X-Men: First Class Review

Written by The Boo


So yet another X-Men movie in the franchise just hit our screens. This is the 5th movie set in this part of the Marvel Movie universe. Telling the story of how Charles Xavier (Professor X) and Erik Lensherr (Magneto) first met, and how they created the X-men.

It has a lot to live up to, to many X-Men fans around the world, does it make up for X-3: The Last Stand and Wolverine Origins, or is yet another disappointment to the dedicated?

I should start off by saying I’ve been reading X-men comics since my early days of life. I’ve grown up with them, know them very well, and have an X-Men comic collection the size of which warrants my geek status as an X-Men theologian.

Does this make my review a bit biased? From the point of a fan of the source material and not that of the average movie goer? You bet your mutated gene’s it does. I went into this movie realising it’s set in this alternate reality of the X-Men that the movies have created, and tried best to put away my geek knowledge of my beloved X-Men. I was pleasantly surprised by how this instalment entertained me.

Plot

The plot for the movie is as simple as they come. Bad guy wants to cause trouble, good guys struggle to work together but in the end save the day. Now if that spoiled the movie for you, you obviously haven’t seen that many movies yet.

To go deeper into the plot, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) is our main villain. Leader of the Hellfire Club and all around bad guy, wants nothing more than to start World War III. He believes that mutants should be the supreme race on the planet, which makes his character seem somewhat of an amalgamation of several villains from the X-Men comic universe, mainly Magneto himself, Apocalypse and in part, Mr. Sinister. If you don’t know who these characters are, do not worry, I won’t be referring to them too much. His cadre of bad guys includes Emma Frost; The White Queen (January Jones), Azazel (Jason Flemyng) and Riptide (Álex González). For the most part, these are throw away characters, but we’ll get into that later on.

Enter our main heroes, Charles Xavier; Professor X (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr; Magneto (Michael Fassbender). The movie shows how they met, became friends and started the X-Men but it’s over very quickly. While this is an interesting thing for people to find out, the movie doesn’t dwell on the fact that much, instead trying to cram in quickly both of their origin stories, along with the small handful of X-Men they first recruit. Speaking of which, we have Henry “Hank” McCoy; Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Raven Darkholme; Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Alex Summers; Havok (Lucas Till), Sean Cassidy; Banshee (Caleb Jones), Angel Salvador (Zoe Kravitz) and Armando Munoz; Darwin (Edi Gathegi). Most of which, if you blink, you’ll miss them.

That’s basically the plot in a nutshell. Shaw plays Russia against the U.S. and vice versa in the hopes it’ll start a nuclear war. Erik and Charles join together, train their new recruits and head off to stop the event. I won’t say too much more, as I don’t want to spoil the movie for those still yet to see it.

There are a few sub plots concerning a couple of the young ones, mainly Beast and Mystique. But this doesn’t go very far, and feels a bit empty by the end of the movie.

Characters

Like all X-Men movies, this one is filled to the brim with characters. Which does hurt the movie in a way, but not terribly so. For the most part, Erik and Charles are very well done. Both Fassbender (Erik) and McAvoy (Charles) do a very good job of the characters. Especially Fassbender. His portrayal of the Lord of Magnetism was great, while I don’t hold it to the standard that Sir Ian McKellen set in the first movie, he does bring something of his own to the role. McAvoy brings a funny side to Professor X, more so than Patrick Stuart did in the first movie, and it was quite refreshing to see these characters done at their young ages.

Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw, while Kevin did a good job, I felt Shaw was an underwhelming villain. I never cared much for the Hellfire Club in the comics, seeing them as a minor group not worthy of the X-Men’s attention. While his powers to absorb energy and redirect in his own way could have been interesting, it seemed too varied and inconsistent on screen. Never the less, it was funny to see Kevin speaking in around 7 different languages.

