Sunday, March 4, 2012

Review #36: Movie Review #3: These X-Men Pass With Flying Colours!

X-Men: First Class
Writers: Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Released: 2011

Until I saw X-Men: First Class, I was under the impression that the first two X-Men films were likely as good as an onscreen adaptation of my beloved mutants could get. I was wrong. I sat there, dumbfounded, as scene after scene relentlessly tore down my preconception of what an X-Men movie could be and, in its place, built a towering citadel of hope. Thank sweet Jebus, because  X-Men III had left me pretty skeptical about the future.

Serving as a prequel to the original X-Men trilogy, the film takes place in 1962 and follows the exploits of two mutants: a young, newly Professor-ed Charles Xavier [James McAvoy] and a young, vengeful Erik Lehnsherr [Michael Fassbender]. Charles is seeking to foster good relations between the burgeoning mutant population and the general public, while Erik is seeking to kill the Nazis-in-hiding responsible for his parents' deaths. Their paths cross and they form a common goal with the CIA to stop the evil Hellfire Club, who are hoping to start WWIII in order to kill off most of the human population. Along the way, they find more mutants and form the X-Men.

friends who chess together, stay together

Whoever was in charge of casting made some great calls. The two leads are great, but Fassbender almost steals the show with the smoldering intensity he brings to Erik/Magneto. Kevin Bacon [KEVIN BACON!] is a close second, giving his Americanized version of Sebastian Shaw a menacing charm. The showdown between he and Erik is one of the best scenes in the film. Most of the supporting cast turn solid performances. Except for January Jones. Yes, she is blonde and attractive. Yes, she is in Mad Men, which also takes place in the 60s. Those seem to be the only qualifications that were considered. But she is not playing a housewife this time around; she is playing a supervillan, and she is just not believable as the cold and calculating Emma Frost.

cutest supervillain couple

I've noticed a trend in the X-Men movies: stuff as many different mutants into two hours as possible. This movie is guilty, but not terribly so. A few throwaway characters are present, but nothing like the gong-show that was X-Men III. In any case, the one that pissed me off most was Lenny Kravitz's daughter as some unimportant mutant who has bug wings and can spit fireballs. Who the hell is this chick? Why is she in this movie? Somebody owed Lenny a favour? She really serves no purpose and could have easily been left out. To a lesser extent, the evil-henchman-tornado-guy was also unneeded.

get outta here!

Anyway, might as well get the nitpicking out of the way:
  • Emma is supposed to be near-indestructible in her diamond form, yet she gets cracked easily by Erik.
  • Banshee and Moira are supposed to be Irish. Also, Moira isn't supposed to be a CIA agent. 
  • Havoc is supposed to be Cyclops' younger brother , yet he is a young adult in the 60s.
  • Charles' could've stopped Erik with his mind on at least one occasion when he was acting rashly and endangering their mission.
I'll just stop there, as most of my other ranting would have to do with the overall series' messing around with the story/timeline. On to the goods:
  • Subtitles! I hate it when the producers assume that the audience is too lazy to read subtitles. Having the appropriate languages in the appropriate scenarios really lends a film legitimacy.
  • The chemistry is great. There is a scene with Charles and Mystique [Jennifer Lawrence] which perfectly portrays a mostly-platonic guy-girl relationship. And Charles and EriK have what could have been one of history's raddest bromances, if not for the tragic end.
  • There are two awesome cameos that really add to the fun of the film, the first being Hugh Jackman reprising his role as Wolverine for ten seconds. The second was subtle, but perfect: Mystique morphs into an older version of herself for a brief moment, played by Rebecca Romijn, who plays Mystique in the original X-Men trilogy. Gold!

I totally would

There is a real energy in this movie, which reminds me of the energized reboot of Star Trek we saw in 2009. I have noticed at times that film adaptations suffer from what I like to call “Lord of the Rings Syndrome”: basically, between scenes where exciting things happen, there are periods where the characters just kind of shuffle around, giving the pacing an uneven flow. The original X-Men trilogy suffered from this somewhat. The pace of the new one is balls to the walls. There's sort of a James Bond vibe with the whole 60s setting and the Cold War conflict shenanigans. I like how they gave it that historical context, and how the climax is intertwined with the Cuban Missile Crisis.

So, overall, the missteps are mostly comparable to those in X-Men I and II: small character/casting problems, a plot hole or two, but nothing so bad that it throws the whole film off. The lows aren't quite as low, and the heights are equal to, if not greater than, those of the others. I will have to watch the first two films again just to be sure [it's been a while], but I'm pretty sure this one takes the X-cake.

X-cake [obv.]

1 comment: