X-MEN: FIRST CLASS: reviewed by Joe 'Nightwing' MacDonald.
“Before he was Professor X, he was Charles. Before he was Magneto, he was Erik.”
Off the back of Thor, here comes the next Marvel Comics installation, and just like Thor, X-Men: First Class is definitely worth a watch.
In stark contrast to the previous X-Men movies a la Brett Ratner, this movie avoids the pitfalls of tone that depressed its predecessors and strives to do just what a movie should: entertain. Make no mistake, it is far from perfect but it is ultimately a movie that you should go out and see.
Keeping spoilers to a minimum, the movie starts off with a dark overtone that it does not maintain, but is ultimately crucial for character development. Starting with Kevin Bacon’s very well presented Sebastian Shaw and his actions upon a young Erik Lehnsherr gives us an insight into what pushes Erik into becoming Magneto. And given the tagline I would expect it to be so.
Sebastian Shaw is followed by his Hellfire Club of Emma Frost, Riptide and Azazel; Emma Frost (January Jones) being the most showcased whilst Azazel (Jason Flemyng) gets some decent action/fight sequences with the red-Nightcrawler treatment (appropriate if you know the comic backstory), and Riptide (Alex Gonzales) who gets no lines from what I can tell.
Moving on from our villains, we have our two main characters of Charles and Erik. Erik Lehnsherr is played by Michael Fassbender who more than delivers. The character is well played given the source material of the previous movies. He’s man who knows he’s different and revels in it, not quite understanding why he and his kin pander to the humans around them and determined not to do so himself. His journey and character development are principal to the plot. As is his friend and opposite; Charles Xavier.
Charles Xavier (Professor X), played by James McAvoy, is part of the reason this movie is so enjoyable. Taking him back to his origins seems to have imbued the character with the chance to be a bit more of an adventurer and this is genuinely what the franchise had been severely lacking. This isn’t to say that he takes a light hearted frolic through the whole movie – not at all. But it’s good to see the character of Professor X take off his grimace and wear a smile for once. One thing I will say for James McAvoy is that he’s discovered magic in portraying the invisible power of telepathy. You will see a lot of him touching his temples, but I suppose, what are you going to do when you need to present an essentially hidden ability?
The relationship between our two main characters is a cornerstone of the movie, and to my eye, is well presented and occasionally gripping. The Cain and Able style doomed relationship is entertaining to watch and both do a fantastic job of giving an insight in to the hidden nuances of the characters; Erik hinting at the dark and dangerously oppressed whilst Charles is the open and accepting mediator. Any comic book fan knows that the two will become adversaries knowing that they are the opposite sides of the same coin, but witnessing the journey that gets them there is where the movie takes you.
Besides the two main characters, the line-up of X-Brats was something bittersweet for me. On one hand, I love the way they are presented. The costumes are fantastic, and styled in the way they should be, director Matthew Vaughn has them all running around quite appropriately dressed in the old yellow and blue. Most of the characters are new as far as X-Men series goes, however some are cut far too short. Characters such as Darwin and Beast should have been showcased, whilst others who remain are just outright unlikable. I cannot think of a single redeeming feature that our young Havok has. This is a problem that probably has more to do with the script-writing of the parts and not so much about the actors. The character of Mystique is also a problem for me. And once again it is not the actress so much as the way her character was written. Again, avoiding spoilers, her relationship with Charles Xavier has no relevance with what has been established in the previous movies. This brings me to my next and final grievance with First Class.
It seems to spit in the face of previously established continuity with outright glee. Characters introduced in previous movies have absolutely no bearing to the ones portrayed within this one, Moira McTaggert being a prime example. Having been shown in X-Men 3 as a Scottish scientist is now an American CIA Agent. There are other ‘errors’ which shall remain nameless and they in no way spoil the movie at all. They just find a way of crawling under my skin.
Overall, this is a fantastic romp of a movie that will have you wishing that a little bit of radiation and evolution could give us all powers. Go see it and you will not be sorry.
Good Points: The costumes, the acting and mainly… the cameos!!
Bad Points: The costumes, some of the minor characters and mostly, the goddam continuity errors!