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Review – X-Men: First Class

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X-Men First Class Teaser PosterI went into X-Men: First Class skeptical, even with the loads of positive buzz leading into it.  I didn’t know what to expect.  It’s a period movie that may or may not be a reboot or is it a prequel?  After seeing the movie, I came out pleasantly surprised and think the movie works pretty well as a prequel to the original trilogy.  The movie’s main focus is on the early relationship between Charles Xavier (played by James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (a stand out performance by Michael Fassbender).  This is all with the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis which is being pushed by the mutant Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon).

The movie is a mix of previous X-Men movies with a 60’s James Bond vibe about it.  It embraces the 60’s, in it’s attitude and how the characters act, which is great.  It owns that it’s a period piece movie.  The story itself has it’s minor issues here and there, but overall it’s solid.  The action comes quickly and the characters themselves are entertaining.  McAvoy and Fassbender especially stand out.  McAvoy’s Professor X has the cocky arrogance you’d expect a younger version of the character to have.  He loves the ladies and attempts smooth lines showing off his intelligence and using his gifts.  Fassbender’s Magneto on the other hand is haunted by the horrors of the past and surviving the Holocaust.  He’s a man on the mission of vengeance to hunt down the people who inflicted horrors upon him and his family and in doing so crosses path with Xavier.

The movie’s heart is these two and if possible, I’d love to have seen the movie focused solely on them.  Instead what could of been a great philosophical debate on humanity, evolution and strength with get glimpses and a lot of action.  But it’s entertaining and fun.  The rest of the cast is decent with some minor exceptions, but overall they’re there to look good, taking away screen time of the focus on Xavier and Magneto.

As I said, there’s minor issues, some characters I could of done without and some scenes we’ve seen before and some glossing over of basic explanations of things.  Overall though, X-Men: First Class lives up to it’s name as a first class movie, perfect popcorn fun for the summer.

Direction:  I’ve enjoyed Matthew Vaughn‘s past work and you can see his hand in the movie.  There’s certain scenes that emit his style especially towards the end as events really begin to unspool and ending nears.  Overall though, the movie feels like the 60s.  Even in how some scenes play out and different cuts fit the era.  It’s his movie and only makes me wish he had helmed the third installment.  There’s talks of two more movies, so we’ll see if he’s able to pull of the feel of the era’s they take place in too.

Acting:  McAvoy and Fassbender stand out.  Both put performances out there that have real emotion, and aren’t the cheese you’d expect in some movies.  Jennifer Lawrence as Raven/Mystique and Rose Byrne as Moira MacTaggert also give decent performances.  The rest of the cast are good, but nothing special.  What bothers me the most are issues with accents, which Vaughn reportedly told the actors to forget about, but if you have a german accent in the beginning you should have one in the end (I’m looking at you Bacon).  There’s also very little background for so many, it was hard to care for them other than what they were able to emote.  For that, there were a few actors and characters I would of done without.

Plot:  The plot is a bit convoluted and there’s some sections of the film I could of done without, as well as some characters.  But overall, bringing the plot into “reality” by tying it into the Cuban Missile Crisis helped the story and ground it in a reality that other Marvel movies enjoy.  It’s also impressive that with only a few issues, the movie does work as a prequel.  The characters transfer over well, you can see growth in some, as a whole it pulls that part off impressively.

Overall:  The film is a summer popcorn movie that has issues, but those are easily overlooked.  The acting is top notch in some cases and action sequences solid.  The film isn’t the best in the “X” series, but I think it’s easily the second best of the bunch (behind X2).  Overall entertaining and a movie to see in the theater that’s worth the $10.

Grade: B+

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