X-Men: First Class, review, Matthew Vaughn, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender

If you’ve been following this blog at all, then you know that I’ve been having a good time taking the piss out of X-Men: First Class for the last couple of months.

Some of it I think was deserved. While I will admit that the marketing for the film has gotten better in the last few weeks, this movie was practically tripping over itself as it tried to make itself look appealing to an audience who had become VERY skeptical of 20th Century Fox helming another X-Men movie after the debacle that was Wolverine: Origins.

I will admit to having my bias. Wolverine: Origins was a colossal cluster eff because the producers of that film essentially decided to throw out three movies worth of continuity and start over with their own while still trying to toss in callbacks to the original films. It was a sloppy mess and it didn’t make very much sense.

On the surface, X-Men: First Class appears to do the same thing. As any comic book geek worth their weight in adamantium will tell you, the first class of X-Men was Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Angel and Beast. Not Banshee, Havok, Beast, and Mystique.

But, in truth, the film is a slave to continuity in an unexpected way. Very easily you can see the rag-tag group of mutants Professor X has grouped together to be the beta version of the classic X-Men lineup. The film appeared to have ignored the fans to service its own selfish whims. When really it creates a foundation for the X-Men franchise that could potentially pay huge dividends going forward.

In other words, X-Men: First Class is an reboot of the franchise with a head on its shoulders. It does this by answering questions you never thought to ask like “How did the X-Men get their hands on a super-sonic jet?” or “Where did Magneto get his helmet from?” or “When did Mystique decide to align with Magneto and why?”

The film also creates relationships where you don’t expect them. I was kind of confused by the relationship between Professor X and Mystique at the beginning, but ultimately, it works. That detail plus several others ALL work because the film sets rules for itself and explores those areas carefully. We’re not confronted with a big crazy monster at the end just because the heroes need something to fight. The characters have motivation and the stakes feel real.

There are a couple of duds and dead ends in he film, of course. January Jones as the telepath Emma Frost gives the worst performance in the movie. She’s wooden and unconvincing – an unfortunate prop to hang lingerie from.

In fact, most of the bad guys in the movie don’t really go anywhere or do anything. The sword-wielding teleporter Azazel I think gets two lines in the whole movie. Another baddie who and create massive winds (apparently Riptide) doesn’t speak at all. It feels like a waster opportunity.

Kevin Bacon doesn’t exactly bring the aristocratic smarm to Sebastian Shaw that I would have liked but they put an interesting spin on the character that makes him more of a hidden threat.

The film’s best performances go to it’s two leads – James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. They bring a noble conviction to their roles that makes them a pleasure to watch. They have a natural chemistry that I hope can be bottled and recaptured in a second movie very soon.

Fassbender in particular makes Magneto a tragic figure. Driven by hatred and revenge, we don’t really fault him for his negative world view. Like every great (potential) villain, he is the hero in his own story.

There was talk of a Magneto: Origins movie at one point. We see a little bit of his origins in this movie. Or, at least what became of Magneto during the time between his experiences as a child in World War II and his time with the X-Men.

I will say this… Erik Lehnsherr: Nazi Hunter is a movie I would totally pay to see.

Believe the hype, people. X-Men: First Class is the real deal.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be over here in the corner… eating crow.