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Overall Rating

Awesome: 23.08%
Worth A Look42.31%
Average: 30.77%
Pretty Bad: 1.92%
Total Crap: 1.92%

5 reviews, 22 user ratings

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X-Men: First Class
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Erik Childress

"A Film That Lives Up To Its Name"
4 stars

The X-Men franchise in some ways is the Highlander of comic book franchises. Before you comic junkies throw your arms up in disgust and stop reading, consider if you are ready to stop up and be counted amongst the supporters for The Last Stand and Wolverine. Even with two solid films under its banner (by most fan standards), continuity has never exactly been its strongsuit. Their connection to the history of the comics has been little more than a jumping off point rather than exacting their true origins and loyalties. With a trilogy in the bank that petered out in the finale, Fox has taken to a number of greenlights of individual tales to flesh out the potentially never-ending series. Wolverine represented a new low (with the seemingly impossible task of displacing Brett Ratner as the worst visionary for these films) and rumored spinoffs for Magneto and Deadpool remain in limbo. But there is new hope that the guy originally chosen to close this series has reinvigorated a reboot that could be destined for its own trilogy.

The new film begins in the same place where the original began, in 1944 Poland where young Erik Lehnsherr was amongst those rounded up by the Nazis. His separation from his parents spawns the same bent fence trick we witnessed in Bryan Singer's prologue. This time though he is mentored by a Nazi scientist who discovers that the boy's rage is the secret to unleashing his power. Across the world at the same time is a boy named Charles Xavier, living the privileged life in a big country house in Westchester, New York. One night, the boy catches a burglar trying to snatch food from his kitchen. She soon reveals herself as the shapeshifter named Raven and she is offered safe haven in the Xavier home; though there is no mention of how Charles' folks react to him just plucking a half-sister out of thin air.

Years pass and Charles (James McAvoy) is now giving lectures on mutation, mostly to score chicks. Erik (Michael Fassbender) is hunting down the top Nazis on the search for the man who killed his mother. That man now goes by the name of Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), who has the ability to absorb energy and turn it into a weapon. His plan in 1962 is to manipulate the superpowers into starting World War III with a strategic showdown over Cuba. You may have heard of it. Along with Erik, Charles and Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), CIA agent Moira MacTaggart (Rose Byrne) assists them in rounding up further mutants to stop him. They include a science nerd with beastly feet (Nicholas Hoult), a black dude who "adapts to survive" (Edi Gathegi), a hula-hoopin' plasma blaster (Lucas Till), a stripper with wings (Zoe Kravitz) and a sonic screamer (Caleb Landry Jones) that is either going to grow up to be Banshee or a late '70s pop sensation who solves mysteries.

Joking aside, the amount of timeline shifts and newly forged relationships within the X-Men universe is roughly akin to mixing up one's action figures and creating your own special battles. Ratner tried to create the all-encompassing mutant battle in The Last Stand, but none of the films have really had that great spark to combine the greater psychological element of their struggle with the fistacuffs and physics breaking. First Class comes closest to this mash-up, but the script by Ashley Miller & Zack Stentz (also responsible for this summer's Thor) and Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn (of Stardust & Kick-Ass adaptations) isn't quite up to the confidence of the Nolan Batman films to expressly deal with them as more than just an aside. They come closest with two of their primary storylines in Erik and Raven, who resists the urge to look like her sexy blue self in public, but as always the focus drifts into cramming as many fave characters into the mix as possible.

This takes up a significant chunk of the second act, bookended by the getting-the-team-together montage and the training-the-team montage. In-between are some of the more sillier and guffaw-inducing bits from the script's desperation to spell out its morally-conscious social themes. Once a character is discoveed to be a mutant and responds with "you didn't ask so I didn't tell" it is a bit hard to take the rest of these elements seriously. And if you doubt that, it is not the prelance of subtlety when the villain speaks of enslavement and there is an immediate cut to the black guy. While one line during this confrontation could surely be followed up with "you bastards" and will certainly give hope to certain factions of the South, the film's inability to resist following the cliched underpinnings of who dies first in action films runs counter to its ultimate message. Or maybe just reinforces it.

