By: Lawrence Foster
Rating: 9.25 out of 10
By the time the credits were done rolling, I realized that I had just watched quite possibly the best prequel movie of all time.
The first reason for my skepticism was that the previous two X-Men movies left a sour taste in my mouth. X-Men Origins: Wolverine was terrible and X-Men: The Last Stand floated between aw- and -ful.
The second (and to me the most important) reason was the Dumb and Dumberer effect. Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd was a 2003 prequel to the comedy hit (and one of my all-time favorite movies) Dumb and Dumber. In the prequel, Derek Richardson (Harry) and Eric Christian Olsen (Lloyd) never made the characters theirs and that is a huge reason why the movie tanked.
While other reviewers focus on the outstanding supporting class of Lucas Till (Havok) and Caleb Landry Jones (Banshee), or the superb action sequences, I was blown away by the portrayals of already established Mutants like Charles Xavier and Magneto.
While I may not have been in love with the X-Men franchise, I cannot argue that Patrick Stewart’s portrayal of Xavier and Ian McKellen’s take on Magneto were excellent. Because of that, I had very little faith that James McAvoy (Xavier) or Michael Fassbender (Magneto) would be able to add anything to the characters.
Boy was I wrong.
Both McAvoy and Fassbender quite simply owned their respective roles.
Not once during the film did I think, “Stewart or McKellen would have done that better.”
In fact, McAvoy and Fassbender added little wrinkles to their characters that made them more relatable.
The scene that sticks out in my mind is when the X-Men are training at Xavier’s mansion. Xavier tells Magneto to turn a huge satellite dish towards the house and Magneto tries but fails, because he uses anger to fuel his power. Xavier tells him that he won’t be able to tap into his full potential using anger and he helps Magneto find a memory to use to get the right power. It is a very emotional scene and while the friendship between the two was there in the original X-Men trilogy, I never truly believed it until that scene.
Not to be outdone, the talented and gorgeous Jennifer Lawrence blows Mystique out of the water. I am not a fan of the comics or anything and my basis of knowledge of Mystique comes from the trilogy and quite frankly, there wasn’t a single redeeming quality to the shape-shifter in the first three films.
That is not the case with the X-Men First Class version of Mystique. For a majority of the movie, she is on the “right” side of the battle, but as was expected, Magneto gets her to turn, for lack of a better phrase, to the dark side. Even with the turn, Mystique was going to stay with Xavier, but he knows she really wants to go with the magnetic one and tells her to do so.
X-Men: First Class is classified as an action/adventure flick and for good reason. There is plenty of combat and action. Even with all the fights, the strength of this film is the characters.
If you have reservations about the film like I did, put them aside. X-Men: First Class is a great movie and has something for everyone.