TAKE TWO: X-Men: First Class

7 Jun

X-Men: First Class

Rated: PG-13

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Bacon

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Chris’ Take: Well, I finally got one right this year. After most of my most anticipated films that have come and passed were abysmal disappointments, X-Men: First Class paid off in droves and revived a dying and increasingly soul-less franchise.

The plot is fairly simple, chronicling the start of the X-Men and establishing the tragic friendship between Charles Xavier  (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensher (Michael Fassbender) during the heart of the Cold War. The fact that the writers brought in some historical context to the start of the heroes, and while it may have off put some die hard fans of the comics, made for an intriguing story. I have read the first several X-Men comics, and found this version to be far more interesting than the humble beginnings of the actual comics (even though I did enjoy them growing up).

While I was hoping for something comparable to the first two films in the series, I was also hoping for something fresh, and director Matthew Vaughn brought that while working in conjunction with producer Bryan Singer. There is a lot of action in the film, but it is far more subdued than the recent outlandish antics of the latest two X-Men films, and as several other critics have pointed out, contained a strong dose of 60’s James Bond coursing through its veins.

One drop of Sean Connery's blood immediately makes you 10 times cooler and more attractive to the opposite sex.

One of the difficulties of comic book movies is that unless you have strong acting talent, it will end up looking more like a cartoon than a film to be taken seriously. X-Men: First Class picked a super cast, especially Fassbender and McAvoy. Kevin Bacon started out great as supervillain Sebastian Shaw in the beginning, but seemed to fade into being a static character by the end. I thought the rest of the young cast did a decent enough job portraying their characters with a wide eyed outlook on life that slowly devolves as the horrors of the world are revealed to them in ways they probably never expected. There was never a point in the film where I was bored, except for the few scenes where Mystique and Hank McCoy (Beast) were caught up in an awkward and unnecessary romance.

It also didn't help that Beast looked more like the monkey boy from Jumanji than the Beast from the comics.

Matthew Vaughn did a great job balancing out the action and humor while remaining true to the characters, creating the perfect mix for a summer blockbuster. The tone and lighting for the film were much brighter than all of the previous films, which was a welcome change to the idea of the “gritty and dark reboot” that is popular around Hollywood. Not that I haven’t enjoyed the darker superhero films, but this one was a refreshing breather from that before launching back into The Amazing Spider-man, Man of Steel, and The Dark Knight Rises.

All in all, the film did not disappoint from the lofty expectations I had for it, and I may even be convinced to attend a repeat viewing. Knowing that the X-Men  franchise still has some juice, it will make it even more disappointing if the next Wolverine film resumes the tone that the last one did. I hope that Vaughn and Singer decide to keep up with this storyline because I am thoroughly enjoying the ride so far.


Pac’s Take:  The discussion Chris and I had coming out of the theater after seeing X-Men: First Class was whether or not this was the best X-Men film to date.  Though Chris argued that this was comparable to X2, it may have fallen just short of that mark, I had a hard time remembering anything from X2 beyond the opening scene with Nightcrawler in the White House.  Though X-Men: First Class is still fresh in my memory, I believe it will have a much more lasting appeal than any other X-Men film, making it the best of the franchise.  Chris mentioned a few points that support my opinion, with the contrast in tone to many other superhero franchise currently circulating, coupled with the cold war period, this film is unique to not only the other X-Men films, but also the current trend.

Though the casting decisions may have contributed to the modest (comparatively) tracking the film garnered over the opening weekend, it allowed for a deeper immersion in the story, and stronger character development.  This doesn’t really buck the trend, cast a relatively unknown as the hero while having a familiar face with strong billing as the villain.  Not to say certain performances didn’t stand out, while McAvoy was exceptional, and no one performance really fell through the cracks, Michael Fassbender stole the show.  One of the reason’s I was so looking forward to this film was because I wasn’t really familiar with Fassbender and wanted to see his talents in anticipation for next year’s Prometheus

There are just too many puns to choose from.

 Kevin Bacon’s turn as Sebastian Shaw was beyond what I expected from a villain as well.  While Heath Ledger may have set the bar for villains as The Joker, if you look past him to almost any other supervillain, Bacon excels.  Take for example, another highly acclaimed Marvel film – Spiderman 2.  Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock become fused with the mechanical tentacles and is for the most part “programmed” to be evil; what Bacon, Matthew Vaughn, and the writing team did here with Sebastian Shaw was develop a strong character and motive in the first act of the film, then allowing him to wreak havoc for the rest.  As for the humans, Oliver Platt served his purpose but his talents may have been wasted in his role, and Rose Byrne stole my attention every time she was on-screen, she was stunning and embraced the look of the era perfectly.  (Byrne is having a hell of a year – Insidious, Bridesmaids, and X-Men – we’ll probably be seeing a lot more of her in the future).

X-Men: First Class should ultimately fall in the ranks and conversation of best superhero movie alongside The Dark Knight, Superman: The Movie and Superman II, X2, Iron Man and Spiderman 2.  Time will tell its ultimate rank but this and Thor have set the bar high for Green Lantern and Captain America as far as 2011 is concerned.  X-Men: First Class is a must see for both longtime fans of the franchise and new viewers alike.



One Response to “TAKE TWO: X-Men: First Class”


  1. TAKE TWO: Captain America: The First Avenger « Chris and Pac Take on Hollywood - July 26, 2011

    […] movie of 2011, I’m a little reluctant to give it that title considering how much I enjoyed X-Men: First Class.  Still, it is a very good installment, certainly one of the best amongst The Avengers pre-films […]

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