X-Men: First Class is blessed (as the original was) with a standout central performance. Both Lawrence and McAvoy are as good (the latter especially during the teaching scenes) as January Jones is bad. Her witless, charmless tits-first interpretation of Shaw's right-hand diamond-encrusted gal, Emma Frost, only placates Shaw's implication that women will still be second-class citizens (or third-class actresses) in the new world order. But it is Michael Fassbender who should finally be launched into the mainstream after great work in indies Hunger and Fish Tank and a small, but memorable role in Inglourious Basterds. Fassbender is charisma cloaked in darkness just as Hugh Jackman was charisma wrapped in attitude. His work here is greater than the sum of his part as written and we can understand Erik's leaps in ideology even if the script never quite sells it. Just as it can't with another mutant's quick switching of sides or why an entire camp is wiped out to recruit one newbie and allow the other potential opposition to live.

X-Men: First Class is hardly the best of the Marvel adaptations. (It's not even in the top five.) Hardcore fans should just leave any expectation of historical continuity inside their dust flaps, just as they shouldn't expect Kevin Bacon's connection to Magneto to spawn an appearance by Quicksilver. While the film does seem to want to connect the dots to the other films, it is better to think of this as a fresh start just as Bryan Singer threw out Supermans 3 & 4 for his reboot. Better yet, don't think of Superman Returns at all. First Class is not exactly action-packed (and most of its big action beats are spoiled in the trailers) but it has a number of really solid scenes, a respect for the material and perhaps the best cameo of the year that is better than the whole of the last attempt at an origin tale. No matter how many immortals might be at its center, the Highlander comparison is certainly an unfair one. But if there can be only one X-Men movie, First Class does certainly live up to its name.

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originally posted: 06/02/11 14:00:00
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User Comments

1/22/16 txwiwtnivf USA 4 stars
9/02/14 Jeff Overrated but decent 3 stars
11/19/12 Sean Harrison Probably the best X-Men movie to date, but unfortunately came out too close to Thor. 4 stars
7/21/12 Sean Harrison Good for film buffs, terrible for fans of the comic. 3 stars
5/06/12 Aaron S Great interpretation ol the beginning. 2nd best in franchise to X2. 5 stars
1/26/12 Anon FANTASTIC film; Erik and Charles' relationship brilliantly acted; best of the series yet 5 stars
1/13/12 Isaac The best superhero film of the year, both exhilarating and sleekly designed. 5 stars
10/19/11 Magic A redundant prequel, with foregone conclusions. Apart from the leads, terrible acting. 2 stars
9/29/11 mr.mike As a casual fan I rate it as one of the better X-Men flicks. 4 stars
7/24/11 Charles Tatum Bacon, McAvoy, and Fassbender score in overly familiar flick 3 stars
7/16/11 Man Out Six Bucks Didn't glue me to the seat but it was far from sucking. Hideous fake Russian accents 4 stars
6/26/11 con air come on man this sucks, x men first class, really seriously 1 stars
6/17/11 Rhys Not that great. X2 was way better. 3 stars
6/12/11 damalc probably the best of the mutant movies 4 stars
6/12/11 Rich Love it! Great movie! 5 stars
6/10/11 KingNeutron It had everything except a cameo by Stan Lee - and the new Mystique is HOT 5 stars
6/10/11 Toni Fun popcorn movie. 4 stars
6/10/11 Roy Smith Why couldn't the others be this good? 5 stars
6/06/11 Shaun A X-Men is back to its form. 4 stars
6/06/11 the truth i say just pick up and follow through the o.g. series. THIS IS THE ONLY X-MEN MOVIE TO SEE 4 stars
6/04/11 jonn1 For me this can be a greatest lesbian porn web page via the internet (nevertheless realsqui 4 stars
6/04/11 davofern great movie. Already looking forward to the next instalment 4 stars
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  03-Jun-2011 (PG-13)
  DVD: 09-Sep-2011


  DVD: 09-Sep-2011

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