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X-Men: First Class - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
X-Men: First Class
Directing: C+
Acting: B
Writing: C
Cinematography: B
Editing: B-
Special Effects: B

I think I may be suffering from prequel fatigue.

I'm not sure why I expected more of X-Men: First Class. Maybe it's because so many people, while never thinking of it as great, seemed to find it better than expected. I, on the other hand, can't say it's even really that good. The best I can say is it's not bad. And then only barely.

I think we can all agree that X-Men Origins: Wolverine is simply better left forgotten. 2003's X2 was easily the pinnacle of the franchise; 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand marked a clear decline, and a strong case could be made that the franchise should have been just left at that. The Last Stand only looked better when standing next to Wolverine.

Plenty of people seem to be thinking First Class is better than The Last Stand, but I disagree. First Class has both different strengths and different weaknesses, but the net result is about the same. It's generally entertaining but ultimately forgettable.

It didn't have to be, but regardless, the studios continue to disappoint by constantly returning to the same properties they're convinced will be sure-fire hits. In 20th Century Fox's defense, this film is doing very well. Of course there's no accounting for American tastes in cinema (not that I should talk; I did willingly go see this myself). But all that means is that more of these movies are coming. We've already got The Wolverine coming in 2012, and it will hardly be surprising to see James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender returning respectively as Professor X and Magneto in one or two more films. There will probably be more "X-Men Origins" films focusing on specific characters. And holy Jesus Christ, how many X-Men movies do we need? (The Wolverine alone will mark the sixth.)

Objectively speaking, X-Men: First Class was a wholly unnecessary addition to the franchise. It employs far too many over-used movie concepts to count, not least of which is the notion of an "origin" prequel (or "reboot"; whatever). Even at 132 minutes, due to there being far too many characters, the plot zooms by too quickly, gleaning over virtually every character. We're supposed to feel the pain of their "different-ness" -- there's a couple of scenes that present the "coming out" allegory far more blatantly than any previous film did -- but because there's too much going on, there's no chance to feel any real emotional relevance, let alone something like the gravitas of, say, The Dark Knight (which, admittedly, is also part of a franchise rebooted, but it's an exception to the rule). Hell, there's barely time for angst. We have ridiculous action sequences to get to!

Because the script leaves no room for the characters to breathe and settle in, nearly the entire movie just feels like a by-the-numbers prequel: the puzzle pieces systematically fall into place, offering explanations for a multitude of things seen in the earlier films. We find out how Professor Charles Xavier's legs are paralyzed, for example. But why is all this even necessary? Is there really any need to strip the characters of all their mystery? In the end, we're left with nothing to wonder at.

What's more, the entire story is shoehorned into the historic event of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. We get a few period costume details out of this, so it's kind of like Mad Men with superheroes (honestly, not that great a combination). As it happens, Man Men own Betty Draper -- January Jones -- plays one of the villains, Emma Frost, a telepath who can turn her skin into a diamond-like exoskeleton. Jones, as evidenced by Mad Men, flourishes in the hands of a truly gifted director. Without one -- and First Class director Matthew Vaughn (Kick Ass) is merely competent -- she flounders. Here she's clearly supposed to exude sinister sexuality and instead comes across as a tree trunk in tight outfits.

At least James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are inspired casting choices. Much more than any of the other actors, they make First Class fun to watch. Most of their students serve no more purpose than to populate Charles Xavier's "home for the gifted" and show off their cool new tricks. The initial friendship between these later enemies, however, runs its course far too quickly to match the history constantly hinted at in the original three X-Men films.

The same goes for Charles's apparent longtime friendship with Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence, completely unable to match the badass-ness of Rebecca Romijn in the original three films). We discover here that Charles and Raven (later Mystique) met in Charles's mansion when Raven broke in to steal food from their kitchen in the middle of the night. This sequence happens very early in the film, and is the first sign of trouble in the story-telling. The telepathic Charles, at 12 years old, finds a blue-skinned girl in his kitchen, and his first reaction is to say how happy he is that he's not the only "different" kid in the world, rather than to freak out? Please.

That's the biggest problem with First Class: everything just happens too easily. The second is that virtually everything seen has already been seen before. Third is that the special effects, most of them clearly not rendered to the fullest of modern capability, always drive the story rather than the other way around.

The best that can be said of it is that the most important characters are well cast and keep us engaged. Most amazingly, that includes Kevin Bacon, who here plays the Biggest Baddie: his superpower is that he absorbs energy, which essentially makes him impossible to kill. Bacon now has a long history of being in total crap, and at least this movie is a step up to average. And his performance is decent.

The difficulty with his character, however, is the means by which the six-person team of writers (script writing by committee is never a good sign) use him as the catalyst for the rift between Charles and Eric (Magneto). Eric, having been tormented by Sebastian (Bacon) in a Nazi concentration camp, is hell bent on killing him in revenge. Charles insists he should "be the better man" and let him live. But if some inevitably clever means of killing Sebastican is not reached, how are we expected to believe this otherwise un-killable man bent on igniting nuclear war is ever to be stopped? In this context, Charles's obsession with being merciful holds no logic.

But, okay, whatever. It's a superhero movie, right? Sure. Except that it's just another superhero movie. Nothing more, and nothing less. It may not be completely terrible, but there is truly nothing exceptional about X-Men: First Class, and frankly, I'm bored with the whole franchise.

(L-R) Caleb Landry Jones, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, Nicholas Hoult, James McAvoy and Lucas Till provide ultimately unnecessary puzzle pieces to the big picture in 'X-Men: First Class'.

Overall: C+
1 comment or Leave a comment
tommy50702 From: tommy50702 Date: July 20th, 2015 03:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
IMHO, this is actually the best X-men movie I have ever seen. Actually liked it a lot more than days of future past to be honest, and I really liked that one too.
1 comment or Leave a comment