X-Men: First Class – Review

4 Nov

The saga of the X-Men, whether read or watched, is long, often tragic, and occasionally funny. X-Men and X2: X-Men United were testaments to this and powerhouse super hero films. X3: The Last Stand held its own despite its flaws, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine passed by the skin of its teeth, or maybe claws might be more appropriate. I have just watched X-Men: First Class all the way through for the second time, and I will still defend it as being the best X-Men movie to date, and easily holds a place in the upper echelon of superhero films.

 

Despite having different motives, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) share a unique bond, their own separate mutation, that allows them to find themselves as allies. When an old Nazi enemy of Erik’s, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), resurfaces and threatens the world with the promise of World War III, Xavier and Lensherr are hired by a secret branch of the American government to put a stop to him. After acquiring a team of young mutants, including Raven Darkholme aka Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and Hank McCoy aka Beast  (Nicholas Hoult). Once assembled, there is only a short time to perfect their powers and learn to control them.

What is arguably one of the most important aspects of this movie is the chemistry between Charles and Erik. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen worked so well with each other that the pressure was certainly on for McAvoy and Fassbender. Fortunately, they forge a complex and engrossing relationship with ease, never once feeling like a strained attempt at character drama. While on the topic of chemistry, Fassbender and Bacon also share memorable scenes as two sworn enemies who also have reasons to respect one another.

 

What else is important in an X-Men movie? Action, of course. Whether it’s on top of the Statue of Liberty or in the hallways of the X Mansion, this series has plenty of memorable action sequences for fans to choose from. First Class is no exception from this. In fact, the entire final battle culminating on a dramatic stand off on a small island is pulse pounding excitement from start to finish with an incredible AHA! moment at the end. Seeing Erik lift an entire nuclear submarine out of the water while holding on for dear life to the wheel of the X Jet is certainly satisfying.

Probably the most abstract area of enjoyment for me was just the way the story was told. The rhythm of the movie remained constant and every scene seemed necessary, no matter how minor it seemed. Not once did I stop to see how much time was left or get distracted by something else because there was never a truly dull moment. There may be quiet scenes that reflect the more intimate sides of these characters, but they serve as an extra layer that adds depth and sympathy.

 

For a movie of this genre to evoke such a strong emotional response is commendable. It’s challenging to put these characters onscreen because we all know them so well that it may be hard to imagine them being anything else that fictional characters. Matthew Vaughn has achieved something remarkable in making these characters seem more grounded in reality than any other time of this series, or even in any other Marvel movie. Seeing the bond grown between Charles and Erik only to have it break in the most devastating of ways definitely tugged on the heart strings.

In summation, X-Men: First Class is not only the best X-Men movie yet, but also one of the best superhero movies I have seen, along with The Avengers and The Dark Knight. While The Avengers had the action, The Dark Knight had the heavy internal conflict, X-Men: First Class is about relationships and acceptance. They’re deep themes for a comic book adaptation, and while it may take a lot of liberties when it comes to sticking with the source material, this is a high quality film that will offer the viewer an excellent two hour ride.

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