X-Men: First Class Review
Well, I just got back from X-Men: First Class and decided to (surprise) break my “only posting on Tuesday/Thursday rule” already. Be aware that I will be giving away some of the plot in my review so you may want to stop reading now if you haven’t seen it yet.
I knew going into this that it was a prequel, the only thing that I hate more than a non-trilogy sequel. But my inner fanboy wouldn’t let me pass up the chance to see another X-Men film on the big screen and erase the memory of seeing X-Men 3. So I went into this with low expectations.
[SPOILERS START HERE]
I was hoping for something reminiscent of the original Singer X-Men film – and for the first five minutes I thought that maybe I had traveled back in time. You are actually watching Erik (Magneto) as a lad at the concentration camp same as in the start of the X-Men movie. When I saw the original I thought, “oh, so this is what happens to set him on that path to villainy.” Wrong! Shortly after that familiar opening you are introduced to Sebastian Shaw under the guise of Nazi scientist Dr. Schmidt who is working with the SS in their (laughable) attempt to create genetic supermen. After killing Erik’s mother for being unable to demonstrate his powers, he discovers that rage and pain fuel his magnetic abilities and spends a decade torturing him into a weapon.
Skip to New England where you witness a young Charles Xavier meeting Raven (Mystique), a homeless young mutant like himself who breaks in to his home to steal food. He adopts her as a sister, though she comes to see it more as a being a pet later in the film. Their relationship is very different from what I’ve seen anywhere else, but it worked in context.
I loved the relationship between Erik and Charles – Fassbender and MacAvoy had great chemistry in every scene – and I would have been happy had the entire story focused on just the two of them. But it is called X-Men: First Class for a reason.
The “first class” didn’t wow me as much as their mentors. Darwin and Angel Salvadore were odd choices to make as founding members – although midway through one dies and one turns traitor – I would have preferred more mainstream characters to fill those positions. Havok and Banshee are two of my favorite mutants and the film hardly did them justice. Alex was, for some unknown reason, an Army prisoner and not all the take charge guy he should have been. Sean on the other hand was just an annoying teenager trying to to fill the prankster role that rightfully belongs to Iceman. He wasn’t even Scottish!
Stand-out among them was Hank (Beast), first introduced as a closeted mutant working as a government scientist. His search for a cure to his abnormal appearance (those CGI prehensile feet looked amazing) was touching as was his relationship with Raven – both hiding their “true self” from outsiders. Nicholas Hoult did an amazing job, my one qualm being the choice to use the more modern cat-like Beast, which I despise.
Their choice to use the Hellfire Club as the protagonists was perfect – a secret society of mutants manipulating world powers into nuclear war to wipe out the inferior Homo Sapiens. They were the perfect cross between Mad Men and James Bond villains. I’ve never been a fan of Kevin Bacon but his portrayal of Shaw was inspired. I was confused, however, by the addition of Riptide (a member of the Marauders) and actually had to check to see who he was since he was never referenced by name.
Speaking of Mad Men villains – check out January Jones as the White Queen. I was bummed when I saw “diamond-skin Emma” on the trailer – I always hated that power – but was surprised to see they actually gave me the good-ole “Super-Bitch” White Queen I love from the 70s-80s comics. She stole the movie for me – every scene she was in just captured my attention – the costume helped, too.
[SPOILERS END HERE]
All in all I really enjoyed the movie – it’s not continuity, or even 100% in sync with the film Trilogy history – but it was a great ride. They leave it open as a new franchise, something I hope they consider because I would love to see the characters explored a bit more and maybe have a few new ones added. If they do decide to turn it into a prequel trilogy (a la Star Wars), I hope they keep Matthew Vaughn in the director’s seat.
MY SCORE: (A-) Good for newbies or fans of the original trilogy but I think the diehard comic fans will be please as well.