X-Men: First Class - Review


"X-Men: First Class" was my most anticipated movie of the year. After the okay "X-Men 3" and the god-awful "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" i presumed the X-Men franchise dead, but little did i know that new hope was around the corner with "X-Men: First Class". The first still shots didn't hype me that much. Concerning the special effects none of the x-men flicks really disappointed. It was the story which began to weaken significantly after "X-Men 3".
But then the trailer for First Class came along and i initially got hyped. The casting was near perfect and it looked like a fresh new start that shoved aside the memories from its bad predecessors.
But did First Class learn from the franchise's mistakes?



The plot:
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 a great threat for mankind, the Hellfire Club, a group of evil mutants trying to take over the world. In the process, a rift between Erik and Xavier opened, which began the eternal war between Magneto's Brotherhood and Professor X's X-Men.

The story of First Class distinguishes itself a lot from the other x-men flicks. It focuses heavily on each main mutant's background/origin story with Magneto's being the leading big one. Magneto's backstory is fittingly dark, moody and very emotional. It is written extraordinarily well and makes a magneto-spin-off-movie kind of unnecessary now. It gives us a good inside look into why Erik became Magneto and what shaped his character and motives.
But also other characters get small origin stories although by far not as intensely shown as Magneto's. The first meeting between Mystique and Xavier was an interesting one, although i would have found a deeper backstory of Mystique more exciting.

It's very good that "X-Men: First Class" works without including Wolverine in any way (although as far as i know he also doesn't appear in the first class comics but anyway).
A consistent problem with the previous x-men films was that they often tended to focus a bit too much on Wolverine. This time i felt that it's more balanced among the x-men team.

!!!SPOILER!!!
Although a Wolverine actually does get a cameo here but it's a good and funny one.
!!!SPOILER END!!!


After the backgroundstories that set up the events of the movie, the story continues during the 60s and involves many actual historic events that awesomely combine realism with fiction very well. Now, after the exposition, the movie focuses more on Magneto's and Xavier's relationship: having the same aim but different ways to reach it.

Of course there is plenty of character development to be found in First Class, although some of the characters get developed a little bit too fast at times for my taste. But understandibly they had to rush a bit with that many characters to develope within roughly 2 hours.
The developments partly have suprisingly real depth to it, asking questions about what makes someone normal, fitting into society, etc. It makes the right questions at the right time and positively changes our look at all of the mutant characters (even the ones introduced in "X-Men 3"). Regarding the overall package, director Matthew Vaughn did a great job.

An aspect that i liked the most (next to the great origin stories), is the development of the x-men as a team. Director Matthew Vaughn establishes significantly well, that the first generation of the x-men weren't any fighters at all, but just "normal" mutants who had to become fighters in order to be able to protect the world (different than in the previous x-men flicks, in which the x-men already were experienced fighters). 

But also First Class introduces a new villain-team to us: The Hellfire Club. The Hellfire Club represents a new type of x-men villains. They resemble much more the james bond style villains, with Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) being their tuxedo wearing leader and Emma Frost (January Jones) as the badass sexy villain assistent (although i still think Azazel is the coolest member of them).

But now let's look at the cast.
The casting here is, as i already mentioned, near perfect. I admittedly at first had some worries concerning James McAvoy playing Xavier but luckily i was wrong. McAvoy does a great job in acting and giving us a Charles Xavier, who not only is a wise leader of the team but also a member who also does make mistakes (additionally, we finally see him in action). But hands down the best actor in this movie is Michael Fassbender. God damn! Could there be a better choice for a young Magneto? I don't think so. Fassbender's great acting skills got exquisitely shown to me for the first time in "Inglourious Basterds" and here i once again was blown away by him. His expressions, dialogue parts, mimic and gesture are astonishingly good. I don't think that his performance as a convincing sadness and rage driven Erik Lensherr got topped by another character for a second. He is the main anti-hero/villain...whatever..of First Class and Fassbender truly knows how to take advantage of it and how to hold an entire movie on his shoulders.
Kevin Bacon as our main villain Sebastian Shaw does a solid job. Bacon has had better performances in other movies but here he just does okay. It's nothing groundbreaking. What i remember the most about his performance are the various languages that he spoke in. While his German was more or less okay his Russian was terrible...but nevermind.
The other cast members don't reach the heights of Fassbender but do a solid and good job. But except Fassbender and McAvoy i didn't recognize anything remarkable in the acting.

The effects in First Class are from start to finish awesome. While most of them of course are CGI, i often got surprised by how many "magneto-effects" turned out to be a blend of CG and actual effects-trickery. But what really made the effects interesting were not the effects themselves but instead, how the mutant powers get shown in so many various cool ways. The writers got especially creative with Magneto's powers.

All in all, "X-Men: First Class" luckily doesn't feel like another sloppily tacked on sequel to the x-men franchise, but instead like a fresh and different new beginning of a hopefully new trilogy. Turns out that starting a new prequel trilogy is a much much better idea than doing a series of stupid "x-men origins spin-offs" (we already know how one of them turned out). Matthew Vaughn gives us an awesome movie that answers many questions about the characters (for example: where did magneto get his helmet from? why is mystique running around naked? why is mystique friends with magneto? etc.) but also manages to give us one BIG question...what will happen next?
I never got bored for a second watching this flick and personally think that First Class is at least just as good as "X-Men 2" (if not even better). And that's more than i could wish for from the franchise.
"X-Men: First Class" is a great start for a possible new trilogy and i am convinced that there is even more that could be gained from First Class' potential in a possible sequel. Most probably, the highlights of the first-class-storyline are yet to happen.
So definately check out "X-Men: First Class".


Final Verdict: 8 out of 10

 

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