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Kieran’s Rating: 9/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 8.1/10
(7 reviews total)
After two disappointing installments, “X-Men” fans needed some heroes themselves, people who could revitalize the series and luckily, we got that with the director of the first two films and the man who was originally picked to direct X-Men: The Last Stand. The Bryan Singer/Matthew Vaughn combo was able to give the series the kick it needed, making a fun and action-packed film.
In 1962, the privileged Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) has graduated from Oxford University with a PhD in Genetics and has a very close relationship with his adopted sister, Raven (Jennifer Lawrence). On the other side of the coin is Erik Lehnsherr (the always awesome Michael Fassbender), a Holocaust surviving, hunting Nazis around the world, overall badass. Both are recruited by CIA agent Moira MacTarget (Rose Byrne) to help stop the Hellfire Club, lead by Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) and his group of powerful mutants; Emma Frost (January Jones), Azazel (Jason Flemyng), and Riptide (Alex Gonzalez). As the Hellfire Club manipulates the United States and the Soviet Union towards nuclear war, Charles and Erik go on their own recruiting drive to train mutants for their team, including Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), Alex Summers (Lucas Till), and Angel Salvadore (Zoe Kravitz).
From what should have been a disaster of a film, Vaughn pulled it out of the bag and made a really fun summer blockbuster. Compared to Singer’s whose X-Men movies were dark, in both story and style, Vaughn made his X-Men film a lighter and more colorful film, with a strong mix of drama and comedy, very much like Spider-man and Iron Man. Because of the quick production time some of the CGI is a bit ropey, but Vaughn proves himself a talented director with a great visual style, from his montages that interject comic book visuals to his action scenes. Vaughn ensures that there is plenty of mutant versus mutant action and just like in the Singer films, mutants use their powers logically. Some of the comedy is predictable, but still funny and the action scenes were tense, unlike Brett Ratner’s approach in X-Men: The Last Stand who broke up action sequences with humor.
The plot itself is very similar to the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, since it comes down to an outside force trying to start a war for their own ends. Continuing with the Bond film there is a certain feel in the early part of the film with Erik’s global travelling and the scene with Moira in bra and panties, which was very much like something from a Bond or even Austin Powers movie.
X-Men: First Class is a film that focuses on characters and relationships, a strength of any good action film, or as I see it, an X-Men film with action in it. There are strong ideologies being formed with Shaw taking the place of Magneto in this world. There are also ideas about how government circles and intelligence agencies would react to the discovery of a new breed of humanity. The Nazi Scientist was very much like the Emperor in Star Wars, pretty much saying “let the anger consume you”.
What X-Men: First Class needed in order to be successful was a strong chemistry between McAvoy and Fassbender, which we got. They have a yin and yang relationship as they share a goal but have two different ways about how to achieve it, yet you can still believe they are friends. Many of the supporting cast members were strong, Bacon is of course, intelligent and powerful with a sinister Southern accent and capably assisted by the beautiful January Jones. Some of the characters were sidelined, but I am sure they will be developed in the sequel.
As a fanboy, I could make a list of things the filmmakers got wrong from the comics and continuity with the first three films, but it was so well made as a stand-alone movie it doesn’t really matter. Really, it’s just as much a reboot as it is a prequel. There are also plenty of cameos that will keep fans happy. X-Men: First Class is the best X-Men film since X2: X-Men United.
