X-Men: First Class Review
Upon seeing X-Men: First Class, there will be some discussion on whether the film is a reboot, a prequel or something else entirely. No matter what you consider it, you can also call it a success. This film is a great summer blockbuster.
X-Men: First Class takes place in the 1960s (although the first few sequences take place in the 1940s) and charts the friendship between Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) until their inevitable falling out. Involved in this, is a man known as Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) who plots to have humanity destroy itself with a nuclear war.
X-Men: First Class is directed by Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) who also wrote the script with help from Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman, Sheldon Turner and Bryan Singer (in a return to the franchise he helped to start). It is a surprise to say that this team has pulled off a success despite such a tumultuous production. Vaughn's direction is superb, and he looks like he is well on his way to being one of the best directors in the business. This film and Kick-Ass makes two critical hits in a row. Some may say that the amount of different tones this story hits (and it does hit many), is a fault of the film that should be credited to Vaughn. However, none of these different tones betrays the story the film is trying to tell and actually creates an atmosphere where you don't know what is going to happen next. Vaughn created a similar atmosphere with Kick-Ass and was one of the reasons that that film and this film are so good. A good example of how great Vaughn's direction is in this film is in one of the early scenes of the film. This certain scene sets up an exchange between two of the characters in a small room. The camera shows only three sides of the room until the end of the scene. The reveal of what is on the fourth wall is both shocking and perfect for the atmosphere of that scene. Any other director would not have even thought of approaching the scene the way Vaughn did. It is great for this franchise that they have someone as talented as Vaughn at the helm.
The script is good but there are some problems with it such as that there are many cheesy lines and some of the characters are under written. However, what many people will be talking about is how the script deals with the fact that this film is a prequel in a franchise. The way it decided to ignore the other films in the franchise is both a blessing and a curse. By forgetting the other films, this one has a unique style very similar to a James Bond film (and much lighter in tone). This gives the franchise a huge breath of fresh air that is very welcome. On the other hand, if you just think about any of the other films in context with this one, some of the events and characterizations of this film are just irritating. For example, the development of the friendship between Charles and Erik in this film contradicts a scene in X-Men: The Last Stand (most specifically the first scene in that film). Now the viewer has to choose which film is correct and therefore, makes one of those films a lesser film. This could all have been prevented if they considered this film a reboot but certain scenes in this film reveal that this film is actually connected to all of the other films in the series.
The acting was pretty good in this film. I first have to mention the amazing chemistry between James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. This chemistry is as much a part of the success of this film as Matthew Vaughn's direction of the film. By themselves, these two actors are also pretty good leads for the film. McAvoy doesn't get many juicy moments in the film, but he takes what he can get and makes it work. He definitely proves he can carry a blockbuster film. Fassbender got the more flashy role of the two, and for the most part, he owns it. The only compliment i can give is that he definitely reminds me of Daniel Craig as James Bond. He has such a fiery passion throughout the film and he would be a perfect James Bond. My only complaint about Fassbender is that his accent was all over the place in this film (especially during the beach scenes where his Irish accent comes out even though he is playing a Polish Jew). Kevin Bacon is great as the villain. He probably has the cheesiest role in the cast but he eats it up. Bacon knows completely what type of film he is in and the film is better for that. Jennifer Lawrence was fine as Mystique but the writing let her down a lot. She had to play an angst-ridden teen one minute and the cool sister-like figure the next. January Jones didn't have much acting to do as Emma Frost but she did look good in her outfits (or should I say lack of outfits). Rose Byrne had a very cliche love interest role as a CIA agent, but her acting ability allowed her to rise up to one of the standouts of the supporting cast. Byrne is one of the best young actresses in the business right now and I hope she can get better roles in the future. Nicholas Hoult has the same problems as Jennifer Lawrence (a very inconsistently written character) but like her, he did the best he could. There was nothing else of note from the rest of the minor actors except to say that some of them got really annoying (such as Caleb Landry Jones).
The behind the camera aspects of the film were a mixed bag. The editing was kind of all over the place at the beginning but as the film settled in, the editing did too. The film became less confusing as it went on which has to be a credit to the editing (because the film was still jumping from character to character and location to location). The cinematography was very similar to Kick-Ass (which was unique in that film but not so much after seeing it twice). Although one of the highlights in the film was the cinematography in one of the opening sequences in a Nazi Officer's office. The visual effects were very bad for a big budgeted film such as this although it did help to create the 1960s atmosphere it was trying to create. The standouts of the visual aspects of the film were the art direction and (especially) the costume design. The film perfectly captures the 60s vibe through these two aspects. You not only want to wear the costumes on display here, but they also stay true to that time and to the X-Men franchise. The only thing worth mentioning about the aural aspects of the film is the score which is your average summer film score but is perfectly integrated into the film.
While there are some problems with continuity, dialogue and character writing, X-Men: First Class is definitely a big return for the X-Men franchise.
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