Onto the minor characters, there’s a lot, but I won’t dwell on them for long. First up we have Emma Frost, who I did not care for one bit. While in the comics’ she has flip flopped from good to bad, in this movie, she’s just bad. Not just on which side of the fence is she on, but more they way she was written, along with January Jones’ horrible acting. She just did nothing for me. Not even the revealing clothing could stem my dislike of her in fact, it probably made me dislike her even more so, while I get they were trying to stay true to her characters appearance in the comics, it just looks stupid in a movie that does well to tie it to the real world. And that hair, dear god…

The other two lackeys come in the form of Azazel and Riptide the former with only about 2 lines in the movie, and the latter I don’t think said a damn word. There’s not much to say about them except Azazel does his flashy teleporting to kill everyone scene. Which in one case, is funny to watch as he drops people to their deaths. But beyond that, they do nothing to further the story.

For the side of good we’ll start with Beast and Mystique. Beast was a good choice to put in the movie, but the way he was handled may not please some long time fans. As many know from the trailers, he does go through his transformation stage, which was an interesting take on it (Spoiler free remember people, just go watch it if you want to find out how it happens). Mystique was quite interesting also. You get to see her as a child, and as a teenager which is great to see that side of her personality. Still being young and having not decided on where her life is going, was fun to see her as an X-Man and generally being a normal teenager with the other X-Brats.

Onto the bad X-Men. Darwin. Completely pointless and useless character with only a few lines in the movie. I have no idea why he was there (except for one scene), along with Angel, they both offered nothing to the movie, and could have easily been left out.

Banshee and Havok however, while not terrible, just seemed to be going through the motions. I’m not a fan of them using Havok so early on, as it changes his status (if we’re trusting this time line in this universe) from Cyclops’ brother, to father. The same sort of thing goes for Banshee, since here he is a teenager, and with Moria McTaggert being a closer age to Charles and Erik, seems that that relationship between them could never happen. Speaking of Moria, for some reason she’s no longer Scottish, no longer a scientist on genetic mutant, but an American and an operative for the CIA. Sometimes I can handle changes, but often changing a persons race and main role is a bit off putting.

Overall

After all my negative points on the minor characters, I still had a blast in this movie. It was very entertaining, funny and witty in some places, nods to the comics in some, some very well done action scenes and overall a nice start to what I hope will be a good trilogy to make up for the horrors of X3 and Wolverine. If you’re a Marvel fan, and can handle changes from the original source material, go see it. While it does have it’s bad points in most of the minor characters, watching Erik and Charles become Magento and Professor X is more than worth it.

  • Sgt Moo

    I’m not a comic book fan in any way shape or form so have never read any of the source material on the X-Men movies. I however have enjoyed all the X-Men movies so far and enjoyed this one too. IronMan is the only other comic book movie(s) I like and that’s just cos I’m a techie.

    It was good for me to see the history of Prof. X and Magneto. I was suspicious as to Havoc being in some way related to Cyclops so they at least did a good job at hinting to it if it is to be explored in any future movies.

    I don’t want to spoil anything here but Wolverine does make a brief appearance in this movie and I had a good laugh. Beast’s make-up is pretty poor though.

    • Argh! I forgot to rant about Beast’s make-up job. It’s a mix between real make-up and CG. Also, anyone find it weird they put Emma here after she appeared in Wolverine, completely screwing with her timeline?

  • I haven’t seen the movie yet, due to lack of good company to hit the theaters and the fact nobody will want to see it in English with me. The first thing that struck me, and I’m saying this just from seeing the trailer on TV, is that to me it looks nothing like X-Men, sadly. When I saw the trailer, I thought it was an ad for a new upcoming series in the likes of Mutant X or something.

    And seeing that picture of Beast’s makeup, though it is kinda badly lit, it made me cringe slightly.

    Also looking at Professor X, I can’t shake the dweeb from Wanted out of my mind. All of the other actors are mostly people I’ve never seen, aside from the Baconator…

    All in all, after reading this I’m not too sure if i want to see it (I know I know, blasphemy…), just from the trailers, and the few pictures on here, it just doesn’t have that X-Men feel to me…

    A great review by my Boo though! Spoiler-less = good for people who haven’t seen it! 😀

    • See, for those who say we agree on everything, it’s not always true. 😉 Will also make for some interesting reviews once we start up the show with actual video. Remind me to hide the frying pans…

  • DH

    I saw the movie today. In the spirit of Boo’s review, I’ll try to keep this as spoiler-free as possible. It was entertaining, but to me, it felt like it really was lacking something that I just can’t put my finger on.