X-Men: First Class
Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Written by Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn (screenplay), Sheldon Turner and Bryan Singer (story)
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence, January Jones
Other Player Affinity Reviews
Steven thought: “Oh, how badly this franchise needed a true origin story — and not Wolverine’s. Although you could say this film was the “X-Men Origins: Magneto” that never happened, the key is the focus on the relationship between Erik and Charles aka Magneto and Professor X, portrayed with depth, power and chemistry equal to (but in different ways of course) Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart by Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy. Easily one of the best superhero movie scripts ever behind “The Dark Knight” and the first couple “Spider-Man” films, the core messages that make the franchise one of the best Marvel has to offer shine through in the writing. The motivations behind these men and the differing ideologies that they develop about assimilation and human nature make “X-Men” so socially relevant and these ideas come across with great beauty thanks to this large and deeply talented cast. The breadth of characters results in few misfires (January Jones as Emma Frost) but most work and gain our sympathy. “First Class” is a rare superhero entry that’s just as smart and convincing of you to invest emotionally in its characters as it is a solid action film.” Rating: 8.5/10
Max thought: “For the “X-Men” franchise, I can safely say it’s good to have it back, at least in a way that does not cause me pain when I pay $11 to see it. Despite several continuity issues (Havoc is not older than Cyclops, Mystique was never one of the original X-Men and who the hell is this “form” of Angel?!) “First Class” elevates the series back to its state of glory in the Bryan Singer days in terms of cast chemistry, story scope and ensemble balance. McAvoy and Fassbender have particularly great chemistry to the point you’d swear they were in love (if wishing made it so). Despite a few developmental misses in the script, namely Mystique and Moira Mactaggert, their respective actors do a fine job of presenting these characters in a manner that rarely feels flat. In the end, Vaughn and company are able to make an “X-Men” film that feels like their own with its overall style and (decent) sense of humor standing apart from its predecessors. It never feels overly heavy, like the original X-Men or ridiculous like “The Last Stand.” Yet oddly enough, a hell of a lot more bodies are piled up in “First Class.” The action is well executed and the end feels believable and open in the right sense. Much like the first film in the series there is a great foundation set here and the sky is the limit for a sequel. Please make it so, folks.” Rating: 8/10
Julian thought: “Heading into X-Men: First Class, I was expecting a mediocre story with some nice visual effects. What I got instead, though, was a beautifully told story about acceptance and tolerance with some mesmerizing performances. Oh, and the visual effects were nice too. Just a heads up: the cameos are the most lighthearted moments in the feature, as “First Class” isn’t afraid to go to dark depths with its plot and characters. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are pitch-perfect as Charles Xavier (Professor X) and Erik (Magneto), respectively. They play off of one another excellently and bring to life the drastic flaws in each character. Unfortunately, Kevin Bacon makes for an extremely weak villain and ultimately is the real killer of the film. His introductory scene is perhaps one of the best “villain” scenes since 2008’s The Dark Knight, but all appearances afterward see him as a completely unthreatening antagonist. January Jones is far more intimidating as his sidekick Emma Frost. It might not have opened as well as previous installments of X-Men, and it might not make as much as any of the other films at the end of its run, but “First Class” is – for pun’s sake – a first-class film, perhaps the best in the X-Men universe.” Rating: 8/10
John thought: “Like an oasis in the middle of a desert, X-Men: First Class is a refreshing treat during one of the most disappointing movie summers in recent memory. It takes a franchise that was left for dead and breathes new life into it, setting a new standard for the “X-Men” films. I can’t say enough good things about it. The action is terrific. The period setting is inspired (and makes me excited for Captain America). And the film features two of my favorite superhero movie performances ever. Best of all, however, is Matthew Vaughn’s direction. He gets the tone just right, and the film’s pacing is perfect. If only all blockbuster directors would take a page out of his playbook, I’d be a lot less grumpy this summer. But I’m finding it hard to complain right now. This film wipes away many of the bad memories of Thor, Super 8, Green Lantern, and everything else that I skipped entirely. I just might see it again next time I’m feeling down on the summer of 2011. It’s that good.” Rating: 8.5/10
Dinah thought: “Finally, a winning adaptation of the classic struggle between good and evil, war and peace, order and revenge. Mutants haven’t been this good since… well since whenever the last good mutant movie. X-Men: First Class is not without its flaws of course, mainly in the character development and some poorly done effects. However, its central figures Xavier, Magneto, and Shaw fill out their roles very well and have enough chemistry and tension to carry the majority of the running time. Mystique, Emma Frost, and Beast were a hot mess of flat acting, poor development, and missed opportunities.” Rating: 6.5/10
Simon thought: “Who would have thought that assembling a stellar cast and writing an intelligent script could actually make a movie good? It may seem like common sense to some, but the recent “X-Men” offerings clearly indicate otherwise. This period prequel/origin story was by far the best of the superhero offerings the summer had to offer, crafting a complex and believable back-story for future arch-enemies Magneto and Professor X. Using the Cuban Missile Crisis as the backdrop for this comic-inspired tale only adds to the richness of the film that is supplied in spades primarily by the fine actors who take on the iconic lead roles. Though more cerebral than your average summer flick, there is still plenty of action to satisfy those looking for a more brainless outing, including a siege on Division X and a climatic sea-bound skirmish. Now that the stage has been set, I look forward to a continuation of this again-fresh franchise.” Rating: 8/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 8.1/10