X-Men: First Class Review
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.
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.
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.
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.