    The chemistry between Fassbender and McAvoy was the most important thing and they got that pairing dead on. Without a doubt, these two gave very credible performances as two men who quickly became friends, sharing their goals like brothers until the total dissolution of their partnership from the opposing forces of Charles’ optimism and Erik’s cynicism regarding a future for Human-Mutant relations. This casting was the most important part of the movie and it was perfect, IMHO. Vaughn, Singer, and company got this part right and in a big, big way.

    Setting the movie as a 60s period piece was also brilliant. The historical backdrop gave all of this a nice counterbalance to the otherwise fantastical world these characters live in.

    I really liked Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, and outside of Erik and Charles, I think she was easily the most captivating presence on the screen. Quite simply, she was very good at showing the full range of what Mystique had to live through, and the changes for the character from what we see in the beginning of this film to the point she reaches in the original X-Men. Mystique was a high point for me.

    There were some things in here that I definitely had issue with however.

    Moira being an American CIA agent is high on the list. I suppose that with the time between this movie and X3, there’s enough time for her to study genetics with Charles but still…. not Scottish?

    Everything about the Hellfire Club was mishandled, in my opinion, but then again, I’m a big fan of their 70s-80s appearances. The Hellfire Club is all about making money and behind the scenes grasps for financial and political power. They were about decadence and debauchery, and never having to apologize for any of it. This movie gave a quick glimpse of part of the latter, but none of the former. And don’t get me started on the blank, vapid “performance” of January Jones as Emma Frost… what a waste of screen time that was. Sexy blondes grow on trees in Hollywood. They could have at least gotten one who could act for this role. (And Boo’s right, there was no place for Emma here after her appearance in Wolverine)

    Simply put, the Hellfire Club is more about intrigue, seduction, and power brokering than the goals shown here for Shaw and company. ‘Nuff said there. They could have inserted any number of other real world or comic book villainous institutions for the Hellfire Club and it would have made more sense.

    Beast wasn’t terrible, but there were a few spots where his lines’ redubbing was jarringly obvious. The look wasn’t terrible. It was just a letdown from having the look in X3 so well done.

    Most of the dialogue was very well written, and the story was at the very least plausible. It gave the characters some room to grow and it at least gave us glimpses of that growth. I liked the use of the split screen effects as if panels on a comic book page during some of the training sequences. That helped keep things moving along, I thought, and gave us a quick series of shots of each character learning more about their powers without focusing too much on any one of them for too long.

    Overall, I’d say this movie falls just short of Singer’s X1 and well behind his X2, but it’s still head and shoulders above “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” which is itself a few steps up the evolutionary scale from the disjointed abomination of a botched storyline that was X3.

    • DH

      And uh…. that ended up a lot longer than intended >.>

    • gijoespouse

      *giggle* DH! Don’t hold back man! Share your feelings! Don’t bottle them up!

      Still have yet to see this, but I get feeling that yes, it’s not a bad movie…if you don’t go in with a preconceived notion that its going to be close to the ocmics. I still plan to see it regardless.

    • DH

      Well you know how I get when I’m on a roll. Most of you have heard/seen/read/hidden-from my rants on different topics 😉

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  • Nixie

    Totally a movie for the non-comic fan just a fan of the xmen style of story. I enjoyed the movie it had a bit of everything and ended it nicely…. that being said I did not like the inconsistency and character identity problems. might as well have three wolverines in the story playing out different roles with plastic masks. that might have been more enjoyable to watch instead of the misfits they threw together to form the first xmen group. I did love the unfolding of the relationship between Xavier and Erik. Overall a good movie action some humour some suspense but its too light hearted for an xmen movie i think felt more like a tv show multipart special. Kind of like the difference between the old old xmen cartoons and the 90’s version. If you like watching a movie and can hold your review of it till afterwards you might like forgetting for an hour and a half and enjoying it then you can revolt when credits roll.