Overall Rating: 8.00/10
We all like to think we are the better men. That when you take away all our perceived notions of grandeur, and strip us down to our most bare boned nature, we exceed all others. That our species is dominant, and this world is ours to do with as we like. Now, you stand face to face with the knowledge that this is a fallacy. That your species is changing, and you will be left behind. Do you rise to embrace this change? Or do you sink in fear of it? Remember, your answer to this question, does not ensure your longevity, in either way. And also remember, those of this new evolution must make their decision with respect to you as well.
Such decisions lay at the heart of X-Men: First Class, as the dawn of a new mutation in the evolution of man comes into knowledge. Through juxtapositions and timeline identifiers, X-Men: First Class establishes the initial rift between Erik Lehnsherr, aka Magneto (Michael Fassbender), and Charles Xavier, aka Professor X (James McAvoy) that would forever shape the formation and social involvement of mutants throughout history.
Providing a global awareness demonstrably lacking in previous X-Men installments enables X-Men: First Class to deal with a wide spectrum of social issues at the backdrop of its core story. We are whisked away through a wide assortment of moral conflicts, both directly and indirectly tackled by our core characters.
By declaring itself as both a part and separate from the entire X-Men series, X-Men: First Class is able to create its own narrative without worry about dates/times/character locations, which it does with solid precision. While at the same time, the film benefits from the predefined characters and attributes film goers are already familiar with. Though I am happy to report that use of it is limited, and that use is awesome.
But perhaps X-Men: First Class' greatest attribute lies in its use of character. So often these superhero films get bogged down by stereotyping, they forget to offer the viewer something to walk away with. A bit of the character to take home and reflect and embrace. X-Men: First Class most certainly does not. The film dives right into the mindset of each character, with the transformation of Magneto being the most gripping of all.
James McAvoy continues his string of solid roles, proving he has what it takes to be both a leading man and supporting player in one go - and in all likelihood lining himself up to earn an Oscar in his 50s as a distressed middle aged father. Jennifer Lawrence and Rose Byrne provide the necessary confident female perspective, helping separate X-Men from its male driven counterparts in the Marvel universe. Kevin Bacon - despite having the wrong nose for his Magneto helmet - is an all around solid villain, earning laughs and boos in equal measure. While the rest of the cast handles their roles with the craft and consistency one would expect to find more often in big budget pictures. Still, who do I have to kill to get Jason Flemyng a viable acting part? Don't even get me started on Michael Ironside...
Of course, I would be remiss if I were to claim all that X-Men: First Class offers is without flaw. Now I'm willing to pass on the moldy cheese stench reeking from two of its core opening scenes. I'm also more than happy to let it slide that it's musical score is basically a greatest hits of Hans Zimmer scores for the last few years. But I must say, at the end of the day, I really wasn't all that impressed with how the film handled all of its transitions. And when you consider just how many there are, that's a rather big hurdle to overcome. The opening third is very jerky, not always well defined, and despite a collection of solid moments, felt like a cliff-notes writer lost control of his pen and went on a writing rampage before being tamed via electrocution rods and jammed back into his cage. Once the characters start coming together, the film begins to even out, but I couldn't help shake this underwhelming feeling of forced narrative usurping character moments. Some may call this nitpicking, but I contend that in a film of this scope, even the slightest nudge against the viewer's grip can take them off course throughout. Especially when you factor in the two-plus hour run time.
Then again, if you factor in the rushed production, studio's off the wall expectations, and a spree of casting that seemed as if they wouldn't stop even after the film was made, X-Men: First Class holds up incredibly well. The acting never feels like a let down - though Bacon's pug nose did meet its match in the Magneto helmet - Vaughn's directing is steadfast, and full of life (so much so I'm sure Ang Lee rolled his eyes more than once at the mid-film montage). Even writing team Miller and Stentz (who in my opinion were the weakest part of this year's Thor) found a solid middle ground to navigate with writer-director Vaughn and his longtime writing partner Jane Goldman.
All in all, X-Men: First Class is simply a top class superhero outing. If Thor was the jumper cables needed to get the engine going, X-Men: First Class is the sportscar that it started off and left the rest in the dust.
Directed By - Matthew Vaughn
Written By - Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman, and Matthew Vaughn
Story By - Sheldon Turner and Bryan Singer