Here’s the official synopsis:
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. Before they were archenemies, they were closest of friends, working together, with other Mutants (some familiar, some new), to stop the greatest threat the world has ever known. In the process, a rift between them opened, which began the eternal war between Magneto’s Brotherhood and Professor X’s X-MEN.
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence
Written By: Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz
Directed By: Matthew Vaughn
I’ve always loved the X-Men movies. When the first movie hit theaters, the comic book movies were really fizzling out, and no one seemed to think they could work. Bryan Singer’s X-Men changed that attitude, and X2 is still regarded as one of the best comic book movies around. Then came X3 and Wolverine…Wow, what a disaster. With so many other powerhouse comic book films coming out, many wondered if X-Men just needed to fade into the background.
This is never the case for movie studios, and instead they decided to start with the basics, and do a prequel to show how it all came together. I was instantly intrigued. While I didn’t care for the last couple movies, I still thought there was a lot of potential in X-Men and slowly I found my hopes rising for this film.
After viewing several trailers for the film, the fans seemed on the fence (personally I couldn’t wait). Now that it’s out, I can say that it’s easily one of the best comic book movies I’ve seen, not just within the X-Men franchise either.
It’s a bold claim, I know, but I’ll keep breaking it down here. First, let me say that I was caught entirely by surprise at the amount of emotion I felt during the movie. I genuinely cared for all of the characters and felt almost complete empathy with them. I cheered when they did, was saddened when they were. And to be honest, I have no freaking idea how Matthew Vaughn did it. There was no overt moment where that connection happened, it just did.
And I think that idea sums up a lot of what made this film work: subtlety. There wasn’t anything too over-the-top or campy here. In fact, this movie felt pretty well grounded and everything that happened felt natural and flowing in the story. There weren’t any elements that felt forced or rushed. Even the humor (which there was more than you’d think) came naturally from the story, and when they came up, they were just hilarious.
More than anything, the story is what really dragged me in. It was really neat seeing how things got started, and the friendship between Xavier and Erik. To dispell any further questions on the matter, it really is a prequel. While many were claiming it’d be more of a reboot, there are many ways in which this story can tie directly in with the other movies. Sure, this movie puts a few plot holes into the overall franchise, but nothing that’s going to ruin it for anyone.
I was incredibly surprised by the amount of action in this movie. I fully expected this to be a far slower film, that focused more on getting everyone together and then some big action scene at the end. That’s not the case though. In fact, the heavy action is spaced fairly evenly throughout the film, with the final sequences being more personal and dramatically fulfilling, than stuff just blowing up.
The pacing of the action was well done, and by the end, I didn’t even need stuff to blow up. That’s just how well they set up the characters. I cared more about their personal battles than the overt ones taking place.
And speaking of bringing the team together…wow. That’s probably the thing I was most worried about. A lot of time could have been wasted while they were searching for the other mutants, but the way in which they showed how they found everyone was so fluid that it barely ate up any time. Yet even as quick as they were able to do it…I still felt like I got all the information I needed, which made the scenes when they’re all hanging out, that much better.
Briefly I’ll touch on a couple things that didn’t work so well. Honestly, I’m being nitpicky with things here, because there wasn’t much that didn’t work. On the whole, I didn’t think enough time passed in the film.
While they did a great job of making Xavier and Erik look like friends, there didn’t feel like a big passage of time. They’re set up to be these incredible friends with this history, but it only seemed like they were together for a few weeks. This is also true when it came time for them to actually go to Xavier’s compound and do their training.
The training was a great montage and showed just exactly how Professor X is able to help the mutants explore their powers (I only wish they would have shown more of that). However, at the end of it, Mystique says something to the effect of “remember all that training we did this past week.” Week?! With all of the crap they learned and were able to do, I expected them to have been working for at least a month or so.
Other than that, and a few of the plot holes, the film was incredibly solid.
Acting – Everyone did a fantastic job…Well except January Jones. Her Emma Frost was cool, but she seemed out of touch with everything. As for everyone else, the performances were very believable and Kevin Bacon was a damn fine villain. Fassbender and McAvoy did an excellent job of portraying Magneto and Professor X. They were able to mesh it with the performances from the previous films, while making the characters their own.
Direction – Matthew Vaughn did an amazing job reviving this franchise, and I’m willing to go so far as to say that his style is the only way this film worked.
Writing – Much deeper than you would have expected and ties everything together well. It’s got great pacing, it’s cohesive, and never once boring.
Sound – Great effects make every power sound impactful, and the musical score does a good job of underlying the emotional aspects. Sadly though, it’s nothing you’ll really remember after.
Visuals – Despite the smaller budget, the visuals look great and can stand up there with all of the other big effects comic book movies.
I fully expected First Class to be the weakest comic book movie of the Summer (despite my hopes), and I’m glad to say that this may very well have been the best (we’ll have to wait for Green Lantern and Captain America to see though). While it isn’t as action intensive as some of the others will be, it holds it’s own and the added emotional element and deeper story easily makes up for it.
X-Men: First Class gets a 9 out of 10. It revives the franchise and has left me wanting a lot more of what I saw.
– No one in my theater caught the other big cameo in the movie. I couldn’t believe it. I was the only one who thought it was cool.
– Hugh Jackman’s appearance is easily one of the best cameo’s EVER in a movie.
– Professor X is a total ladies man in this movie…Not something they really captured in the first film.