So here it is. The end of the first themed weekend on The Film Dump. I’ve gone through the goodness of X-Men 1 and 2, and then trudged through the hell of X-Men 3 and the mediocrity of the Wolverine movie and now I’m here, at X-Men First Class. Literally just got back from watching it so here we go.
Bag of shite! Worst film ever made! An absolute travesty of cinema! Craps all over the previous movies and is an insult to fans! There’s are phrases you won’t be hearing in any reviews for X-Men First Class. Well unless you’re that one moron that actually likes X-Men 3, because as far as this film is concerned that film never happened and possibly neither did X-Men Origins Wolverine. Well unless you use selective continuity to form your movie universes. There’s still a few things that will mess with what happens in the first two films but nothing that negates them fully. I won’t go and ruin just what things are changed to basically negate X-Men 3 from existence but let’s just say I’m glad I can pretend it never happened.
Well on with the review. The film is largely set in 1962 at the height of the Cuban missile crisis. The story focuses on the first meeting of Xavier and Magneto and the gradual forming of the team that will become the X-Men. During this Magneto has an agenda of his own to seek revenge Sebastian Shaw, the man that killed his mother whilst in the Nazi concentration. This is the drive that decides if he will go over the edge and become the Magneto the force of evil we all know and love. Meanwhile Xavier is planning to find a way to introduce the mutant race be integrated in with the average Joes of the world peacefully. We all know where this will lead because we all know their back story. It really isn’t a problem though.
Usually in prequels, for example a certain series of space battle themed prequels, there is an easy trap to basically just tell the audience the events they already know all the while ignoring the fact that we know. We know who’s going to live and who’s going to die. One of the few prequels to ever get away with this was Star Wars episode 3… Nah I’m kidding, It’s Star Trek. That particular movie was smart enough to pull one of a Sci-fi writers favorite plot devices next to amnesia out of the bag in the form of alternate dimensions. It allowed them to pretty much do what they wanted from the get go without ruining the continuity. First Class doesn’t do that. Instead it tells us the story we know in a setting we know with a constant element of this being the true story behind the scenes of the Cuban missile crisis in the Marvel universe. History doesn’t get changed of course, but we see a cool little story about how the X-Men get involved and what pushes Magneto to go over the edge.
So the story is something you’ll have certain expectations about what it will entail. That doesn’t make the journey any less enjoyable. If there’s one gripe I have with the story it’s that it perhaps takes a little too long to get to any action. There’s a couple of scenes of mutant powers mostly from Magneto, including a very well done recreation of the opening scene of the first X-Men, but the first real action doesn’t kick in until the 25 minute mark. The film does move along at a smooth pace from then on.
A lot of the story, like the first two films, focuses on character relationships and the paranoia of a potential superior race coming to the fore. These are the core concepts of X-Men and they need to be handled well for a good film to be made of the source material. These elements were only given lip service in X-Men 3 and Wolverine which was yet another flaw to drag them down. First Class manages to handle all these elements well, an element that rings truer with the characters in this film seeing as they have all lived through and seen the persecution of World War 2 and the racism and sexism of early 20th century America.
Special effects wise, which let’s face it is what you watch summer movies for, are easily the best in the series. There’s certainly nothing as horrible as a CGI Patrick Stewart or green screen trees and certainly no CGI claws… although they did have the chance. Some sequences are genuinely spectacular and any mutants we know from previous films still have the same look. Except Beast because as we know X–Men 3 didn’t happen. Fuck that film. The set’s are pretty cool too. Sebastian Shaw’s Hellfire Club locations are all straight out of 60s spy movies. they even have a submarine base with a fully decked out rumpus room with all the coolest pieces of 60s decor.
The villains, lead by Kevin Bacon and easily the worst actress of modern times January Jones, are the usual balance of smart leaders followed by a series of silent henchmen. None are more silenter than Riptide who I’m pretty sure not only doesn’t say a word but isn’t even called by his name at any point in the film. I had to imdb who he was. Azazel get’s at least one line but he also gets to do some awesome stuff. There’s a short sequence of him teleporting around killing CIA agents which is quite reminiscent of the opening sequence of X-Men 2. He also get’s to dispatch of these agents in a pretty gruesome way. In fact the film has quite a fair bit of brutality. Nothing gory but the action is certainly not PG.
Performances, with the exception of Jones (God she’s awful), are very solid. Fassenbender especially shines as Magneto, not to say McAvoy is slacking. Xavier is portrayed as a super smart guy with a penchant for modern groovy lingo. It’s pretty hilarious to see him be such a science dork whilst trying to smooth talk a lady with his science babble. All the characters get plenty of time to shine, barring the few that are pretty much cannon fodder, but I won’t reveal who. There’s also a hell of a lot of recognisable faces filling smaller roles too. Micheal Ironside, James Remarr and Oliver Platt all have smallish roles throughout the film.
Overall this is up there with the second X-Men film and it’s certainly leagues beyond the shit bombs that are X-Men 3 and Wolverine. There really isn’t much to dislike beyond the slow start and January Jones. The majority of the film stays enjoyable and it’s awesome to finally witness the friendship of Magneto and Xavier form and fall to pieces. There’s a load of scenes that give fans plenty to mark out over (watch or for the father of a certain crazy villain from the previous films) and loads of little nods to the other films in the series. And yes, there is a cameo or two to look out for. One of which earns the film it’s PG-13 cert thanks to some colourful language by everyone’s favorite feral psychopath. I recommend seeing this film as soon as you can. It’s a joy. So far this summer of the 4 big comic book films (No Priest doesn’t count) we’re two for two in terms of quality. Other the next few weeks I will be reviewing The Green Lantern and Captain America as soon as I get the chance to see them. Until then make mine Marvel.
BTW, I have one spoiler worthy pic from the end of the film. If enough people ask for it in the comments I’ll post it.