I write my first film review for the Writing Blog, X-Men: First Class, after a recent re-watch.
“A great film, giving a great insight to the origin of the X-Men with some great acting as well.”
This Review Contains Minor Spoilers!
Director: Matthew Vaughn | Writers: Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz | Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Superhero | Rating: PG13 | Cast: James McAvoy (Charles Xavier), Michael Fassbender (Erik Lensherr), Kevin Bacon (Sebastian Shaw), Rose Brynn (Moria McTaggert), Jennifer Lawrence (Raven), January Jones (Emma Frost), Nicholas Hoult (Beast) | Runtime: 132 mins
I really enjoyed X-Men: First Class. Whilst I missed it at the cinema, I’ve seen it twice on DVD and the viewing experience does not decrease whilst watching it. It’s the second best X-Men film so far in my book, behind the incredible X2, but it ranks better than the rest. Who’d have thought that a X-Men film without Wolverine would be better than a Wolverine-centric story? Because in so many ways, X-Men: First Class is awesome. The script, despite a few flaws – is great, and the leading roles of James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender steal the show, with some superb acting that really give this film a distinctive feel. It’s fresh, and much more modern than the previous X-Trilogy leading me to wonder what would happen if the original trilogy was released in the near future, especially on the other side of films like The Dark Knight Rises and the rest of Christopher Nolan’s awesome Batman trilogy, as well as Joss Whedon’s brilliant Avengers. This film itself was released a year before the aforementioned two films hit the cinemas, and really provided us with a great look at what is hopefully a positive move forward in the X-Men film universe.
Before Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time. Before they were archenemies, they were closest of friends, working together, with other Mutants (some familiar, some new), to stop the greatest threat the world has ever known. In the process, a rift between them opened, which began the eternal war between Magneto’s Brotherhood and Professor X’s X-MEN.
[The summary, like all of the films that I review from now on, will be borrowed from IMDB]
The film has a backdrop of the 60s and the Cold War and with it comes a wealth of historical possibilities. X-Men: First Class had the potential to cover so many things right from the Civil Rights Movement to Kennedy’s assassination and beyond, but it chose to focus on the build up to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, completely overshadowing the aforementioned events right to the point where the Civil Rights Movement isn’t even mentioned at all.
I’d love to have seen what an X-Men film could have done with the Civil Rights Movement – it had such a great potential. But unwasted potential isn’t the only thing that goes amiss here, there’s just too many cast, and there are plenty of continunity errors from the first X-Men film, which I’ll touch on later. As the action is focused mainly on Xavier, Erik, Raven, Beast and the new recruits for the X-Men, our attention on the villains is rather limited and we only get Shaw and Emma Frost at centre stage. These two characters are acted brilliantly though – but I would have loved to have seen more of the villains who were neglected – Azazel, the red-skinned demon and Riptide being just two examples.
The same can be said for Xavier’s students as well – there are just too many characters. I never get to feel sympathy for Angel and she comes across as a jerk right from the get go, and one dimensional. Darwin never gets a chance to shine, and the fact that his powers are attuned to survival is kind of awkward considering he’s the first mutant to meet his end. In a pretty awesome way though, but I’d still rather have seen more of him than Angel, but characters such as Banshee and Havok were pretty cool even if their apperances were only limited to the training montages and the final showdown in Cuba.
I mentioned earlier about continuity errors, and there’s a whole lot of them in this film. Xavier mentions at one point in the original X-Men films (I think it’s X1, to Logan), that Jean Grey and Scott Summers were his first students. Now I think what this film ideally needed was to have cut down on the kids, saved them for the sequel – and focused heavily on Xavier, Erik and the introductions of Jean and Scott with the Hellfire Club as the villain. There are more continunity errors in First Class as well, but I can’t recall them all whilst writing this review.
I’ve talked nothing good about this film since the summary and you’re probably starting to wonder why I think it deserves the ranking of the second best X-Men film if all I’ve had to say about it is bad things. That’s not true – for X-Men: First Class is a stunning film. The visuals and special effects are great, but the strongest point in this film is easily the two leads, Erik and Charles. Fassbender plays a brilliant Erik Lensherr and Charles Xavier is played greatly by James McAvoy and I really think his performance of the young Charles is the standout moment in this film. There are several awesome nods to the future trilogy as well, with lines such as this:
Hank McCoy: Are you sure we can’t shave your head?
Professor Charles Xavier: Don’t touch my hair.
That really demonstrate just how McAvoy steals the show. Nicholas Hoult also puts in a strong performance as Hank, and even though he’s overshadowed by the lead characters and arguably Jennifer Lawrence – playing as Mystique and Kevin Bacon’s Sebastian Shaw, he’s in my opinion – the fifth best actor in the cast. The performances are all strong though and I never felt any actor/actress put in a worse performance than others – they just didn’t have enough screentime.
The action in this film is wide and varied, and the plot is pretty enjoyable. My favourite moment in the film is the training scene at their new mansion, where several fast clips of Charles training the array of mutants – Hank, Erik and more – and combined with the awesome soundtrack First Class, the film is made even more epic – and you can just as easily put aside the weak elements in the film for the fact that it sets out to give you a really enjoyable and entertaining flick, with Vaughn having created a much better installment than Origins: Wolverine and using getting away with a lot of violence for its rating in a very similiar way to what The Dark Knight did, even if First Class has a lighter tone to it than Nolan’s second Batman film.
A good film with some great action sequences and acting from the lead stars, but suffers from the weakness of having too many characters and a whole lot of wasted potential for an X-Men film set in the 1960s. But it certainly is entertaining though, and is easily the second best X-Men film to date.
The X-Men Live Action Films: X-Men, X2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, First Class, The Wolverine (2013), Days of the Future Past (2014)