X-Men: First Class Review

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  • X-Men: First Class film still

Score

Not the phoenix like rebirth the X-Men needed, but a shot of adrenalin to the heart nonetheless.

Matthew Vaughn must have taken some small measure of satisfaction watching the poorly constructed shambles of X-Men: The Last Stand, the film he (wisely) walked away from. That satisfaction might have turned to nervousness when he agreed to take on X-Men: First Class and fix up, what was, by anyone’s standards, a moribund and cynical franchise.

Somehow, however, he’s managed to turn the tide. While not the phoenix like rebirth the X-Men needed, First Class is certainly a shot of adrenalin to the heart.

First Class documents the origins of mutants in the world and the X-Men as we know them, and Vaughn takes every opportunity to confound expectation without straying too far from the established canon of the films and comics. Seeing Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) as a slightly nerdy but flirtatious student, hitting on girls around campus, is a fun start and sets the tone for a surprisingly comical film.

Various famed mutants are slowly revealed, including fan favourites, Mystique, Azazel and Beast (a surprisingly refrained, pitch-perfect performance from Nicholas Hoult), but it’s with the introduction of Erik Lehnsherr, aka Magneto (Michael Fassbender) that the film really takes hold.

Together, McAvoy and Fassbender form the axle that First Class pivots around and perfectly switch from comedy double act (best demonstrated in a delightful round-the-world-montage) to the conflict that’s the sub-text of the movie.

The X-Men as allegory for racial/religious/social prejudice and hatred has always been crudely exploited in previous movies, never getting beyond overtly sign-posted parallels and cheap platitudes. But with actors of Fassbender and McAvoy’s calibre to play with, Vaughn goes some way to exploring the issue with more subtlety.

As the characters’ differences grow within an increasingly uneasy alliance against a mutual foe – a wonderfully extravagant, Bond-style villain, only missing a white cat to stroke – you start thinking this a pretty good comic book movie. And it is, until you remember the high bar set by The Dark Knight and see that First Class isn’t really in the same league.

And that’s a shame. The X-Men universe is filled with philosophical and political ideas that would make great cinema. In First Class Vaughn takes welcome, tentative steps in to that world, but this should still be seen as a missed opportunity.

This review has been updated to reflect the fact that we got the title of X-Men: The Last Stand wrong. D'oh.

Anticipation

Kick-Ass with super powers?

4

Enjoyment

Great performances just about bring this one home.

3

In Retrospect

Second class at best.

2
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View 3 comments

Mark C

2 years ago
Not to mention that Vaughn doesn't apparently stray too far from the established 'cannon' of the films and comics (problems with being out of range?), and that McAvoy and Fassbender form an 'axel'. I'm assuming you meant axle, and not a Scandinavian name/singer of shonky rock band... Need a copy editor?

ChaosLord

2 years ago
I'm confused. Rotten Tomatoes has this listed as a bad review? It seems mostly positive. The reviewer's primary complaint seems to be "it's not as good as The Dark Knight" and/or while it's a good movie "it could have been better".

Ok?

Mike

2 years ago
The only real criticism of the film that I can see in this review is that "it isn't as good as The Dark Knight". There are problems with the film: like a script that is rather clunky in places, and the characters that are completely expendable. You could have even mentioned the sporadic nature of the middle section making things ever so slightly jarring. But no, you go with "It's not as good as The Dark Night." Good job.
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