlike previous Marvel movies there is no extra scene after the end credits and Stan Lee does not have a small part in this one. Overall First Class makes you think of the Sean Connery Bond movies and the reboot of Star Trek (2009).
So... are you convinced? Just go see this excellent movie. Can't wait for its sequel!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Rarely have I seen a film professing to be good that ended up being as
bad as XMFC.
The back story altogether was silly and not just written to be taking place in the 60s, but seemed to be written as if the writers were living in the 60s. There was soooo much cheesy and corny crap. The yacht that turns into a submarine, the overly trusting CIA that takes super-powered people and lets them run wild recruiting kids to be super-secret agents for the government (what is this, Spy Kids?), the bad guy with the secret passageways behind the bookshelf and the table that spins around when you touch the secret panel...I mean all of that late 60s/early 70s James Bond flotsam that no one ever really did or had, but was all part of the "isn't this cool, daddio" culture of the time and so popped up in every action movie. I was waiting for there to be a mad scientist with a death-ray on the moon. So much for Vaughn's determination to bring these characters into a realistic setting.
Then, the most interesting characters were the ones most under-utilized. Havok, Banshee, Darwin, Azazel and Riptide were completely glossed over in favor of the already over-exposed characters. People complain about the X-films over using Wolverine and that they are tired of it? Well, absent him, who are the two characters most heavily utilized in the X-films? Magneto (the ever-villain, whose constant inclusion negates the use of far more interesting villains) and Xavier. The other two character focal points, Mystique and Beast, have also been done. So anyone hoping for some good character exposition on the new blood...sorry, you are S.O.L. Nothing here but the same old, same old. But then, on the topic of the characters who actually did get exposition... --Magneto. You get his initial entrance into the concentration camp, and then he is 30. 12 to 30...just like that. What happened in between? What happened between when he got liberated and the first scene with him in the hotel room spinning the coin round his fingers? It was bad story telling. They wanted him to be completely unencumbered with a job, friends, a home...anything that would ground his character in reality. They wanted him to be a clean slate of a character with one thing only: revenge on Shaw. Talk about a one-dimensional character. Plus, his turn-coat to being a bad guy was practically instantaneous. Yeah, he and Xavier had that very brief convo about mutants/humans sitting across the chess board, but that was really it. Then, a few meglo-maniacal words from Shaw in the reactor room and Magneto is ready to turn coat on the only people in his entire life that he has ever been able to call friend. Almost as silly as Darth Vader's turn in Episode III.
--Mystique...same exact problem. Her brother, best friend, only person in the world she really cares about. Not only does she betray his dream, not only does she go against every other one of her friends, but she up and leaves Xavier shot and possibly dying. I'd be one thing if she were a stalwart "mutant and proud" booster from the start, but she has only ever wanted to be normal and has known love, friendship and acceptance and she immediately turns away from her entire life and the beliefs she has had her whole life after a few kind words from a guy she threw herself at (who ultimately rejected her advances, btw). Her turn was sillier than Magneto's. At least he had the bad childhood to fall back on.
--Shaw. His motivation was wholly unbelievable. He was a completely one-dimensional villain. Why exactly did he want to do what he was planning? Here he is, a wealthy and powerful man who has never known anti-mutant prejudice due to his ability to pass for a human, as well as the fact that there was no anti-mutant prejudice at this time since mutants were an, as yet, undiscovered species. And yet, he is looking to destroy all of humanity. Oh yeah, and exactly how were the mutants to survive the nuclear holocaust? I don't recall anyone claiming all mutants were immune to radiation poisoning. So he was just a cartoonish Bond villain with no reasoning behind his motivation.
So characters were bad, style and execution of the plot was bad, action and FX were Michael Bay-esque in that it was random explosions and jump cuts that had too many things happening too fast to make an impact. Clichéd training montages. Terrible effects on Beast. Silly one-dimensional human characters. Some of the acting was passable, but some was flat out bad (January Jones, the Kravitz girl) and the ones that were good were really just OK. No stand out performances. And even if Fassbender and Macavoy could be seen as great, they weren't so good that the entire movie can hang on their performances.
Frankly, I think this film is a beneficiary of its own hype. Maybe a lot of critics who grew up in the 60s/70s were swept up in the nostalgia for their lost childhood and looked fondly on this film because of it. High critical praise and constant...never...ending...PROMOTION for weeks had people hypnotized into thinking this movie's release was going to be the event of all events. I think it got to a point where the people who were moderately excited about its release started hyping themselves up more and more at every positive review and every new trailer. Every new viral character spotlight and every crossover (come on...a Statefarm Insurance crossover?!?). Eventually, they just told themselves that this was the movie of the year and, for those people, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I'd recommend passing on this one. Hopefully, they will reboot the whole series and make an X-Men movie that does the characters justice.
What stands out in this movie (besides the look of some of the
mutants), is the clever way in which all the pieces fall into place as
a prequel which cements the backdrop and tone for the previous X-men
offers. This one however, stands above them though for the
consideration and tact that has gone into developing these
understandably complex characters. Resulting in a more complete movie
The leading cast do a brilliant job in giving you a sense of their conflict with ingredients such as prejudice, ignorance, a sense of belonging and bitter revenge giving the film a more humane feel than a lot of dramas allowing you to connect with the characters more easily.
The special effects- lets not forget, are top notch as expected, but surprisingly very in-keeping with the film and doesn't take away from the other elements of it. The violence is clean but present, pitched right between a young and adult audience. There's also a decent amount of ironic humour thrown in, which, considering the party tricks on offer (by that I mean the powers and peculiarities of the mutants), just comes and goes naturally without feeling forced as like a lot of comedy moments in films of late.
Bottom-line, this is a well-constructed, well acted Marvel film. I wasn't totally convinced beforehand, casting James McAvoy as the young Xavier, a full head of hair and northern accent doesn't seem the best fit after all. I can say that he fully realised that role and showed his range in playing a more commanding lead. Michael Fassbender has great screen presence and does a good shift as the Magneto to-be and Mr Bacon adds another interesting element to the story. All the supporting cast give a solid performance with everyone focused on the exciting job at hand and no weak links.
Easily worth the cinema admission and thank god they didn't make it in hit-and-miss 3d, there's just no need! The best of the X-men franchise.
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