Flick Flak: X-Men: First Class
X-Men: First Class
Directed by: Matthew Vaughan
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon
First of all I’d like to point out that I am something of an X-Men fan, so my opinions of First Class may well differ from those of somebody who doesn’t know or care about the characters.
X-Men: First Class tells the story of the beginnings of the ‘X-Men’; how Charles Xavier (McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Fassbender) met, became friends, and recruited a number of young mutants (at this stage to work for a secret CIA division), all in the 1960s, in order to combat a mutant supremacist (Bacon) who is trying to provoke the Cold War to turn nuclear in order to destroy the ‘lesser evolved’ humans.
So, the first point to be made is that this is not ‘just another X-Men film’, but a story that has not been told before on the big screen. The gravity of the film is that Charles and Erik eventually become ‘Professor X’ and ‘Magneto’, the two greatest enemies of the X-Men comics, and to see how they come to trust each other and eventually to be friends is actually quite moving, knowing where their relationship will end.
Part of the film’s success is the casting, for the two main characters especially. James McAvoy is great as a slightly more roguish and charming version of Xavier than we’ve seen before, and Michael Fassbender is brilliant as Erik. He has a lot of charisma and a magnetic presence (sorry, had to go there). Elsewhere, Jennifer Lawrence (star of Winter’s Bone, a film which despite getting a few Oscar nods most people haven’t seen - it’s brilliant) gives a good performance as Raven/Mystique, and Nicholas Hoult, largely famous for Skins over here, is surprisingly good as Hank McCoy/Beast.
One of the strengths of this film is that the character development is not made secondary to the action - the film is more about the relationships that the characters form than the explosions, and it is so well done that we feel for the characters when they feel betrayed or angry. One of the things that make Magneto such an excellent villain in the books is that we can absolutely understand his reasons, and this film builds on that idea brilliantly.
That said, the action sequences are still awesome, with Erik in particular showing just how badass he can be with his ability to control metals. I got a strong ‘Bond’ vibe from parts of the film, especially from Michael Fassbender and the Cold War setting, and the end credits must be a reference to the Bond films.
If I had to make criticisms I would say that some of the make-up effects felt a bit jarring when they first arrived - Mystique looks brilliant, but when he eventually fuzzes up and goes blue, Beast is a bit odd, and whenever Emma Frost turned into diamond she looked a bit like a chandelier. I feel if they could have just made her skin go shiny and solid it might have looked better, but then I thought: one of the issues this film raises is whether it is better to fit in or be proud of who you are and stand out.
I respect First Class, for being a great film, but also for being a real ‘comic-book film’ – for a long time now comic-book movies have been about looking realistic, and often dark. First Class is not ashamed to resemble its source material and stand out as a less realistic, but still excellent, comic-book movie. I think this adherence to the original books can be seen in the setting and costumes (the traditional blue and yellow suits are back!).
I was excited to see this film, and I am really pleased to say that it didn’t disappoint. The action scenes have a real ‘wow’ factor, but the film benefits from being much deeper than an action film: the focus on friendships and how they can be stretched due to beliefs makes this a really interesting watch. It will be interesting to see if they follow it up with another story set early in the X-Men timeline.
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