by Matt Holmes, published on June 3, 2011 - 11:41 am|
Now that X-Men: First Class is in cinemas worldwide, its time for you guys to get on your soapbox and tell the world what you thought of the film. I saw it on Wednesday and whilst I wont fully review it (Ed and Mark did that for us) I will give my two cents, briefly. (Well I tried to be brief but I droned on for over 1,000 words so if you dont want to here me fanboy ranting, then skip it and just leave your thoughts).
I should warn that there are spoilers in my write up, so if you havent yet seen X-Men: First Class (and you should), come back once you have. Well still be here then.
First up then I liked it, mostly. Director Matthew Vaughn has created a vastly entertaining, intelligible, fast-moving and stylish reboot to the X-Men franchise, clearly the most important of all the superhero properties, that is packed with some really smart ideas but equally, Im afraid to say some unforgivably terrible ones.
Well start with the positives and I guess the majority of the praise for this golden concept lands on Bryan Singers door. After all he was the one who had the idea to jolt new life into the series by going back in time with a prequel and thrusting our iconic characters into the 60′s Cuban Missile Crisis, a setting that gives X-Men: First Class a heightened gravitas.
As Matt Vaughn said in our interview with him, the movie version of what really happened as nuclear war looked imminent in the 60′s with mutants pulling the strings in a weird way makes more sense than how humans nearly brought us to Armageddon. This alternative history to our own where mutants were helping us out from destroying each other and we didnt even know about, I digged. Perhaps the greatest strength of X-Men: First Class is that he made the end of the world feel like the only conclusion the movie could have.
Usually I hate the idea of prequels but in theory, this one opens up the possibilities for grander storytelling and as long as 20th Century Fox get their arses in gear and put an X-Men 4 (i.e. a sequel to X-Men 3: The Last Stand) into production soon with Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry (only for the sakes of continuity), Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Ellen Page, etc, and actually moving the franchise forward then we will be happy with them floating back-and-forth through different time periods. One in the contemporary timeline, one in the backstory and also dropping the Wolverine saga after the Japanese set movie is probably a good idea too.
I liked that X-Men: First Class is basically Matthew Vaughns James Bond movie with Michael Fassbender thrusted in as his surrogate 007, one who is espionage-ing his way around the globe like Aldo Raine, killing Nazis. Though these Nazis are the ones who killed Erik Lehnsherr, effectively, and birthed Magneto and by God he wont rest until they are all dead. I liked how they portrayed Magneto in this film and if you didnt already think that Fassbender was the real deal before, then catch up, seriously.
James McAvoy is fine as Professor Xavier. I mean hes never been the most charismatic actor in the world but he makes it work, the less showy part of the two leads.
Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique was fantastic but thats what you get when you hire an Oscar nominee to play a superhero part. I loved Jason Flemyngs Azazel and every moment he was on the screen. The other young kids were ok too, apart from maybe the guy who played Havoc.
Kevin Bacon, essentially camping it up as a James Bond villain Sebastian Shaw with his elaborate submarine, his sultry vixen Emma Frost (January Jones) at his side well it was all nicely handled. Bacon is playing a more sinister Magneto and in typical Bond villain style will only settle for complete global destruction, really. I think and though I might have misheard it but it sounded like he had lived for centuries and had basically got bored with life, and pretty much wants to end it all? Is that right? Or did I totally misread that?
But now heres the problems I have with the film and some of these, Im afraid to say, are unforgivable.
X-Men: First Class commits the same sin that the Star Wars prequels did in that the film we are delivered is simply NOT AS GOOD as the Xavier/Magneto origin movie that youve had in your head ever since the first twenty minutes of the original X-Men in 2000 played. It doesnt live up to your own personal movie you were presented with in your mind after Magnetos holocaust opening and then the first meeting between Patrick Stewarts Charles Xavier and Ian McKellens Erik Lehnsherr. And similar to how the Star Wars prequels never had a chance of living up to your own imagination when Uncle Owen and Obi-Wan Kenobi tell a young Luke Skywalker about how Darth Vader killed his father and about the Clone Wars, neither could this film live up to the story youve had in your heard for the past 10 years or longer if you are a fan of the comics.
Part of what made the original X-Men work so well was the genius casting of two respected theatre actors in Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in the two most vital roles and there genuine chemistry together made the whole film work. From the very first scene of X-Men, you get it. These are two characters who love each other, you feel it straight away, but because of their differing outlook on the world they are compelled by fate to be enemies.
Now so in your head youve thought a great deal about how Xavier/Magneto met, how they spent years together finding mutants to be part of their team and the mystery of what tragedy tore them apart fueled your imagination as deeply as you wanted it to go. So heres the question Im going to pose to you now did this movie in your head imagine Magneto/Xavier to be part of the X-Men together for less than a year (theres no specific timeline in the movie but it would suggest to be months not years) before they went their separate ways?
Months? Really? Surely, you imagined it to be YEARS.
Theres no patience in X-Men: First Class. Vaughn literally cant wait to get these characters into the places you expect them too. Surely the more interesting thing to do with these prequels would be to play it steady and smart, not rush things. Why couldnt we have three films where Michael Fassbender is actually part of the X-Men and you watch how his hatred of humans grow deeper in him and Xavier realises that they just arent on the same page and then the split comes somewhere down the road.
The relationship between Prof X and Magneto just isnt given enough time to grow the way it needs to be. The friendship doesnt feel that great and its Mystiques decision to split from the X-Men that has the bigger emotional impact at the end than Magnetos.
Another example of Vaughn rushing to get our characters in a place we are familiar with them is showing how Charles lost his ability to walk. Again, why? Would it be so much of a hardship to have Xavier walking around on his legs for a movie or two?
And of course the ending screws up continuity;
The above still is from the infamous de-aging flashback scene of X-Men 3: The Last Stand when a late 30′s or mid 40′s Xavier and Magneto are on the hunt for their X-Men mutants. It is the scene that is the origin of Jean Grey.
Of course now it no longer makes sense because a much older, bald and walking Xavier with a clearly babyface Magneto meeting Jean could never have happened this way. Why screw the original trilogy in this way and piss off fans who are invested in that original trilogy if you arent going to go the full reboot route, which this movie clearly doesnt as it has cameos from the original cast.
Theres way more continuity errors too but I will leave that for others to discuss.
My final thoughts on X-Men: First Class? Terrifically well directed, some of the shot compositions are beautiful, the special effects and the scope of the franchise has clearly come a long way with since Bryan Singers first movie, the soundtrack kicked ass, the fight scenes were great I wish, wish, wish, wish that Vaughn had made X-Men 3 back in the day and maybe we wouldnt need a reboot after all.
BUT as entertaining as it is and as much as I enjoyed it the film shoots its prequel load in the third act and sacrifices the power of Xavier/Magnetos relationship that made the first films so strong. Still, I will probably go and see it again and I cant wait to have the Blu-ray .
What did you think of X-Men: First Class?