X-Men: First Class (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

X-Men: First Class (2011)

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X-Men:First Class was climbing a steep hill from the beginning.  Not only was this film a prequel, which do not have good track records in Hollywood, it was also a origin story and a movie to refresh the franchise after one of the most pointless and terrible comic films (Wolverine). It might have been in a disadvantage from the beginning but First Class overcomes these hurdles and becomes one of the best comic book films in the process by doing something different and fresh.

The movie opens just like the first X-Men by showing a young Eric  (Magneto) in a Nazi concentration camp.  The same scene again is shown with him tearing down the gates of the camp but this time the scene is expanded.  After the gate is torn down Eric is shown to the Nazi doctor’s office.  After what Eric did with the gate, the good doctor wants to see if he can do it again but only moving a coin this time.  When Eric fails under the most trying of circumstances a great tragedy happens and Eric flies into a rage. He then kills two Nazi guards and completely destroys the office in the process and moves everything but the coin, which he is given as a memento by the doctor.

At the same time in upstate New York a young Charles Xavier finds his mother in the kitchen of their estate acting very peculiar.  After quickly deducing that she not his mother he scares his intruder into revealing who they really are. He then comes face to face with a young blue skinned child named Raven, who is scared and hungry.  Xavier tells her not to be scared and there is enough food for her.  All of the sudden the world doesn’t look so scary for either of them because they know they are not alone.

Just an awesome composition for a shot.

Fast  forward to 1962 and Eric has grown up to be a Nazi hunter using his power avenge his family and all of those he considers “his people” .   Thanks to the wonderful performance by Michael Fassbender these scenes come alive and are the first clues that this comic book adaptation is going to be different.  In all comic films supervillains use their super powers to try to take over/enslave/destroy the world while the superheroes only use their powers to stop the villain and save the world.  Here Eric is using his powers to the best of his ability for revenge and I would have been content with two hours of “Magneto-Nazi Hunter” as a film.

But this is not to be and the movie keeps moving by introducing a grown up Charles and Raven living in Oxford.  Xavier, played by James McAvoy, is different than has been portrayed before in film.  Instead of the kindly, knowing and patient professor we see a young cocky student who is more interested in scoring with beautiful women than uniting mutant and humankind.  This Xavier is brash, young and does not know what to do a lot of times.  Nowhere does his immaturity come out more than how he treats his oldest friend Raven, whom has it bad for him for which he is completely oblivious.  He also does not see her for what she truly is and lectures her on trying to “blend in.”  I am glad that the filmmakers decided to go this way with Xavier, because it would have been easy to make him young and solemn and already working for Mutant rights, but by letting him act his age we get to see him behave like a person his age would and we get a total different interpretation of his character from McAvoy.

Shaw is asking Frost if she wants to cut loose, foot loose.

With Eric hunting Nazis and Charles having fun in swinging England there has to be some reason the two meet up and that reason shows itself with Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon).  Shaw, who was the Nazi doctor, is an early unrefined version of what Magneto later becomes.  He believes mutants like himself are the next step in evolution and thinks it is time they take their rightful place.  Along with Emma Frost (January Jones) and the rest of his Hellfire Club he plans to start World War III with the Russians and Americans to exterminate the humans and to let the mutants take over the world.

A young CIA agent named Moria MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) overhears the plot and needs to learn more about human mutations.  She asks one of the experts, a newly graduated Charles Xavier and gets more than she bargained for.  With the help of Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) and the backing of the CIA Charles and Eric team up to find more like them to combat Shaw’s plan.

Sir, you can't let him in here. He'll see everything. He'll see the big board!

I am a huge fan of comic book films but they have gotten into a rut lately.  Most people are too scared to move away from the tired and true formulas so movies keep recycling the same stories again and again.  The movies will give you the origin story, the plot where the team breaks up and or the hero quits being a hero or finally the story where the hero has to “face the biggest threat ever.”  Now this movie is both a prequel and an origin story but it does not follow the formula and instead breathes fresh life into this genre.

What director Matthew Vaughn and his crew were doing with this movie must have been such a tightrope walk.  Having mutants hanging out in 1962 and battling it out to save the world from the Cuban Missile Crisis could have gone so bad in many different ways.  Thankfully the movie never uses the time period as a crutch and it doesn’t dissolve into jokey stuff as meeting Elvis and the like.  The time period is used effectively to tell the story and it was frankly really cool to see mutants in this setting and it was something that has not been done before in comic films.

Magneto rocking the old school outfit.

Another strong point of the movie was the fact that finally in an X-Men film people were having FUN.  The first three films and the horrible Wolverine spinoff were full of dour people treating their powers as a curse and generally being big downers.  The only people that had any fun in these first films were the villains.  In First Class most of the characters like their powers and like showing off to others like them.  Most embrace who they are early on and even ones living in denial like Beast finally accept what they are in the end.   This again makes the film feel more alive and fun because no one wants to see people mope about for two hours.

As you can tell I really liked this film.  Thanks to the wonderful performances by James McAvoy and a star making turn by the awesome Michael Fassbender and the great direction by Matthew Vaughn this movie rises above a typical prequel or origin story and becomes something unique.  Not only is First Class the best X-Men film made it is probably going to become one of my favorite Marvel movies overall.  I only hope that this movie becomes a huge hit because I would love to see where Vaughn and company could take the story next.

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Posted by Ryan

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