A deep analytical review of X-Men First Class. FAIL OR PREVAIL?
By the end of this film, you’ll want to join Magneto’s Brotherhood of Mutants!!!
Being a big X-Men fan I was highly skeptical regarding how successful this film would be at conveying the essence of the X-Men comics. The arrogance of the film makers using the title ”First Class,” when in actuality the events in this film take place BEFORE Xavier even begins his life as a teacher, just gave me fears of another disaster like X-Men 3 and the Wolverine Origins film. X3 was a complete abomination and Wolverine was a complete failure at conveying the “animal” that Wolverine was supposed to be. I’m glad to say that this film stands hugely apart from those mediocre attempts and really showcases Bryan Singer as an excellent storyteller. His interpretation of the X-Men mythos actually improved upon some of the attributes of that myth. While First Class is poorly named, it contributes more to the X-men Saga, rather then just trying to milk it.
Right off the back the cinematography was great and very similar to Mathew Vaughn’s films Stardust and Kick Ass. The cinematographer utilized colors brilliantly and this is indeed the most colorful of the X-men films.
Mathew Vaughn’s directing was decent, although at times it feels that we jump around too much without taking time to let certain events marinate, something Singer did well in X1 and X2. Also at times certain scenes feel too stylized and stick out like a sore thumb when compared to the rest of the film. However great scenes such as Hank McKoy’s transformation into the Beast and the juxtaposition of multiple scenes at once (something Ang Lee did in The Hulk, which I liked) were an awesome contribution from Vaughn. I must also commend Vaughn at his scene recreation of the opening of X1, something that isn’t easily done. I was breath taken by the impeccability of how exact it was. Outstanding job!
The acting was hands down a grand slam, with a few exceptions. Michael Fassbender was born to play Magneto and is the heart and soul of this film. He is our emotional anchor and his story does a great job at making you sympathize for him. By the end of this film, you’ll want to join the brotherhood of mutants!!! James McAvoy was also amazing. I totally believed he was a younger version of Xavier and he pulls off all his performances flawlessly. Him and Fassbender have great chemistry and their performances are a milestone in film, just like their older versions Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. I enjoyed seeing dramatic performances from Magneto and Professor X’s characters. Whenever the film switches focus to the hellfire club or Banshee and Havoc, you just want them to get back to Xavier and Magneto as quick as possible. Another excellent thing about this film that should be noted is that this is the most dramatic of X-films and also the most violent, something adult X-Fans should relish in.
Kevin Bacon also did an excellent job, playing a better Sebastian Shaw than the one in the comics, who was never one my favorite villains. Here Shaw’s malice and evil feel more deeply rooted. Initially I was resistant towards the idea of Shaw being the X-Men’s first villain but Singer made a brilliant move making him the former Nazi officer who killed Magneto’s mother. January Jones as Emma Frost was decent. She played a very deceitful and quiet role. She completely captured the look of Emma Frost. Also seeing the transformation of Beast was great. The contrast between the scientist and animal was done brilliantly and completely pays off in a scene where he grabs Havoc by the throat and savagely questions him. Moira MacTaggert was also played well. Although they changed her role from a scientist into a CIA agent, I still feel her essence in the character and the actress looks almost just like her in a way. Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique was a mixed bag. I would have liked to have seen her perform a more cold hearted back stab on Xavier. It felt like she kind of “went along” with Magneto, rather than felt the same conviction as him for the cause 100%.
There were some wasted opportunities in some of the characters, particularly Havoc and Banshee. We never get to know much about the characters and at times it feels as if they are simply there just to use their powers and be utilized for action scenes. These guys join Xavier without revealing any back story, something all the X-Men films fail at. In the comics and TV shows we deal with issues such as child abuse and abandonment and it feels corny to see Havoc and Banshee join Xavier with no back story. Where are these guy’s parents? Why is Havoc a danger to himself and others? What happened? Why are they alone? I would have much rather have had time dedicated to these questions rather than exposition on comedy relief. Banshee and Havoc scenes provide some more light hearted moments but I would have rather used that time to deal with some of their own personal stories, like they did with Beast and Mystique. I would have loved to see Azazel more developed as a character too because he feels like he’s just there to bank on Nightcrawler’s success from X2. The best thing the character Darwin did was die fast. I was glad they got his character out of there because it gave Magneto and Professor X more breathing room. The character of Angel was a mixed bag. First of all she tells people her “stage name” is Angel, when in the comics he real name is Angel and her codename is Tempest. Why did the film makers overlook this? It totally disrespects a certain iconic character in the X-Men saga, Angel, Warren Worthington. Again when Tempest deflects to Shaw’s side, it feels too casual because we aren’t emotionally invested in the characters, not even in the slightest bit. The worst part of the film was the recruitment and codenaming scenes. They feel corny and out of place with the rest of the film and made me cringe. Hugh Jackman saved that sequence because he said EXACTLY how I felt. When the young mutants were figuring out codenames I began to fear that the film would go downhill, something I also experienced watching X2 during the Iceman and Rogue scenes. Luckily Fassbender and Xavier carried this film on their shoulders out of the few weak moments of the film and into greatness.
The end of this film is what made it a winner for me. The moment Magneto grabs Shaw’s helmet I felt chills on my skin and I began to see Fassbender literally transform into the iconic character right before our eyes. It was like seeing Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne turn into Batman or Jack Nicholson turn into the Joker; a perfect transformation between the actor and the role, a perfect synchronization. The idea that Singer came up with, to have Xavier turn into a paraplegic by Magneto’s hand, was BETTER than the comics. In the comics an alien named Lucifer crushes him with a boulder but Singer’s idea is far superior, creating an emotional arc for Magneto and Professor X that will echo more throughout X-Men mythology than the original idea from the comics. Years from now, when you think of Xavier’s origins, people won’t mentally refer to the Lucifer incident but to this film. This film did something remarkable. It improved on the mythos, much like Batman Begins improved on the Batman saga by giving us a more definitive origin story. Even though it would have been great to see Xavier and Magneto have their first meeting in Israel like in the comic, and have a better title than First Class, this film is a must see for all X-Men fans and the ending will leave you MOUTHWATERING for a sequel, just like Batman Begins did….I hope we’ll finally get to see the REAL First Class; Cyclops and Jean!!!!
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