Graphically Speaking: X-Men: First Class review

WARNING: the Blu Ray version of this film has been known to lag on some Blu Ray players.  If you experience this, remove the disc, disable the player’s internet connection and delete the “First Class” cache from the BD Data Utility.  That should tide us over until Fox does a recall.

X-Men: First Class

Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Bacon
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some sexual content including brief partial nudity and language

Did you hear the one about the Holocaust survivor who moves in with his Oxford-educated chum and several wayward teens who live in a castle in Westchester?  And they all have superpowers?  No, it’s not a sitcom.  It’s a prequel!…hey…hey, where are you going?

Prequels are the poor man’s sequels. Name three good prequels…right?  Even if they were good, you probably saw the end coming: they all die, he turns to the dark side, nothing’s stopping them now, etc.  They’re a last ditch effort when you can’t quite do a sequel or a reboot, so you wind up with a (pardon the phrase) bastard.  But folks, X-Men: First Class is no bastard.  It’s the prodigal son. And it may just be one of the best comic book films ever made.

Set against the 1960s Cuban Missile Crisis, X-Men: First Class chronicles several important chapters in the early history of the proverbial mutants.  Specifically, it focuses on the budding relationship between a young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy,) and Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender).  Before acquiring their nicknames, they team up with the US government to hunt the Hellfire Club, a group of mutant terrorists led by Sebastian Shaw.  Shaw is a gleeful sociopath played by Kevin Bacon. Yes, Kevin Bacon. And he’s awesome.

And THAT, Hellions and Morlocks, is the glue that keeps this film together: EVERYBODY takes it seriously.  Nobody on either side of the camera looks like they’re here to cash a paycheck.  They even look like they’re having fun, Bacon included.  This film is just further proof that director/co-scripter Matthew Vaughn was the right choice for the abhorrent X3.  It’s enough to make me pray for an alternate universe where his version of that film exists.

A series of events brings Charles and Erik together to assemble a group of young mutants for the CIA to train. New recruits include sonic screamer Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones), master adapter Darwin (“Twilight’s” Edi Gathegi), and a pre-fur Beast (Nicholas Hoult). Throw in a young Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) for good measure, and you’ve got yourself some nice effects and charming performances.  The downside here is that the film is so densely populated that sometimes the kids seem more like placeholders for superpowers.  I honestly can’t remember a single line Havok (Lucas Till) says.  Then again, Mystique was mostly silent in the pervious films, so here she gets a chance to be fleshed out, no pun intended (though someone finally addresses her constant nudity.  Blue or not, there are children here, ma’am!).

There are many surprises I won’t ruin, but I will say there are several crucial moments in X-Men history that are sprinkled throughout the film, but most of them hit you like you’re experiencing them for the first time. Why, if I cared enough about prequels in general, I might even say that’s the mark of a good one.

The cast, the effects, the story, and the humor are all fantastic.  Vaughn wisely worked with Bryan Singer as a producer on this one and the whole thing comes together beautifully.  I walked out of the theater thinking maybe, just MAYBE, it was better than X2.  Sounds crazy? You be the judge.

While there are several nods to the later X-films, there are elements of First Class that seem to erase X3 from continuity altogether.  Call it a conspiracy theory, but watch the film, then watch the first scene from X3…Kind of impossible, right? Consider that just one more reason to love this movie.

Posted on September 13, 2011 at 19:10 by Lowell Greenblatt · Permalink
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