(RETRO) MOVIE REVIEW: X-Men: First Class (2011)

Welcome to (RETRO) MOVIE REVIEW, a series of movie reviews I wrote a long time ago. (Some of these were written even before my stint on FlipGeeks.) These were originally published on my old blog (the URL of which I have conveniently and completely forgotten) and on Facebook notes (which have been deleted already). I think I did a lot more geeking out than actual reviewing when I wrote these, but whatever. I hope you enjoy reading!

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X-Men First Class

It can’t be denied – X-Men: First Class fails on almost every count as a film adaptation of the origins of Marvel’s mutant superhero team in as far as faithfulness to the source material is concerned. Any hardcore fan of the X-Men comics who firmly believes that we all deserve a more source-accurate film franchise to wash away the bad aftertaste of X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine should steer clear from this film.

However, when taken simply as a prequel to the X-Men film franchise (set firmly in the movie universe, and without the baggage of almost 50 years of comics continuity) this film becomes one of the most brilliant and entertaining superhero films ever made.

X-Men: First Class  sheds light on the early years in the lives of two men who would eventually become the figureheads of the mutant population: Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Magnus Lensherr (Michael Fassbender). The film details the formation of the proto-team of X-Men – Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Havok (Lucas Till), Banshee (Caleb Jones), Angel (Zoe Kravitz) and Darwin (Edi Gathegi) – as they try to stop an evil scheme while struggling with the reality of a world that hates and fears what it doesn’t understand. The team finds itself at odds with the powerful energy-manipulating mutant Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) and his associates: Emma Frost (January Jones), Azazel (Jason Flemyng), and Riptide (Alex Gonzalez).

The film features a solid plot and a coherent story, save for a few very minor plotholes. Character development is at the forefront, the logical course of action for a prequel. Granted, not all of the characters are fleshed out that well, but to be fair, that is usually the case for films with a sizable primary cast. The acting ranges from satisfactory to exceptional – Fassbender’s Magneto alone is well worth the price of admission. Little easter eggs for eagle-eyed fans, as well as a humorous cameo by a fan-favorite character, help keep the film grounded in its appropriately geeky roots. Unfortunately, the focus given towards story elements may have caused the special effects aspect of the film to be left out in the cold. The film suffers from the same wonky portrayals of the character’s powers as the first fewX-Men films, most noticably during scenes involving energy-projecting mutants. (The SFX guys have gotten teleportation down to a science since X-Men 2, apparently, so don’t worry about it – BAMF! clouds still look awesome.)

One of the film’s biggest criticisms from the get-go was the rather questionable choice of characters in the “First Class” roster. Now, I’m all for deviations from the source material when a definite reason exists to necessitate them. However, I fail to see why it was necessary to put in certain characters that did not “belong”, when the inclusion of characters true to the source material would have achieved the same effect. The use of Havok as opposed to Cyclops, for example, did not make sense to me, as the struggles Alex had to deal with in the film could have been conveyed just as effectively, had Scott been used instead. Seemingly arbitrary changes to the mythos (Mystique?) and baffling character selection (Angel Salvadore? Darwin? Azazel? Really?) strike me as odd and unnecessary, not even as a die-hard comics fan but simply as a moviegoer who just happens to “know stuff” (No-Prize to whoever can correctly identify the reference).

However, as I mentioned at the beginning of this review, your mileage may vary depending on what you expect to see. I did my best to enter the cinema free of any and all of the prejudice and disdain brewing inside me ever since they announced that my favorite X-Man Cyclops wouldn’t be in the film. I was rewarded with a film that provided a significally more-than-adequate experience and served as a strong cornerstone for the X-Men movieverse.

If you’re going to watch this film, expect to see X-Men: First Class and not (Uncanny) X-Men #1 The Movie, and you’ll be just fine.

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IN THE COMICS:

*Havok – Cyclops’s younger brother; spent most of his comics career alternating between “being crazy” and “being a hostage”; currently lost in space.

*Beast – One of the five founding members of the X-Men, with a bulkier frame in his earliest appearances and grey fur during his initial transformation. Now looks like a cat and hates Cyclops’s guts.

*Angel Salvadore – Introduced in Grant Morrison’s run; had children with a mutant avian-humanoid, Beak; currently depowered.

*Darwin – One of the only two survivors of the original team sent to rescue the first five X-Men from Krakoa; the other was Vulcan, the third Summers brother.

*Banshee – Was part of the “Giant-Size” X-Men team (the second prominent team after First Class and the same team that introduced Wolverine into the X-Men mythos after his throwaway appearance in Incredible Hulk #181) and currently dead from having an airplane crash on him.

*Riptide – A member of the Marauders who has been cloned, killed and resurrected way too many times for a character no one actually gives a damn about.

*Azazel – Nightcrawler’s father (HAW HAW BIG SURPRISE) who is actually also Satan. Created by Chuck Austen in a story involving angel-like mutants and devil-like mutants that was too stupid to even bother remembering (if you really want details, just Google “The Draco” – don’t say I didn’t warn you, though).

*Sebastian Shaw – Amnesiac and kneeling in mud. Serves him right. Bastard.

*Mystique – Currently in Hell (I think?) after pissing off Wolverine in a major way.

*Emma Frost – Is now a member of the X-Men and currently doing the nasty with Cyclops.

*Magneto – Is now a member of the X-Men and currently trying to win the favor of Cyclops.

*Professor X – Is now (just) a member of the X-Men and currently getting berated by Cyclops.

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