X-Men : First Class – Review
In the Summer of 2000, the first X-MEN movie was released to moviegoers and the franchise began. A few years later, X2 was released with almost twice the success of the first film. A few more years later, X-MEN: THE LAST STAND came out, with limited success. Another three years later, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE was released with mediocre success. While none of these films necessarily bombed, the X-MEN movie series has had some ups and downs.
Part of its sordid past can be attributed to the films’ directors. The first couple movies were both directed and co-written by Bryan Singer. They managed to appease comic book geeks while still remaining accessible to less familiar audiences. The third film was directed by Brett Ratner (director of the RUSH HOUR movie franchise) which somewhat skewed the franchise to be more for unfamiliar audiences than comic book geeks. After that, it was handed to Gavin Hood (a relatively unknown director in Hollywood) to direct the film based on Wolverine’s origin story. Directing X-MEN FIRST CLASS is Matthew Vaughn, known for 3 films: KICK-ASS, STARDUST and LAYER CAKE. It’s assumed that he was given the directing reins due to the success of KICK-ASS, a different kind of comic book movie. It should be noted however, that Bryan Singer actually is, again, one of the writers of X-MEN FIRST CLASS.
Basically, the movie is the origin story of how the X-Men were formed. Now, at this point in the review I should say that the movie and the characters are not based on the classic X-Men canon, but the more modern re-tellings. While the book was started and the movie takes places during the 60’s, various things have been skewed. The good news is that they remain loyal to fans of the past movies. Interestingly enough, the movie opens with the same opening scene from the 1st X-MEN movie, but they had to re-film it with a new actor to expand the story.
Back to the plot. Essentially, Sebastian Shaw (played by Kevin Bacon [yes THAT Kevin Bacon]) and Emma Frost (played by January Jones), leaders of the Hellfire Club, look to heat up the cold war, pitting Homo-sapiens against Homo-sapiens. Charles Xavier (played by James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (played by Michael Fassbender) assemble a group of mutants to help stop the Hellfire Club.
One thing that should be mentioned is the cameos. So as not to ruin the surprise, I will refrain from mentioning the cameos that are there for a reason. However, there are some casting choices that you have to wonder why they’re cast in such a tiny part. For example, Oliver Platt, Michael Ironside and Ray Wise are all actors who’ve been leading men in various movies. Such casting seems out of place and makes a slight spectacle. The Kevin Bacon casting alone makes it hard to take him fully serious.
Overall, the movie is pretty good. The characters you know from the prior films are done faithfully with their stories fleshed out a bit more. The good surprise cameos were great, as well as the various character driven humor was great too. The mutant-on-mutant fights were enjoyable and exciting to watch. I’d definitely recommend it.
NOTE: For Marvel movie fans, you should know that unlike the Marvel movies of the past couple years, the movie does not contain an after-credits scene.
X-Men: First Class comes to theaters June 3rd, 2011.