X-Men: First Class (2011)
Plot: In the early 1960’s, mutants are still hidden from the general public. When the Hellfire Club, a pack of mutants who try and force war between the United States and Russia, CIA Agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) recruits Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), a student of genetics and a powerful mutant, to combat these dangerous foes. He is joined by Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), a vengeful mutant who seeks revenge on Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), the Hellfire Club’s leader. Xavier and Lehnsherr form a close friendship as they locate and train other mutants.
I loved the Tim Burton Batman films. But when I saw Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and the Dark Knight, revisiting those Burton classics just seems like a waste of time. As much as I love the X-Men trilogy that started with 2000’s X-Men, I got the same feeling watching X-Men: First Class as I did when I saw Batman Begins. Look, I don’t know if this is a prequel, a reboot, a pre-boot, or if it’s going to even get a sequel, but what I do know is that this film is an outstanding achievement in the superhero genre. Director Matthew Vaughn literally had about a year to make this movie, which in film world, is barely any time, especially with a film of this magnitude. I don’t know how the hell he did it.
But let’s get into the actual movie. It’s infused with multiple great characters, and the acting is top notch. Kevin Bacon plays a great villain in Sebastian Shaw, a ridiculously powerful mutant. And the reveal of his power is a great moment. He’s so damn evil and twisted in the first scene as a Nazi, but then the rest of the movie he’s more traditional comic book villain, but it’s still a great performance. Rose Byrne as Moira McTaggert, the human who deals with all this mutant non-sense, is great, and she especially shines in her opening scene in Vegas. Nicholas Hoult represents one of my favorite characters in X-Men lore (Hank McCoy/Beast) very well, and I like the rift he has with Havok throughout the movie. Jennifer Lawrence is becoming one of the better actresses out there, and she is essential as Raven/Mystique. They give her three important relationships, and you are interested in all of them because of her performance. But the two guys who steal the show are of course James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr respectively. This relationship is the heart of the film, and it fires on all cylinders. Every time they are in a scene together, it’s always riveting. When they are separated though, you are still equally intrigued. It was cool to see Charles Xavier chug beer and hit on girls, and Fassbender was the epitome of bad assery when he hunts down Nazis at the beginning of the film. This guy would destroy the emo Daniel Craig in a James Bond off. Great movies have great scenes, and there are countless of them in X-Men: First Class. The Hellfire Club storming the CIA base, and Xavier & Erik infiltrating a Russian stronghold are scenes in which mutant powers are used to a degree that trumps all previous X-Men movies, especially teleporting, holy shit. The director also has a lot of fun with this movie. Xavier and Erik rounding up mutants is slick, and felt like an Ocean’s 11 movie. This film also has one of the best training montages of all time. Vaughn adds a lot of nice touches and a great style. Hank becoming Beast was also an exceptionally well executed scene. The last half hour though really elevates this film to ‘OMG’ levels. It’s fun, intense, dramatic, sad, just a whirl wind of emotions. There’s also a lot of things you know are going to happen, but the way they are executed, it still catches you off guard. The score is also fantastic. There are about five hundred other things I would love to say about this movie, but I think that’s it for now. Go see it.
Rating: 9 out of 10 (OMG)
Category Rankings (Spoilers Throughout):
Best Performance: James McAvoy as Charles Xavier
-This was one of the toughest decisions I’ve had to make in this category. Michael Fassbender is fantastic, but there was just something about McAvoy’s performance that really hit for me. His charisma is off the charts, but he also has the kindness you would expect from Professor X. McAvoy’s performance really engulfs you into this character.
Worst Performance: Alex Gonzalez as Riptide
-It’s not really his fault. He doesn’t even say anything. He just stands there and creates tornados. Whatever.
Best Line: “I’ve been at the mercy of men just following orders. Never again.” –Erik
-This line is the transition into Magneto.
Worst Line: “We’re still on the Government’s side. We’re still G-men. Just without the G.” –Xavier
“No. You’re your own team now. It’s better. You’re X-Men.” –Moira
-Yea, we could have done without this.
-Although it’s more of a confrontation than a fight, Erik and Shaw at the end inside the submarine is pretty intense. The entire movie had been building up to this point, and it delivers. There’s great dialogue all around, and bringing back the Nazi coin at the end was the icing on the cake.
-It’s the continuity issues. Is this a prequel? Is it a straight up reboot? In my opinion, there’s more evidence pointing towards a reboot. Yea, I know: Wolverine shows up, and it’s Hugh Jackman. But the biggest ‘WTF’ here is that Xavier is walking in a flashback in X-Men: Last Stand, but according to First Class, he should be paralyzed. And in the original X-Men, Charles refers to cerebro as being built by him and Erik, but in First Class, Hank builds it. Look…I could go on all day. Bottom-line: I hope there’s a sequel to First Class just so this question can actually be answered.
-Xavier teaching Erik to increase his power level through serenity, and not rage, is quite moving. Erik is able to move a satellite after Xavier’s tutelage. This is the reason why their bond is so great. And if this is a prequel, it really makes their conflict in the original trilogy that much more heartbreaking.
-There’s a really poor montage when Xavier reads Emma Frost’s mind, and we get the images of the world map with missiles launching. It’s cartoonish, and reminded me of the opening Itchy and Scratchy cartoon from the Simpsons movie.
-‘Go fuck yourself.’ –Wolverine
Bad Ass Moment:
-Erik lifting the submarine at the end is just flat out awesome. The music is also spectacular.