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Tony’s Review of “X-Men: First Class”

(Image Credit: Marvel Studios)

Being the resident geek at NIN, people constantly come up to me and ask, “Have you seen (insert Geek movie) yet?”  It’s only been a week since its release, but I’m already getting a lot of people asking my opinion of “X-Men: First Class”.  I had a chance to see it while I was on vacation last week, and after giving it several days to sink in, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is the best “X-Men” film yet!

I will do what I can to give you as much of a spoiler-free review as possible.  But let me first warn you, this is not truly a prequel to the original films.  This is a retcon/reboot.  This film takes aspects of what was established with the original films, but is also rewriting the lore.

The story begins with a young Magneto first discovering his powers while in a WWII concentration camp (almost identical to how it was portrayed in the first film), then becoming the guinea pig for a German doctor who wants to help Magneto grow his abilities, but through harsh means.  We also see a young Charles Xavier confront a young, blue shape-shifter disguised as his mother in his kitchen.  Instead of punishing Raven (Mystique) for stealing food, Xavier, fascinated that he isn’t the only “special” one anymore, immediately invites Raven to live with him in the mansion.  Fast forward several years to the 1960s.  Magneto is running down every lead he can, trying to find the doctor that tortured him years ago.  A cocky and arrogant Xavier has been studying at Oxford and has just received the title “Professor”.  After giving a lecture on mutations, Xavier and his “sister” Raven are approached by an operative from the CIA asking for their help in convincing her superiors that mutants not only exist, but might be trying to start World War III.  After finding a common enemy, Magneto and Xavier unite to recruit other mutants to help prevent the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Honestly, I wasn’t too excited to see this movie when I first heard about it.  After “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “Wolverine”, I was burnt out on the series.  Two decent films, and two really bad ones.  But seeing the previews for the new film really peaked my interest.  Overall, the movie does a great job creating a fun and action-filled experience that can be equally enjoyed by comic book fans and the average movie patron.  Keep in mind, this is a science fiction film.  There’s a suspension of disbelief that is required for any film in that genre.  But this movie is able to take every mutant and their powers, though unbelievable in reality, and make them perfectly natural in this cinematic world.

Another pleasing aspect to the movie was the casting.  A lot of summer blockbusters cast for flash and not acting ability (i.e. the “Transformers” movies), but this film actually has people who bring something to their roles.  James McAvoy portrayed a part of Xavier that Patrick Stewart wasn’t given the chance to in the originals.  Stewart’s Professor X was already experienced and had the demeanor of someone who was confident and humble with his abilities and responsibilities.  But McAvoy, as a much younger version of the character, gets to play with the arrogance of a young genius that can read people’s minds.  However, there are several scenes where we see McAvoy will have no problem shifting into the more mature role over the course of the next two films (if the studio’s desire for a trilogy holds).  Ian McKellan was amazing as Magneto in the first films.  He set the bar for the portrayal of the character, but Michael Fassbender may have surpassed him.  Like McAvoy, Fassbender is getting the chance to explore more aspect of the character than his predecessor did, while still giving seamless transition into the character the audience already knows.  Due mainly to his age, McKellan wasn’t terribly intimidating as Magneto.  This is something they have more than made up for with Fassbender.  Fassbender is greatly effective in his performance, either taking out a small German platoon, or simply convincing Mystique that she doesn’t need to look like everyone else.  Fassbender’s Magneto isn’t going to be a despised villain, instead he’s someone you listen to and think, “He actually has a good point.”  Fassbender and McAvoy also play off each other very well, giving you the feeling of a great friendship that we all know is doomed.  However, there is one member of the cast that really didn’t fit.  January Jones as Emma Frost did absolutely nothing worth mentioning other than walking around in her bra.  There was nothing special about her performance here that set it off from any other acting job she’s had.  In fact, she was terribly dull.

The only real complaint I have about the film is that some members of the first class, mainly Havok and Banshee, don’t feel like completely fleshed out characters because of the focus placed on Beast and Mystique.  Very little is done to explain the characters, like the fact that Havok is the brother of Cyclops.  Though there was emphasis on Beast in the script, there wasn’t enough emphasis on his costume.  The “Beast” effects were interesting when he would growl, but at times there were problems with lip-syncing the dubbed over audio.  And the look of Beast was a little dissapointing.  It’s sad to say that Kelsey Grammer looked better as Beast.

Overall, I would suggest this movie to anyone to see at the theater.  It is definitely worth the price of the ticket, as long as you remember this is the start of a completely different series and will have little overlapping with the original films.  And what overlapping they do, they do very well.  This movie has not one, but TWO of the best cameos I’ve ever seen.  And thankfully, these cameos don’t feel forced or like they are just a cheap trick.  Seeing Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Romijn is nice for the fans, but using them in their respective scenes made complete sense for the story.

Rating: GO SEE IT!

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