Movie Review: X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (2011) – Reboot Done Right!
After 3 botched X-Men films in recent times, I was not in any way looking forward to another attempt. Sure, the director of KICK ASS being behind it eased my concerns, the fact that it was mostly obscure characters and strong actors featured in the cast alleviated my worries. However I was still skeptical about X-MEN: FIRST CLASS as it ran the risk of treading over familiar and not-so-original-anymore territory. What ensued was a mind blowingly executed film that grounds the entire X-Men mythos into reality. (yea, I thought that was pretty impossible too)
Rating: 4 Out Of 5 Stars
X-MEN: FIRST CLASS is set in the 1960’s during the beginnings of the Soviet and American cold war. The film introduces us to the concepts of mutants as being the next step of human evolution. Naturally mutated genes providing special powers and abilities that make mutants an entire sub species of humans. Throw into that mix an apocalyptic doom sayer villain who subscribes to the ‘survival of the fittest’ school of thought, and you have the making of a pretty basic conflict that sets the storyline into motion.
Granted the conflict is mediocre as best. I mean bad guy trying to kill everybody is pretty routine and tired. But X-MEN: FIRST CLASS isn’t an action, thriller, political, or even formulaic adventure movie. FIRST CLASS’s biggest and best feature is taking on two of the most famous mutants in fictional history, and showing us exactly how they’ve become the figuredheads of two opposing forces of good and evil, that we’ve always known them to be. I’m talking about Professor X and Magneto!
The entire basis of this film is the relationship between those two friends, and how their idealogies differed… and where their lives took them beyond that friendship. A separation that provided some of the greatest stories in comic history! X-MEN: FIRST CLASS is a prequel of sorts, but one that plays very fast and loose with the original canon established in the Marvel Universe… with awesome results.
James McAvoy as a young Charles Xavier is just fan-fuckin’-tastic. I mean a charming and playful young man who uses his analysis into the human genome as a means for picking up the ladies is totally innovative and a great new perspective on a beloved and known character. Micheal Fassbender more or less steals the show as a tortured Erik Lensherr, whose past trauma becomes the reasons that he transforms into the legendary Magneto. And transforms he does! (in the movie)
X-MEN FIRST CLASS does fuck with a LOT of established origins and comics canon which most likely will be blasphemous for the hardcore comic fans. However the reason why it works is because, any and all changes to canon, have been done so to create a self contained story for the entire length of the film, without requiring backstory prior to watching the movie. The layers that delve into character history, motivations for some people to do the things they do, are all ingrained in the modifications of canon. I would cite this film as THE BEST example of truly ‘adapting’ a work that’s steeped in history, and being able to contain its essence and retell the story with changes made for the shorter medium that is film, rather than the almost decades long medium of print stories.
X-MEN: FIRST CLASS is awesome. I will punch anyone in the face that says otherwise. It is quite possibly the best comic book film ever made. I’m not counting BATMAN BEGINS or THE DARK KNIGHT in that statement, as Batman is still quite grounded in realism. Whereas Vaughn (the director) took characters that look like demons, transform, and fly… and was able to tell a story that had so much realism that without the special effects, it would be hard to decipher the film from your typical political drama. Well, without the effects, a movie about mutants with powers would seem nonsensical and nothing would make sense, but you get what I’m trying to say.
I applaud The Vaughn (director) and truly hope that X-MEN: FIRST CLASS stays a one shot masterpiece, and that the studios (I’m lookin’ at you Fox) doesn’t try to squeeze a franchise outta’ this with multiple films. I have a feeling any sequels to this film would tarnish the greatness of the original. But then again… they said that about THE DARK KNIGHT as well…