“ Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy - Fantasy / Suitable for 12 years and over / Director: Matthew Vaughn / Actors: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, January Jones, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence ... / Blu-ray released 2011-10-31 at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment „
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X-Men First Class - The Review
Creating the perfect comic book movies seems always a daunting task for filmakers. You have to please the fans yet at the same time generate an interest for the general public who may not be aware of certain heroes or heroines.
The last entry to the Xmen franchise try to replicate the same formula but came with mixed responses. The final product was rushed, badly edited and the demise of some favourite characters did leave a sour taste to fans.Cue to 2011. Fox Studios decided to go the prequel/reboot route and with Brian Singer and Mathew Vaughn as producer and director respectively, this was merely to give the franchise a new lease and direction.
X-Men First Class is mainly about Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and the man who will become Magneto - Erik Lessher (Micheal Fassbender) which depicts how their first encounter and and how they become friends despite their different ideals about mutants and humans. With the film set in the cold war era containing a mixture of new and familiar characters such as Mystique and Beast, First Class is a real breath of fresh air to the superhero genre. The casting is solid with the actors quite enjoying the roles but it is Fassbender who literally steal the show here with his acting abilities. His views on how humans treat mutants and his quest for revenge against Sebastian Shaw( the main baddie played by Kevin Bacon
who killed his mother) hides the film's main weaknesses. His presence in the movie elevates the film emotional core and this kind of played more like an origin story for Erik/Magneto rather than Xavier and his first recruits.
Coming to the story itself which blends historical events (the Cuba Missile Crisis) with fiction.
We see Sebastian Shaw using his group of mutants including the delightful Emma Frost (January Jones) to manipulate politicians on both sides so he can force up an open nuclear war between the US and the USSR. It is up to Xavier who being enlisted by the CIA decides to gather his own team of mutants to thwart the nuclear threat and Shaw's motives. This is where Erik and Xavier path crossed and the latter decided to convince him to work together so they can stop Shaw.While we get to see some brand new mutants in action, it's more about their powers relative to the plot rather than their characters development. Given more time, the writers could have fleshed out some of the other mutants such as Beast, Mystique, Angel, Emma Frost or even Sebastian Shaw and which would have resulted in a better film.
Far from being perfect, the film is bound by the prequel formula as we eventually knows where the characters will end up based on the continuity of the other films or comic books. But still First Class deserved more accolades than X-Men Last Stand or Hugh Jackman's amnesic- bullets Wolverine. The action scenes are fewer but much better and fluid than recent Thor or Captain America and the build-up to the climax shows the abilities of Vaughn as someone who knows these characters and what they represent to fans. The final scenes are set up the way you expect prequels to end but still leaves the door open to further movies.
X-Men First Class as said above is not the best entry and you get the feeling that the pre-production and script was rushed by studios to fit their schedule but nevertheless Vaughn and Singer were able to give us an enjoyable ride and there might still be room for improvement if there will be more films to follow from where we left.
In a broad sense, First Class is a decent improvement to a franchise that has been lacking quality and is held by a strong supportive cast even though I feel some of the minor characters should had been given more weight and presence. There are some slight continuity problems and while not memorable as Singer's first two Xmen flicks, it is worth of investing your time.
And so another reboot and another franchise is attempted to be revived with a new cast playing the same characters. With the last X Men movie being about the origins of Wolverine the franchise as it has evolved had really reached as far as it can without a drastic turn being taken to revitalise the stories and broaden the scope of the characters in the story. X Men: First Class simply tells the story of how the X Men were formed and the issues they come up against.
It's never easy to jump start a franchise again and in this film the initiative of doing away with everything in the previous films and restarting fresh has been taken, literally by the bucket load. Whereas Wolverine was obviously the main focus in the previous four films, here it is slightly different as the main characters are a partnership, Charles Xavier and Eric Lensherr, both men have spectacular powers. Xavier is a telepath and Lensherr has the ability to control metal. When both men are approached and recruited into the CIA by one Moira MacTaggert . Xavier and Lensherr become recruiters themselves and seek out other mutants. Unbeknown to the CIA, both men have a darker desire and use this recruitment for their own purposes.
