Review: X-Men: First Class (2011)

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.

X-Men is one of the biggest names in comics. The only other that could come close is Spiderman in terms of accessibility. Most of us remember the cartoons at least as a kid and the original film franchise which was about 10 years ago. The X-Men roots are already in place with the brilliant first two films – yet we were spectacularly let down by the third and Wolverine. X-Men: First Class is a prequel which shows how Magneto and Professor X came to where they are in the original X trilogy. But aside from the early 40’s scenes the film is firmly set in the 1960’s which looks pretty damn good.

James McAvoy plays the young Charles Xavier, we see him in a completely different light to when he’s a much wiser older man – and he still has a full head of hair (which is a joke that’s used more than once during the film). McAvoy portrayal of young Charles is brilliant and probably one of my favourite performances in it. We see Charles as quite a cheeky and ‘groovy’ guy who uses his power to try and pick girls up (well that’s what you would REALLY do isn’t it?) but with still that human and compassionate side that makes him want to help the government in the first place.

Erik Lensherr is played by Michael Fassbender who does an excellent performance. Fassbender shows us exactly how ‘Magneto’ came with years of anger from a nightmarish past being in a concentration camp. He is a man in pain and seeking out one thing, revenge. Fassbender does with real intent and it was a solid performance. One gripe I has his accent which shifted from time to time, you could clearly hear the Irish in him in some scenes but what you going to do, Liam Neeson still hasn’t got it right after all these years.

Next we move onto the villain. Kevin Bacon plays Sebastian Shaw who has his own unique power and view on the world around him. We see him early on in the film as he was the Doctor in the camps that made Erik Lensherr the mutant he is today. Have to say Bacon makes a outstanding villain, I really enjoyed his character a lot – especially in the early 40’s scenes when he is speaking German that sounds so evil and menacing. Real spine shivering stuff. Couldn’t fault his acting in it and it was nice to see him play ‘bad’ characters once in a while.

Suppose the fourth ‘main’ character would be Raven who is played be Jennifer Lawrence. She is Charles’ oldest friend and is clearly one of the main characters not just in First Class but also in the original trilogy. Lawrence does a good but her character doesn’t know what she wants. It seems that at the beginning Raven/Mystique clearly wants both desires of being normal but also being proud to be a mutant. It’s not until she meets Magneto and then sees her path.

January Jones who plays Emma Frost was a real disappointment. Her character wasn’t exactly the best but Jones’ acting didn’t help which seemed rather wooden to me. Also the appearance didn’t quite work for at least the whole film but it was mainly the acting in general. This leads nicely to the other mutants in the film, whether they are good or bad there just wasn’t any development in the characters and seemed rushed. I felt like I didn’t care what happened to any of them if they died or survived – also some of the mutant choices weren’t that great. Take Banshee, nobody likes Banshee not even Banshee! (Family Guy joke for people in the know).

For the most part the CGI in the film worked and it looked great but it was suspect in certain areas. My main peeve was the way Beast looked when he was transformed. As a friend pointed out he kind of looked like something out of Monsters Inc. Beast certainly looked much better in X-3 (one of few positives from that film). Everything else aesthetically looked really nice.

Some of the negatives I found though was the length. The film was too long in my opinion and there could of been a fair chuck of footage that you didn’t need or have as long. Also some continuity errors I found like when did brass bed frame be able to crack diamond? I’m no expert on physics but that did seem a bit off to me. These are just minor setbacks but the positive heavily outweighs the negative which is good. A huge positive though would be that it’s the ONLY comic film solely in 2D this year which I am very thankful for.

Overall Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men is very good, he’s showed that he’s more than capable of taking such a large franchise and not butcher it up and hopefully he continues on just as strong. I enjoyed it a lot and would definitely recommend it. Is it the best superhero movie that’s been out so far? In my opinion I preferred Thor but time will tell with the others coming out soon.

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