X-Men: First Class is out and receiving great reviews. So far this movie seems to be blowing viewers expectations out of the water. This seems to include Lytherus’s new movie reviewer, Hayden. Of course, as your resident comic reviewer, I might have been a wee bit harsher. Either way, we were both highly entertained!
Hayden’s Review: X-Men: First Class exceded my expectations
Marvel’s latest release, X-Men: First Class, is the best X-Men film to date and sets the bar high for future installments in the franchise. Brimming with engaging characters and exciting action scenes, this movie is a must for comic fans and casual moviegoers alike.
Set in the turbulent 1960s, the movie follows young Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr and their transformations into Professor X and Magneto, respectively. Before becoming enemies, however, the two talented mutants establish a close friendship and join forces to fight the evil Sebastian Shaw, who is bent on starting a nuclear war. To combat Shaw’s mutant henchmen, Charles and Erik gather hidden mutants from around the globe and train them for battle.
What makes this movie a step above most superhero films is its focus on character development and plot rather than special effects and lengthy battle sequences. The relationship between Xavier and Magneto is complex and believable, with each man having different ideas on what it means to be a mutant. I admire how much time the movie devotes to developing their relationship and showing audiences how and why they become enemies.
The acting here is phenomenal. Michael Fassbender steals the show as Magneto, and I don’t think the role could have been played any better. James McAvoy does a fantastic job as young Charles Xavier, and his onscreen chemistry with Fassbender is unbelievable. I can’t think of two actors better suited for such demanding roles. Kevin Bacon plays Sebastian Shaw, and he pulls off the role beautifully. I had heard he would make an appearance, but I had no idea he would play such a large role. I am thrilled at the amount of screen time he has, and he definitely makes the most of it.
The only problem I have with the film is that the X-Men as a team aren’t touched on nearly enough. And a majority of the mutants we do see don’t even appear in the original trilogy. I feel that if the filmmakers wanted to focus the story around Magneto and Xavier as they did, they should have given the movie a more fitting title. I’m fine with the focus being on Magneto and Xavier, but the title First Class made me think it would revolve more around forming the team. There are scenes in the movie that show Xavier and Magneto traveling around assembling a team, but even a casual viewer can tell it is not the primary focus.
Overall, X-Men: First Class is a fun, exciting, and suspenseful film that gives me renewed hope for the struggling X-Men franchise. The previous entry, The Last Stand, was a mess that many comic fans would like to forget about. Luckily, this movie flourishes under the direction of Matthew Vaughn, who takes the franchise in a bold new direction. He puts character development and story above special effects and unnecessary action scenes, which is not common in the movie business these days. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great fight scenes, but they are spaced out with time for character development in between.
In short, First Class exceeded my expectations. Deep and emotionally resonant at times, this film is a must for anyone who appreciates believable characters and a strong story. 4.5/5 stars.
Jackie’s Review: Good movie, but who were those guys?
X-Men: First Class is a myriad of pros and cons. Consistently through the X-men movies I have always enjoyed watching the powers and abilities of these amazing characters come alive, which I have only otherwise witnessed through my own imagination and in artistic stills of the comic books. The visual effects used for these powers have only gotten more and more fantastic.
Overall I enjoyed the plot. The fusion of the science fiction story into the actual historical political events of the 1960s was extremely well done and clever. Was it spot-on in the plot details? Of course not. None of them have been, so I was hardly expecting this one to be straight from the pages (or even close). As usual the creators took the basic premise and a few plot remnants from various story arcs and ran with them to make the movie something of their own. I’ve gotten used to it and can shrug it off with relative ease at this point. At least the story was engaging and believable and really, actually quite enjoyable.
The primary focus of this movie was obviously to develop a relationship of mutual respect and fondness between Charles Xavier and Eric Lehnsherr. I was impressed by the movie’s success to do so in such a short time period. This relationship was the most developed thing about First Class, as it should have been. I enjoyed watching their dynamic and seeing hints of their future in this glimpse of the past.
Unfortunately while these two characters were being greatly developed, all the others were getting the once over (aside from, perhaps Mystique who was also very prevalent). My absolute biggest problem with the X movies in general is that basically they use the established names and powers and attach them to a random person who kind of resembles the comic character with very little regard as to how that character’s personality should come across.
For example, my biggest disappointment was in January Jones. She caught a severe case of what I like to call “Halle Barry Syndrome.” Let me explain. Halle Barry has been cast in not one, but two comic book character roles. I could be wrong – but I would bet my cat (and I love my cat) that Halle Barry has never picked up a comic book a day in her life before being hired for the part. What makes her qualified for these roles? Oh come now, that’s obvious. She looks amazing in tight leather outfits. As does January Jones. But the down side to this is that the character comes across as flat and a far cry from the personality-filled original version. While this happens with a lot of characters in comics (though not comics exclusively, we’ve all seen this happen to fan-favorite characters in books as well), Jones was particularly noticeably off her mark. Emma Frost completely lacked her aloof air and harsh, droll commentary. What came out were a few rather of air-headed quips (mostly due to her tone of voice, not the lines themselves) that were supposed to suffice for her usual cutting verbiage. She would have been closer to the mark by just portraying her usual $%*# of a character from Madmen, which she usually does a bang-up job playing.
As another example, I loved Kelsey Grammar as Beast back in X-men: The Last Stand. I loved how spot on he was with the character and I loved his dramatic costume and makeup. While the actor for young Beast was adorable, the character had none of Beast’s signature wit and vivacity. This, I don’t believe was the actor’s fault as much as it was the limited script they provided him. I was dealing with the lack of accurate character representation just fine until Hank turned into his ape form. This is the point where I began laughing out loud in the theater to the extent of actually tearing up. He looked like a cheap stuffed carnival monkey won after knocking down enough ducks in a row. He was cross eyed with blue lipstick and the hair of a troll doll. Beast had been far better visually represented in a more simple fashion in X-men: The Last Stand.
Moira Mactaggert? – An American CIA agent. The closest thing about her to the actual character was her hair cut.
Sebastian Shaw ? – Don’t even get me started. I’m still stuck on the fact that he was played by Kevin Bacon who, predictably, lacked Shaw’s refined yet brutal manner.
Banshee? – Well played. Very cute. He was also about 16 years old and an American. Again, not even close. (Oh yea, did I mention Xavier is British? I guess that made him sound smarter? Um…..)
Angel? – Who cares. She’s a D-list character and I’m not even sure why she was there. But they mucked her all up too.
Unfortunately I have a feeling that the only characters that the writers will ever actually take the time to infuse with their comic-based personalities and wit are their meal tickets: Wolverine, Magneto, and to a lesser extent Professor X. The rest are just there to look flashy and do things for cool effects.
I do apologize if I was a bit too passionate about this title. All us nerds (and if you are on this site, that includes you, I’m happy to say) have that one thing that is their passion and focal point in the science fiction and fantasy industry. X-men are mine. I hate to see characters I love butchered. But, on the other hand I am very happy to see the X-men getting the attention that these movies have brought them.
Will I be buying X-men: First Class on DVD? Of course I will. It is something X-men so therefore I must have it. During every viewing will I complain and talk far too much about the movie’s inadequacies and unnecessary changes (much to the distress and aggravation of anyone else around me just trying to enjoy themselves with this valid form of entertainment)? – You bet your homo-sapien ass I will.
I am really glad we did a duel review on this one. Obviously my opinion differed from Hayden’s. But that’s the joy of fiction – it means and is taken differently to everyone, making it so much more interesting.