Monday, June 6, 2011

X-Men: First Class

Put on your Blue and Yellow Spandex, we're reviewing X-Men: First Class!

Just a quick Fassbender sketch.  I have something else planned which I'll post here later!

UPDATE: Finished! 60's posters are all the rage these days, so I tried a simple one in Illustrator!

This is a great movie. Not just a great prequel, sequel, reboot, or superhero blockbuster, but a great movie.  But does it live up to the standards of The Dark Knight and Watchmen as people keep saying it is?

X-Men: First Class starts off by explaining the backstories of the two oldest members of the X-men mythology, Professor Charles Xavior(James McAvoy) and Magneto(Michael Fassbender).  It's interesting to see where these two come from; it explains their world views and the characters they'll later grow into.  I absolutely love how Charles is from a privileged society, so he becomes a naive playboy, while Erik(Magneto) has everything taken away from him, has to fight to get it back, and has a much more cynical world view.

Agent Moira MacTaggert(Rose Byrne) has intel on the nefarious Sebastian Shaw(Kevin freakin' Bacon), and finds he's surrounding himself with strange people with abilities..."mutants". She seeks out Xavior's help for his expertise on Mutations.  They run into Erik who's trying to get revenge on Shaw for the evil things he did as a nazi.  The two start working with one another to put together a new team of mutants.

I really hated X-Men Origins: Wolverine, primarily because of how much they tried to stuff into it and how convoluted and ridiculous the plot was.  When I saw trailers for First Class, I was very hesitant, as it looked like more of the same.  Sure the trailers all looked amazing, but so did the trailers for Wolverine.  Having now seen the movie I can safely say all my fears were unfounded.  Matthew Vaughn has succeeded in connected action, multiple love interests, a slew of new mutant faces, the Cuban Missile Crisis and origin stories for the most important characters seamlessly.

How they explain where everyone and everything X-men related comes from is a pleasure( The X-Jet, Magneto's helmut, the school, etc.), though for those super X-buffs, they take liberties with the characters and timelines, so best not to dwell too much on it.  Everything is explained in a way that both makes sense and seems like a logical progression for the characters.

The cast is phenomenal, especially Bacon's evil yet fun Shaw, McAvoy's intellectual playboy Xavior, and Fassbender's cool and completely badass Magneto. Fassbender was easily the best part of the movie; he spends half of it hunting down and killing retired nazis!  And it's great to see Fassbender and McAvoy play off each other as they slowly drift off in different directions.  The rest of the X-men, including Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, do a fine job as well.  There are also a great number of character actors to be seen(use it as a drinking game; take a shot every time goes, "Oh its that guy from that thing!") as well as surprisingly enjoyable cameos from the original X-cast!

The sets, clothing and visuals in general give an overall 60's vibe of a classic James Bond movie.  It even has cool 60's themed ending credits!  Somehow, the classic X-men Costumes that would seem cheesy in one of the previous films fit right in here.  The action scenes are all adequately fast paced and supremely enjoyable, whether it's Beast's and Havok's special effects, Azazel's teleporting fighting style(ala Night Crawler) or Fassbender being completely badass with his magnetic powers.  The soundtrack is a beautiful and luscious score, especially when Fassbender gets that evil look in his know a piece of metal is going through someone's face.

Unlike it's predecessors, this movie really pushes its PG-13 limit.  I can't recommend taking small kids to it like I did Thor, as there's brutal violence, scenes from nazi camps, sexy girly bits, and even use of the F word(very appropriately and hilarious I might add).

I have to admit it gets cheesy in spots, especially with Beast and Mystique's love interest story.  They'll both be talking and about to kiss and then Magneto pops out of nowhere! Is this X-3's company?  But it quickly goes back to awesome fights or meaningful philosophical discussions. There is one scene that really upsets me, though. I don't want to spoil anything(if you want to know more, read here), but it's very cliche, unneeded, and is actually something Michael Bay did in the first transformers movie.  I've read many reviews and no one has talked about it, but I feel it takes it out of the, "better than the Dark Knight" spot that people have been placing it. Not that it ruins the overall movie, it's just a glaring blemish I feel makes it imperfect.

Overall it was an outstanding film.  This isn't just a movie blockbuster popcorn flick like Thor, this is a smart, thought-provoking movie with parallels to the civil rights movement and a narrative about two friends going separate ways.  The action, acting and style are all great and you will thoroughly enjoy the hell out of it.  You'll come for the action, come back for the Fassbender, and come back yet again for the undercurrent of intelligent themes.  I wouldn't say it's as good as The Dark Knight, but it's certainly one of the best superhero movies, if not the best of the X-men franchise. Highly recommended!  You should go see this movie right now, multiple times.

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