X-Men First Class

posted Jun 9, 2011, 12:53 PM by Steve N Bradford
So what is a film blog without talking about stuff that I have seen in theaters right?

Ok, let me start this off with a VERY serious warning.  I am going to spoil things for you.  I will ruin the movie in its entirety.  I will probably not do it for a couple of paragraphs, just long enough that I am hoping you will have time to pull yourself away.  Just be ready for

SPOILERS

Not yet, but maybe that will scare off the spoilaphobes.


Now then.  I was pleasantly surprised by this movie.  One of the things that most impressed me was the way in which it was a period piece as well as being a superhero film.  In fact, the superheroyness is not even the real focus.  Which is what makes for a good super hero movie really.  When its about relationships and coming to terms with being a part of a world that might not feel welcome to you, THAT is a movie I want to see.  Now add in people who can fly or blast energy or control metal and I am a fan.  But what I really liked about this movie was that it was about forming a team.  (Obviously)  You get a whole bunch of mutants together and have them try to get along, learn about this whole 'we have powers' thing and set up some very interesting friendships.

Now as far as the period piece aspect, it is set in the early 60's.  There are a lot of moments that are pulled right out from old TV reels with presidential addresses and news broadcasts.  This contextualizes it very well and also leaves you knowing some of what to expect.  After all, we all know our history, we know what things happened in the early 60s and what the world was about.  The Cold War between the Soviets and the US, fears of Communism, turning the point towards the hippy filled 60s.  It makes everything that happens a little bit more interesting putting it into that historical context.  I will also say that it visually embraced the style of villian you would expect for a film set in the 1960s.  Think Bond villians who hire interior designers.  Everything has a bit of lavish luxury to it.  But when you are a bad guy with money and resources to spend, I suppose that is how you do it.

The acting was for the most part pretty solid.  Most notably for me was James McAvoy (right front) as Charles Xavier.  It was delightful to see the character at the cusp of fun (but brilliant) student and taking on the responsibilities he did and becoming the Professor X we know.  Although he always has a bit of an arrogant 'I know everything' about him, he is delightful in the ways he does not abuse his power and his interpersonal relationships really engage me.  It makes sense for a telepath to be so feeling to those around him, and I think that McAvoy did a very solid job of showing the care and compassion that is trademark of the adult character.  Michael Fassbender (left front) also makes for a really impressive counter to McAvoy.  In a character that is all about rage, vengeance, and 'Us vs Them' he still makes us really care for him and see the humanity in him.  The rage and anger comes from a place of vulnerability which is subtle and difficult to portray but Fassbender does a very convincing job of showing that motivation and making us sympathize with someone who eventually will be ready to wipe humanity off the planet.  I will say that his Irish upbringing showed during a critical moment though.  During a very well performed and heartfelt speech given at the climax of the film he seemed to slip into an Irish accent a few times.  I can't fault him entirely for it... someone on the production team should have probably noticed it really.  Or maybe I am just too critical, who can say.

Now then....
SPOILERS   (Really this time)



How about that cameo?  That was expertly done on almost all counts.  Bringing in Hugh Jackman for just a single moment at the bar was inspired.  It made sense in the story, it made sense with the character's timeline, and it was just damn funny.  Which honestly, that sequence needed something to spice it up.  The "lets go get a team together" montage was a little bit long and a little bit boring.  Some moments were great, but it was just a little slow and sorta lame.  But then there was a hilarious pay off which lets me forgive it.  Why is it that so much fan service is bad?

Also, I really must admit... combining the emergence of mutants to the Cuban Missile crisis was extraordinary writing.  Because it is something we all knew was coming.  As soon as it was hinted at we knew it was not going to go away and that it was hugely important.  Of course, it came closer to a nuclear war than what actually happened, but that was through interaction Kevin Bacon.  Who as we all know, is doing his best to destroy the world.  But that brings up something that I did not entirely like.  I am not sure how much Sebastian Shaw knows about how a nuclear war works... but for the most part radiation kills most life (including mutants).  But he seemed to be totally sold on the idea that this was going to make the whole world mutants and kill the humans.  (Umm, first X-Men movie anyone?  Mr Singer... step up your evil plot game a bit).  In fact it would just kill a lot a lot of people including most of the mutants.  I know 'science' and 'reality' are not entirely welcome in super hero movies.  But still... seriously?

Now, as to the characters selected.  Some AWESOME choices, Beast most of all.  Running through his transformation to big blue was fantastic and made him a terribly interesting character.  I love how he struck out so badly with Mystique, as a nerdly guy in that situation just might.  But some characters I was not a big fan of.  For example, Angel.  Thanks Grant Morrison for making her.  All she does is fly and spit.  And now she is around for the sequels.  While I thought her introduction was a bit of fun (I mean, strip club after all) she didn't do anything else.  I was very much hoping she turned to the Bacon side of things to double cross them.  But instead it was just instant character flip flop which got Darwin killed.  Darwin by the way could have been a really interesting character to keep around.  He is a grab bag of fun things which means he would be a potential avenue for creative storytelling.  But, alas.  Instead he had to eat a Havok-smoothie and explode.

All in all, I liked the movie.  And you should go check it out.  Guess I need to make it out to all of those other nerd movies this summer too.  Thor, Green Lantern, Kung Fu Panda - The Kaboom of Doom.
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