Posted: June 3, 2011 by ksteets in movies
Tags: , , , ,

I sense a sequel will be in the works soon

For me a good comic book movie has to be two things. First, and most importantly, is that it has to remain faithful to the source material. I’m not saying it has to follow it exactly, just hold to the spirit and the characters that made the book successful. Secondly, it has to make that source material enjoyable to a wider audience, a group that knows nothing of secret origins and future story lines, one that wants to invest $10-$15 and two hours of their time on this story. X-Men: First Class has a slight advantage in that department. Movie goers know some of these characters already. Professor X, Mystique and Magneto were introduced on the big screen by Bryan Singer in X-Men. He followed that up with X2. Both were successful and well received by movie goers and comic book readers. He left the franchise to take a shot a re-booting the Superman franchise. He failed. Meanwhile, he who shall not be named, gave us X-Men: Last Stand. While the movie did give us some character’s we were waiting to see in the franchise (Beast, Archangel, Juggernaut) it failed with it’s plot and hack directing and the franchise was dead. Now Singer returns, this time as a producer and brings in Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Kick-Ass) to direct. Where Last Stand and Wolverine failed First Class greatly succeeds. Is it perfect? No, but the good thing greatly outweigh the bad.

I’m gonna try to keep the story to a minimum, needless to say this is an origin story. We start off in 1944, where we’re introduced to the boys that will become Professor X and Magneto. After witnessing two events that will shape the boys lives we fast forward to 1962 to see the men on the paths that will bring them together. Charles Xavier, played by James McAvoy is on his way to being a professor through his study of human genetics and mutant chromosomes. Erik Leshnerr (Michael Fassbender) meanwhile, is on the hunt for a Nazi scientist who murdered his mother and made him what he is today. Eventually both men will join the CIA’s hunt of Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), leader of the Hellfire Club and a mutant who is orchestrating World War III via the Cuban Missile Crisis. By the end of the film it’s clear that the two men have different hopes for the mutant community and can no longer be allies.

Let’s get the bad stuff out-of-the-way first. The plot isn’t perfect. The “endgame” of Shaw’s plan doesn’t make sense for anybody, mutants included. It seems like the writers had an idea of what they wanted to set the story up against and just threw in a poorly constructed reason to justify our characters ending up stopping nuclear war. The second thing I didn’t like is the characters in Shaw’s Hellfire Club. We were introduced to Emma Frost, Azazel and Riptide. For much of the movie Azazel and Riptide serve only as henchmen, I don’t even remember Riptide having any lines at all. I understand that this is very common and almost unavoidable when you have so many characters to introduce in 2 1/2 hours and it’s suitable for a film, but the part of me that knows Azazel from the comic books wish there was a bit more development of the character. As far as Emma Frost went, I didn’t have an issue with the character. She served a good role as Shaw’s lieutenant and as a telepath to counter Xavier’s abilities, but January Jones brought nothing to the film. While giving us something nice to look at is all well and good, she’s a terrible actress and I’m left wondering what a decent actress would have brough to the screen.

On the plus side, outside of Jones, the rest of the cast was great, particularly Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence as Xavier’s childhood friend, Mystique. McAvoy serves his part. It might be the intellectual superiority of the Professor X character that makes McAvoy come off unlikable sometimes, so if that was goal, I’d say it worked. The group of actors that make up Xavier’s and Mageneto’s first class all take to the character’s perfectly. Especially Nicholas Hoult who plays Hank Mcoy/Beast, probably the most fleshed out of the young students.

Dude, I just noticed she had wings man. How long has she been flying?

As a comic book fan, the movie had plenty to keep me happy. It made clear the conflict between these two men who both see the inevitable conclusion. Charles is determined to do all he can to resolve it peacefully while Erik will stop at nothing to make sure “mutants” come out on top. Another thing about great comic book movies is the sprinkled information that isn’t integral to the plot and may not interest the common movie goer at all, but fans of the book will enjoy. The creation of Cerebro, the X-Jet, the origin of Magneto’s helmet and that dude at the bar all made the fanboy in me smile.

In the end X-Men: First Class serves as a great reintroduction and slight reboot of a franchise that slipped off it’s pedestal. We’ll give it 8.5 out of 10.

  1. Jacki says:

    Glad to hear you liked it. I’ve really wasnt too sure about this one.

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