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Movie Review: X-Men: First Class

Title: X-Men: First Class

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Producer: Gregory Goodman and Bryan Singer

Genre: Action, Fantasy

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Series: Prequel

Release Date: June 3, 2011

Format: Standard

Runtime: 132 Minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, Caleb Landry Jones, and Lucas Till

Synopsis (Product Description):

Set in the era before Professor Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr became mortal enemies as Professor X and Magneto respectively, director Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class follows the two former allies as they lead a powerful team of mutants on a mission to save the planet from nuclear annihilation. Charles (James McAvoy) and Erik (Michael Fassbinder) were just young men when it began to appear as if the world was careening toward destruction. And as the Doomsday Clock ticks faster toward midnight, the time comes to take action. In the process of saving humanity, however, Charles and Erik clash. In the years that followed, Professor X would lead the X-Men in the fight for good, as Magneto and the Brotherhood spread chaos and destruction through land.

The Review:

Fresh from the success of last year’s phenomenal Kick Ass, Director Matthew Vaughn brings us X-Men: First Class, which is the best X-Men movie to date.  First Class is not just a good comic book movie, but an excellent film. Period. Stars James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender play the young Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr, whom we will come to know as Professor X and Magneto.  First Class is the story of how Magneto and Professor X met and formed the X-Men and how these two friends wind up as enemies.  Rather than being a comic book movie driven by the spandex clad superhero alter egos of the X-Men, First Class is a character driven piece about people with super powers.  It’s a subtle, but important distinction. It’s no small feat to make a compelling movie centered around characters with cornball names like Magneto.  The writers and directors of First Class have counter-intuitively rejuvenated a series and made it edgier by going backwards to the 1960s, a supposedly simpler time.

The success of this superhero film renaissance that began with Spiderman in 2000, and reached new heights with Batman Begins and Ironman in 2005, has come from humanizing superheroes and supervillains.  For example, Magneto is a survivor of the Nazi death camps. He has seen humanity at its very worse and his experience in World War 2 is why he eventually becomes the militant leader of the Brotherhood of Mutants. That he will eventually seek the extinction of humankind is an irony probably not lost on the very cerebral Magneto, vividly brought to life by Michael Fassbender. The key to understanding Magneto is that he doesn’t see himself as a villain.  He’s fighting for his people in a war. You’ll find yourself rooting FOR Magneto. This moral ambiguity has always been present in the X-Men movies more so than any other superhero film franchise. But fear not. That highbrow stuff is the icing on what’s also an amazing action blockbuster.

First Class presents a scenario in which flying men, telepaths and shape shifters seem perfectly natural within the setting of the coldest parts of the Cold War.  It’s a testament to the creative team and the film’s stars that they were able to put such a realistic edge on a completely fantastic premise.  McAvoy and Fassbender are filling the shoes of Patrick Stewart and Ian McClellan, two heavy hitters of stage and screen, and they do so with great skill.  These younger incarnations of Professor X and Magneto have the added advantage of being able handle a lot more action than their older predecessors.  It’s a good thing too because the villainous Sebastian Shaw is more powerful than all the X-Men put together and unlike Magneto, there is no moral ambiguity with Sebastian Shaw, played pitch perfect by Kevin Bacon. Shaw is a cold blooded murderer and he has genocide on his mind. There is almost as much superhero action in this X-Men movie than in the entirety of the first three films. That the film makers could also include Schindler’s List and Munich levels of pathos ups the ante for the superhero movie genre. If you have even a fleeting interest in the X-Men and superhero movies, then go see X-Men: First Class.

FTC Advisory: We purchased our own tickets.


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Movie Review: X-Men: First Class, 10.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
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4 Responses to “Movie Review: X-Men: First Class

  1. RabidNo Gravatar
    1

    Neat. I want to like this movie, but X3 and Wolverine burned me. I like to think McEvoy wouldn’t sign on for a piece of trash, so this review is keeping me optimistic. :)

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  2. Dan O.No Gravatar
    2

    It uses the themes of the previous movies to build an intelligent, fast-paced, and highly entertaining prequel. The performances from the whole cast, especially McAvoy and Fassbender add a lot to these great characters as well. Good review, check out mine when you can!

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  3. Smash Attack!No Gravatar
    3

    Nice insight. I’m really looking forward to this movie breathing life back into the franchise.

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  4. Mallary MottNo Gravatar
    4

    Aside from X-Men 3, I’ve loved all of the X-Men movies. I’m glad to hear that this one was great. Looking forward to watching it soon!

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