The film covers multiple decades from World War II to the 1960's and so the theme throughout is domination and the film feeds off various parts of history as it goes along, beginning in the German camps in the War with a recreation of the first scene from the first X Men film to introduce Lensherr to the audience and an introductory scene to introduce Xavier, both are children in the scenes and what happens to them changes the way they are and shapes their personality. Of course to do this the film had to have the right actors. Playing a walking Charles Xavier is James McAvoy, he is young, floppy haired genius from Oxford. He looks the part and has that younger appeal that with a bit of concentration the viewer can see the actor aging and turning into Patrick Stewart over time. He is good in the role as the character is trying to keep things together throughout the film. Although one thing you do notice is that his lips seem to be redder than average for a man of his age.
Michael Fassbender plays Eric Lensherr. He has the plan for revenge against Sebastian Shaw, the man who killed his parents in the concentration camp, he is "on full thrusters" bent in revenge and Fassbender's is shown using his powers to make those pay. I like the actor in this role and I can see why he is being mentioned for other roles as well. He has the screen presence as such that is the complete opposite to McAvoy and has more gravitas as well, meaning in some respects he has the better part. Of course as this is an origin story, the ability to introduce new characters is again grabbed and here we have the likes of Beast, although seen in X-Men The Last Stand, the character here is shown in his human appearance, played by About A Boy star Nicholas Holt, who is now grown up. In fact other than Xavier and Lensherr the cast of the film are quite young, and I suspect that this is a ploy to ensure more films can be made before they reach the age where they are unbelievable in the part. One actor who I was surprised was in the film is Kevin Bacon, playing Sebastian Shaw, he is obviously and easily identified as the villain very early in the film and throughout has the presence of a Bond villain in the style and class that he projects. He is the protagonist of the story and is a common enemy to the Xavier and Lensherr who are at the early stages in the film at a total loss to gather who they are up against and what they must do to eliminate the problems, and it is only in an attack that the battle lines are drawn and the cracks in a friendship begin to appear and this leads into the second half of the film.
The film is set in the Cold War, the early 1960's when the politics and the scare tactics were at the peak culminating in the Cuban Missile Crisis, the film uses this in the plot and does so with style. That's not giving anything away as these are heavily shown in the trailer and the Take That video for their single Love Love. Throughout the film there is a slight nostalgic side to it as the vibe has that 60's feel to it and so the cut of the clothes, the style, hairstyles, cars and technology is represented to project that era and it works well. Even Shaw's lair has that Bond feel to it. The early scenes in the Hellfire Club are something to remember as a bevy of beauties in lingerie make a remarkable entrance to the club, which was surprising to see. The film isn't as heavy on special effects as I thought it would be, although the level of effects in the film can be described as subtle as the film reaches its climax the quality can be described as amazing to say the least, seeing sub surface vehicles being literally thrown around and a battle scenario coming into play escalates the films calibre higher than I expected given the fact that this is the fifth film in the series and because of that the film itself is far better than I expected it to be in the first place and would be quite happy to disregard the previous films in the series. You could easily say that this has had the "Star Trek" treatment given to it and the formula and script structure is very similar to the 2009 film itself as the two main characters become the focal point of the film and effectively this is our entry into their journey.
There are a number of action sequences that do hold the suspense and throughout you see the sub-plots starting to come together as the film evolves and these are done extremely well as the various stories unfold and the mysteries are uncovered. However you cannot help but feel that without the rather embarrassing director and producer Bryan Singer having the final say that the film should have been better, as far as I am concerned this film is far better and far livelier than any of the X-Men films he has been involved in given that this has captured the tone of an era precisely and delivers a decent story.
I got the film as a part of a Triple Pack, this means that the Blu-ray version comes with the DVD and Digital version. I am only interested in the Blu-ray version and have to say that the picture quality is sharp to the finest detail; in turn this means the sound is crisp and well balanced. Extras wise the film has a vast multitude of documentaries that cover the production and also the aesthetic look of the film. It is interesting to see the cast talking without their screen voices and so McAvoy talking in his parental Scottish accent is quite strange to hear regardless, especially if you aren't aware of his accent in the first place. Probably the best thing to watch are the deleted scenes, there are 13 altogether that as you watch them in order can tell that they weren't deemed to be anywhere but the cutting room floor. With the inclusion of the BD-Live that is an extra included on most Blu-ray discs you are able to connect to the Internet for additional extras, however I refuse to connect my player up on the grounds that I would break my usage allowance if I did and so I cannot comment on these at all.
If you're a fan of the comics or the previous films you know straight away who turns into who and so on and so the end scenes may not be a surprise, however for those who are introducing themselves for the first time to the mutant world of X-Men then you find that this is a very good origin story with a good script and delivers a higher than expected level of entertainment. Marvel win again!