June 5, 2011

REVIEW: X-Men First Class

X-Men: First Class is the first installment focusing on back stories of pillar characters of the franchise. In this film we see the origins of Charles Xavier (Professor X), Erik Lehsherr (Magneto), Raven (Mystique), Hank McCoy (Beast), The X-Men, Hellfire Club and the Brotherhood of Mutants. In the early days of mutants revealing themselves to the human population they have already chosen sides. The Hellfire Club wanting to erase the humans from the planet for a mutant utopia. While the American government starts the seeds for what would eventually become the X-Men trying to prevent full scale nuclear war in covert operations with a mutant team of their own.

I grew up with the X-Men stories starting with the Jim Lee run of the comics along with the animated series. The mythology has always kept me interested in the X-Men universe more so than any of the other comic book franchises. X-Men has been apart of my childhood and throughout the years with the four the films. It was a landmark moment when a studio was able to make a mainstream Marvel film which took the material seriously. While the first two were impressive in my opinion I could have done without X3 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I was beyond excited when Bryan Singer returned to help with the story and creative side of the project as a producer. When Matthew Vaughn was hired to direct and co-write with Jane Goldman I pretty much was on board from then on. So does First Class revive the series which has been manhandled by studio suits and marketing departments or is it another let down?

The simple answer is that First Class is really how the X-Men franchise should have started out. It gives solid character studies and motives for most of the major players in the film. Matthew's visuals and attention to detail outshines the previous films as we are transported to a Bond-like comic book world. As the film is an international globe-trotting affair which hasn't really been seen before in this way. We get to see how Erik becomes Magneto and go from Holocaust survivor, to Nazi hunter, to hero and then to villain. Fassbender giving one of the rawest performances we've seen in these movies. One of the best surprises in the film was the relationship between Charles and Raven. In the previous films we never saw the two share screen time so there was lots of room to explore things. Jennifer Lawrence was amazing as Raven and gave the character a bubbly/compassionate personality that hadn't been seen before. James McAvoy's take on Charles seemed on the money while not being an impression of Patrick Stewart's version. The cameo was jaw dropping funny and there are more Easter eggs if you look closely.

Now comes the issues with the film. There aren't many but a few can be explained with the rushed production which was expected considering how quickly this film came together and it's short post-production time table. Zoe Kravtiz' character Angel Salvatore turns so quickly even after one of the X-Men sacrifices themselves for her that aspect is more to do with bad writing than Zoe's performance. It seemed a lot of the supporting characters like Havoc, Riptide, Darwin and Banshee were just two dimensional background players lacking any sort of arc. January Jones on the other hand was just terrible and seemed like a poor casting choice. She looked uncomfortable in every costume while delivering slow mono-toned lines. Emma Frost is an important character to the X-Men franchise and this was a disservice to fans with the miscast. Hopefully they recast her in the next film. Fassbender broke character in a few moments revealing his Irish accent which seems like a simple thing to fix with a dubbing but that didn't happen. There were a few sketchy special effects shots at the end of the film but you can't blame anyone considering how little time they had for post-production. Button scenes are common place with franchise films these days so it was surprising with all the sequel talk they didn't have one after the credits. I'm being nit-picky here as there isn't much to complain about.

Overall First Class is wonderfully entertaining blockbuster and it's the summer film to beat quality-wise. Matthew Vaughn and Bryan Singer have brought the X-Men franchise back to it's roots but also giving it new blood and an visual edge. I can't wait to see the next installment and hope they pursue a trilogy or even more than that. I'd be curious who they'll add in the sequel and expect this world to explore characters that haven't been given their due in previous films. First Class is more of a reboot than a prequel seemingly starting over the X-Men cannon in a similar way to Star Trek. I'd like to think this will show 20th Century Fox how to handle the rest of their comic book properties. Allowing their directors more creative control to insure a solid film rather than playing it safe.


No comments:

Post a Comment