REVIEW: X-Men: First Class

X-Men: First Class

DIR: Matthew Vaughn

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Bacon, January Jones

Writers (Screenplay & Story): Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn, Sheldon Turner, Bryan Singer

Out this week

X-Men: First Class charts the epic beginning of the X-Men saga, and reveals a secret history of famous global events. Before mutants had revealed themselves to the world, and 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. Not archenemies, they were instead at first the closest of friends, working together with other Mutants (some familiar, some new), to stop armageddon. In the process, a grave rift between them opened, which began the eternal war between Magneto’s Brotherhood and Professor X’s X-Men

Before I go into full review mode I want to set the scene here. When they first announced this movie my first thoughts were “not another prequel”. X-Men Last Stand was just dire and had hardly any redeeming features, Wolverine was better but still a bit of a mess in places, but then some details emerged about First Class that made me think it might not be all bad. Bryan Singer was back in the captains chair as Producer and looking at a specific story set in the 60’s, then Matthew Vaughn came on board as the Director. So far so good. I like Singer and have loved Vaughn’s movies so far. Not far behind was Jane Goldman to help with the screenplay and after her great work on Stardust and Kick Ass I was getting excited.
Then the cast started to come together with James McAvoy announced as Charles Xavier, this is where I new I had gotten my hopes up to high. I was not a fan of McAvoy and have never been impressed with his work. A few other cast members were announced that did not install confidence in me so with this in mind I quietly pushed X-Men: First Class to the back of my mind.

Over the past month or so the marketing department at FOX have been going not just full throttle but warp speed with their marketing. But not in a good way, there was some confusion when the first poster was released and it should not have been, then other posters came out that looked just dire with what looked like photoshop heads on body’s. Then we started to get trailers, not one, not two but many and at last count there have been about 18 trailers and TV spots, most of which have not really done their job. Sure they showed off some set pieces and some dark moments but nothing to make you go WOW this looks great.

So with my frame of mind firmly in place it must be time to get back to the review. The Odeon Leicester played host to a packed crowd and after a short introduction from FOX the film started. In the first few minutes we are treated to what looks like a scene for scene recreation of the Erik Lensherr metal gate bending sequence from the first film. You know right away that we are in familiar territory and that it is trying to fully embrace what has come before (or after in chronologically terms). From here we start to see the back history of both Charles and Erik from childhood to adulthood. Although this is done in a short space of time Vaughn has made you believe that you have just had 30 minutes of back story in 10. Included in this first part of the movie is our introduction to a very young Raven, who would later go on to become Mystique and also Sebastian Shaw played by Kevin Bacon. In this first part of the movie we are treated to more character development than the whole of the 3 X-Men movies.

I will eat my words and say that I was mesmerised by McAvoy’s take on Xavier, who is in his prime and cocky and also a bit of a ladies man. Every word he spoke seemed so right and I started to really enjoy both the character’s take and McAvoy’s performance. We are also treated to a before now unknown relationship between Charles and Raven but not in the way you might think. Raven/Mystique is played by Jennifer Lawrence and for me was one of the most interesting characters in the movie apart from Xavier and Erik. Lawrence displayed a range of emotions that really started to tug at the old heartstrings.

Michael Fassbender was a great choice for Erik, I was not aware of his work prior to this film but I cannot imagine anyone else in the role of young Magneto. We are treated to his journey from a young boy to a man out for revenge and then to a man with hope and beyond. I am quite sure now that there will be no Magneto Origins movie as this film has done it and I would hate to see it go to waste.

During the course of the movie we see Charles and Erik recruit and round up their team while working with the CIA. It is here that we start to see the team assembling but we also start to see more of the humour coming through. In previous X-Men films we have only had touches of humour but here we have a whole new level which is just subtle enough to be enjoyable and fun. The team are made up of some fine young actors  the weakest of which is Zoë Kravitz as Angel. I would to have preferred some more screen time for the team but they all get their chance to shine, shout and fly. A shout out must be given to Nicholas Hoult who does a fine job as the young genius Hank McCoy and it really does flow neatly into the Beast we know from X-Men Last Stand.

On the opposition we have the Hellfire Club lead by Bacon’s Shaw and supported by the lovely January Jones as Emma Frost and her many revealing outfits. Bacon managed to straddle the line between camp Bond villain and super powered maniac well. Supporting the rear are Jason Flemyng as Azazel, who could possible be Nightcrawler’s dad, and Álex González as Riptide. The shame here is that Azazel and Riptide hardly got any development or words for that matter but their presence was strong on screen. Other supporting characters include Oliver Platt as a CIA agent along with Rose Byrne as the faithful ally of Xavier Dr. Moira MacTaggert but here just a young CIA agent.

Director Matthew Vaughn has said he wanted to make a kind of early Bond X-Men and he certainly pulls this off. The 60’s style and setting just shines on screen and Henry Jackman’s score is very entertaining and not what you would expect from an X-Men movie. This falls in line with the spirit of the film and the gentle humour. The CGI is kept to a minimum which is perfect and the finale has enough to please the comics and blockbuster crowd.

This film also has one of the geekest moments I have seen in a long while that had the whole cinema cheering and clapping, even me. However a real shame there was no post credit scene which is kind of expected these days in most movies and there was one scene that could have been pushed back. Yes I’m looking at you Ms Frost and Erik.

The only real concerns on this film for me were the plot holes regarding when Xavier could have used his memory swipe power and also the effects on Beast just did not seem as good as they were on X-Men Last Stand. Also the CIA would have known that Xavier owned a huge estate so not really a secret. Apart from that this is my movie of the year so far and is one of best Super Hero movies out there. See below the slideshow for our GS rating

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X-Men: First Class is first rate and the story is top of its class in not just comic book movies but movies full stop.

GS Rating: 4/5

SOURCE:  X-Men: First Class site

GS Reporter: Montoya

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