By: Bryan Montgomery
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
X-Men: First Class is a much-needed breath of fresh air for a fledgling franchise. It is also the best movie so far this year. Mixing in action, heart and all that made the first two films in the franchise resonate so well with fans, Matthew Vaughn has made X-Men great again with one of the best superhero films ever.
First Class details the origins of Professor Charles Xavier’s school for the gifted, as well as his fractured relationship with Erik Lenshurr. When Sebastian Shaw and his Hellfire Club are fixed to start World War III, the CIA enlists the help of Xavier and Erik to create a division of mutants to combat Shaw.
The best thing about First Class is how the overall package is a sum of its parts. We will start with the cast. Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy both knock their roles out of the park with their portrayals of Xavier and Lensherr. With two characters that were done so well by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, the standards were set high. Both actors not only met those expectations, but created something else entirely. Fassbender is a great complement as Magneto. The beginning of the film, he plays a James Bond-esque character hellbent on the revenge against the Nazis. It creates a series of great sequences that show Lensherr’s hunt for Shaw. Throughout the film, you never exactly know what Magneto is going to do and his actions are always double sided towards his true intention.
In that same regard, McAvoy presents a side of Xavier that we expect to see as well as a completely different version of the Professor. Early in the film, he acts as a womanizer and a playboy, using his intelligence and wit to impress ladies. But once he begins to bring in the other mutant, his perspective changes entirely, and we see a very Patrick Stewart-esque performance from McAvoy. These two characters mix in some old with some new perspectives of the characters we know and love so well. X-Men: First Class is led off by a great leading cast.
The supporting cast is where the film gets a major thumbs up. Although some of the big name players that fans have come to expect such as Jean Grey, Cyclops and Storm are not part of the equation, they are replaced by characters that will be widely respected and liked among the crowds. Jennifer Lawrence blows Rebecca Romjin out of the water with her portrayal of Mystique. Lawrence takes the character from a stand-in villain to a complicated, multi-layered antihero.
Three of the first class really stand out. Nicholas Hoult stars as Hank McCoy, bringing in a very interesting piece for fans of the franchise when he begins to speak with Mystique about finding a cure for his different physical shape. Lucas Till and Caleb Landry Jones play Havok and Banshee, respectively, and steal the show with their abilities and their characters. Jones in particular does a great job playing the comic relief of the film, and is a great character to continue on with as this series should.
I did not expect this film to be as action-packed as it was. This film fits into so many categories, and exceeds in all of the tasks it strives to complete. The final showdown that has been so heavily advertised in theaters is as grand as you could expect for it to be. But there are so many scenes before the grand conclusion that will certainly entertain action-hungry movie fans. First Class does a better job than any previous X-Men film in mixing popcorn summer action with dramatic thrills.
Centering the action around the Cuban Missile Crisis of the 1960s fit perfectly and really gave the film room to breathe. By placing the center plot around an event that many viewers will already recognize will allow them to realize the specifics of the mutant’s plot, which is where the script is the strongest. A very well written script will cause viewers to think and consider all of the strengths and weaknesses of the characters.
What stops this film from earning a perfect rating are several small hiccups. There are some characters in the film that were placed for ability showcasing and not truely examined properly. Darwin, Riptide and Azazel are three characters in which more background could have been provided, but are simply neglected in exchange for more content with the other characters. Kevin Bacon is good as a villain with Sebastian Shaw, but he could have been better. Finally, for fans of the series, there are several continuity issues with the series so far. The beginning of the film is a re-imagination of the first scene in the original X-Men film, using some of the same footage so it was obvious that director Matthew Vaughn was attempting to make this film a true prequel. None of the issues are franchise-breaking, but they will make fans of the series wonder if this is a reboot or a true prequel.
X-Men: First Class is great summer entertainment, and is one of the best films of the year, if not the best. The cast is great, the story is excellent, and the action is incredible. This is one hell of a turnaround for a series that seemed like it was sinking. Fans will love First Class and a high degree of new fans will join the fold due to Fassbender and McAvoy’s rendition of Professor X and Magneto. Longtime X-Men fans will go crazy over the light references made to the comic book series, as well as the cameos that will cause audiences to go crazy.
I will be the first to admit that I am wrong in my criticism of First Class during its advertising campaign. In my correction, there is only one thing to say about First Class in a bold statement; this is the best Marvel superhero film ever, and stands behind The Dark Knight for best superhero picture ever. Don’t waste your time watching one of the wasted efforts this summer, check out First Class and see a summer movie done right.