Just look at all of the greatness going on in this one gif. I really can’t wait to go out and see this movie.
This movie is FUCKING AWESOME! Everybody go see it!
Oh man… here we go… we’ve been waiting for this one for a long time. I think I’ll start off with my history with the X-Men franchise. I used to watch the cartoon when I was a little kid and my cousin bought me a ton of X-Men comics when I was younger (no idea what happened to them all, =[ sad I know). I dug the first two X-Men films directed by Bryan Singer, X2 in particular was brilliant. When Singer decided to leave the X-Men franchise to do Superman Returns, Fox basically just said “fuck it, we’ll do gangbusters at the box office whether we make a good movie or not” and hired Brett Ratner to direct the mess that was X3. I thought that was terrible, it only got worse with X-Men Origins: Wolverine which was an even bigger mess. Then things started to look up…
Aside from making very smart casting choices (which I’ll mention later), Fox brought back Bryan Singer to work on X-Men: First Class, which was a very smart move. He was originally supposed to direct, eventually ended up producing, but I would wager that his influence was definitely a major help. Fox did the next best thing and brought in Matthew Vaughn, who was unceremoniously taken off of directing X3 after putting in over a year of work because Vaughn didn’t think he could make the deadline Fox hung over his head. Well thank God they got him back for X-Men: First Class because this film was absolutely spectacular.
Vaughn’s dedication and work to this film is something that should not be overlooked by any movie going audience. First Class was shot in an extremely short amount of time and supposedly they were still doing post-production work on the special effects just a month before the film was supposed to be released. The guy gave it his all and it is definitely all on screen for the pleasure of the movie going audience.
Vaughn adds little flourishes, stylish techniques that add some much needed flare that’s been missing from the X-Men franchise since X2. In addition to that, he gets the full potential out of a fantastic script and pitch perfect performances from the amazing cast. The pacing of the film is so swift that it never drags, but it also doesn’t feel too rushed. I tip my hat to Mr. Vaughn who is now 4 for 4 in my book with his director filmography: Layer Cake, Stardust, Kick-Ass, and now X-Men: First Class.
I need to single out the two flat out amazing lead performances by James McAvoy as Charles “Professor X” Xavier and Michael Fassbender as Erik “Magneto” Lehnsherr. They provide the backbone to the complexity of mutants and the way they have to live. This is what separates this film from the plethora of superhero movies that are out there and are soon to come, there is so much emotional depth to the characters and the overall story. I love the way that the film never plays out the ethics or scenarios as black and white, right and wrong, or good and evil. Instead, we see two sides of the coin and a script smart enough to paint the picture of both sides in an evenhanded way. Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw was this way as well. You saw he was kind of evil, but he also had a lot of good points as to humans vs. mutants and his character motivation was definitely a lot more than “I hate humans, kill ‘em all!” or “I want to rule the world!” He was a much more well done villain than most superhero films.
The cast all around though was great. Rose Byrne, one of my favorite actresses, does well in a much smaller role than I originally thought she would have. The supporting cast is filled with up and coming players such as Jennifer Lawrence and Nicolas Hoult. There’s also a few surprises as well which I won’t spoil that made me laugh when I saw them, outside of the really big one that was a really random cameo haha.
The action was also very well done throughout. Vaughn actually knows how to use shaky cam in order to make the scene realistic, but not that distracting by having the cam be too shaky and distorting the audience’s view. There are also just numerous shots were CGI is actually implemented well in the action scenes. Too often CGI action scenes feel like actors in front of a green screen which takes the audience out of the film and lessens the tension and danger in a sequence.
There are some very memorable action set pieces that aspire to the greatness we’ve seen in the X-Men films before it. Okay, maybe nothing here tops the Nightcrawler opening sequence of X2, but besides that it’s all pretty damn good to say the least. There’s a lot of variety and innovativeness to the action set pieces and the use of practical effects combined with CGI was done very well.
I have a few nits to pick (as always lol). These should not be interpreted as anything but minor annoyances, because the overall movie was still pretty great.
My first nitpick is the constant scene changing that takes places throughout. Vaughn does a nice job of setting up the scenes by showing where the scene is about to take place first and putting the location on the bottom of the screen, but this happens about 15 or 20 times during the movie and it feels exhausting at times.
Another minor flaw was the references to the overall series, some of which are not as organic as they should be. Some of them stick out like a sore thumb and just made me groan in my head. A few were implemented well, but there were quite a few that were not subtle at all.
My last flaw, and the biggest one, was the Xavier/Moira subplot which felt totally half-baked. I love James McAvoy and Rose Byrne, but that relationship is not nearly as fleshed out as it should be. It definitely felt like there should have been more screen time devoted to building that relationship in order to gain more sympathy for the human side.
The thing that I found amazing about this movie is that they play both sides of the mutant situation so well, even if a bit too bluntly. Should mutants have to hide who they are? Will mutants ever be accepted into society or will they just always be seen as outcasts/freaks? Amazingly, even though I myself am a human, I at times was on the mutant side more so than the human one.
I mean, I could definitely sympathize with the human side, but it was a difficult situation to say the least. I think that if we had seen more “good” humans, the movie would have been a bit more balanced out. We’ve seen the mutants for the entire movie because we’re following them, how are we supposed to sympathize with Xavier’s point of view when we are given so few decent human beings in the movie? If they played up the Xavier/Moira plotline, it definitely would have strengthened his point of view that humans and mutants can co-exist peacefully.
All in all, X-Men: First Class is the X-Men movie that fans have been waiting for since X2. Wonderful storytelling and character development combined with thrilling action scenes make for one of the best superhero movies to date. If you’ve been hesitant to revisit the X-Men franchise due to the disappointment of X3 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, do not fear because Matthew Vaughn has brought the X-Men franchise back from the deep and given fans the X-Men movie they deserved and wanted for so long. Go see it!