Review – X-Men: First Class

I’m sure by now you read most of the reviews for X-Men: First Class, and they’re all good. Well guess what, they’re all right. Matthew Vaughn has successfully breathed life back into Marvel’s X-Men movie franchise.

First of all I have to say that I’m not one of the X-Men: The Last Stand haters. Yes it was deeply flawed, with too many characters, Scott Summer’s “death” and the wasted potential of using the Phoenix force. However, Famke Janssen looked great as she flicked from Jean Grey to Dark Phoenix and the scene between her and Xavier was brilliant. Brett Ratner was accused of taking the heart out of the series and yet in the final moments between Phoenix and Hugh Jackman’s, I couldn’t help but feel emotional as he killed Jean.

Matthew Vaughn has continued to deride The Last Stand, and perhaps he feels justified in doing so, as First Class delivers so much more than the previous installment.

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.

With the film taking place during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the franchise continues to ground itself in our world, giving it a true feeling of realism – despite the blue and yellow costumes making their appearance. Surprisingly not looking too camp even though set in the sixties.

I loved the fact that the opening, featuring a young Erik Lensherr being separated from his parents, was shot scene for scene from Bryan Singer’s first X-Men movie. Kevin Bacon plays the evil Nazi scientist role really menacingly, without going overboard, as he does Sebastian Shaw. Seeing the Hellfire Club set in swinging 60s Las Vegas was a real hoot, along with Rose Byrne’s Moira MacTaggert and the other totties strutting in their underwear. The whole thing smacked of early James Bond with the tiniest touch of Austin Powers – groovy baby!

Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy scenes together are just brilliant and adds to that great “friendship” we saw with portrayed by Ian McKellan and Patrick Steward in the previous X-Men trilogy. I love it that they play chess in a number of scenes together while debating their points of view on how to handle mutants and humans. Charles plays the role of mentor to the fledgling band of mutants, helping them develop and control their abilities, while Erik tries to teach them they’re now the evolved and dominant species. While Charles wants Raven to hide her true form from the world, Erik tells her to be proud of her true self, slowly seducing her to the dark side.

We have the emotion with Michael Fassbender’s Magneto as he searches for the man responsible for the death of his mother in the Nazi concentration camps. We have the heart, as Charles Xavier, played by James McAvoy, searches for other mutants to help mankind. There’s also some touching scenes between Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) and Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult).

However there are a few points I’d like to pick out which slightly disappointed me. Riptide (Álex González) and Azazel (Jason Flemyng) had no character development, they were just there to move the plot along and the same could be said for Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones) and Havok (Lucas Till). I was also unhappy with the ending, as the divide between Charles and Erik happened too soon. I had hoped that we would’ve seen more of their great friendship develop, only to then pull apart over the course of two or three films.

There’s two funny cameos featuring Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Romijn. Certainly made this nerd laugh!

Ultimately X-Men: First Class is an excellent origins movie which isn’t bogged down by striving to have all the background story. By concentrating mostly on Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr, we’re treated to wonderful chemistry between the characters, as well as Fassbender and McAvoy. The story is well paced and at no point did I feel its 132 minutes running time. Bad points aside, Vaughn delivers a classy film with all the 1960s chic geek appeal it deserves.

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