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X-Men: First Class

The 2011 prequel to the "X-Men" film franchise directed by Matthew Vaughn.

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2 1/2 stars : "X-Men: First Class" has class but no substance

  • Oct 10, 2011
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We have all heard the stories before. The stories of these so-called super-humans, people born with special abilities that grant them the power to stand above all others and look down on us like the insects that we are, these stories were told in Greece during the time of Christ. They have been retold countless times over by the Romans, and then again by writers, family members, and teachers and comic book writers. We have all heard of these stories in one way or another; some might be passed down to you from a family member, some you might come across in your studies in school or maybe you just read about it in a comic book somewhere. Regardless of where you have heard the stories we all know of them, these super-humans, and these freaks of nature. These mutants if they do exist what would they look like. How would they act towards us regular humans, and would they try to destroy us if necessary or save us from our own self-destructive ways The questions are numerous and the answers few We can never know which way life will flow and we can never know how things will turn out. Even if we could see the future or read people’s minds now I have just one question for if super-humans or mutants if you would like to call them did in fact exist, what would you do if faced with the choice of embracing them or destroying them. Would you do the right thing, or would you follow your natural survival instincts. The choice is up to you.

Matthew Vaughn's "X-Men: First Class" is an intense, dark and intelligently made film that makes good use of its complex comic book mythology and excellent characters to create a story of two men trying to find their own paths through a life that accepts no substitutes. That I have great affection for this film But sad to say, no admiration or respect as it waste its insurmountable potential on action, flat declarations of change and reform, lopsided romance and cheesy mutants with abhorred powers. "X-Men: First Class" is a well made, beautifully acted  comic book film that perfectly captures the style, mood and essence of the world that these characters so perfectly inhabit; it is such a shame to see how poorly  these characters and this story elements are used in this ill executed film. This film’s one-dimensional script is most to blame, thanks to in part to scribes Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn. Two of whom wrote the rather abysmal “THOR” ,and so again butchers another great comic book story with their action centric styling, fast-paced antics, and quick cutting scenes of dialogue. This film is undeniably enjoyable and frankly, one of the more exciting comic book films I have seen to date. Its hyper-kinetic style and strong message of equality for all races is lost amongst the action, explosions, and numerous characters it tries to force upon the audience and itself. This film loses sight of what its story is trying to convey, of what it is trying to relay to its loyal readers and fans of the film series, it sinks into a depressingly somber attempt at pathos and a short-handed look at the human condition and the differences of humans. It instead throws that all away and degrades into a preachy, dull and at some points, lifeless film about persecuted super-humans trying to find their place in a society that will accept no substitutes. "X-Men: First Class" is one hell of a good time at the movies and one of the summers most enjoyable superhero films of the summer. However, much like Kenneth Branagh’s “THOR” “X-Men: First Class” falls flat on its face with a very disquieting thud. This film is certainly better than the rather disappointing "THOR" but, it still lacks the major characteristics that made the X-Men comics, it's 90's animated TV. Series and its big screen film franchise one of the most beloved comic book stories of strife and racial prejudice ever created. This film is stylish and good to look at but sadly that is all this film has going for it and nothing else. It had a chance, it had a shot, but when the bullets start flying and the mutants start, throwing their powers around the story becomes irrelevant and that is never a good thing.

There are things about this film that I rather enjoyed. I enjoyed the spirit, the energy, the anger and the ferocity, the passion and the high flying adventure of the X-Men  on their first mission trying to stop an almost immortal megalomaniac from taking over the world(as any villain aspires to do in such stories). What disappointed me the most is that this film did not take the initiative to go the extra mile; it seemed more preoccupied in setting up its grand finale and its sequel than actually trying to tell a story of any kind. I walked into this film with high hopes and dreams of having a chance to see some of my favorite childhood heroes and villains onscreen again, to see their story from the very beginning, but, alas, those hopes and dreams were quickly dashed as this film came to a thundering thud at its end. I did see hope for this film, hope that maybe, just maybe, there was going to be a possibility that this new franchises sequel (and you know there will be a sequel) will have far more potential that this film so uselessly squandered. "X-Men: First Class" is not a hopeless film it had so much potential but it squanders most, if not all of it on action and special effects instead of focusing more on what is more important in a film, the story. On paper, this probably was an amazing read. It probably sounded like a slam-bang, knock it out of the part, home-run action Sci-Fi hit, but like all good ideas that have gone to waste it starts out with brilliantly and somehow losses it soul along the way. This film in no way is a terrible failure, it just does not do just to the story it is telling or the history it is trying to insert into its mythology. “X-Men: First Class” is a hit and miss film; with more misses than hits I am afraid.

I have always been an admirer of the works of James McAvoy. Amongst the numerous young actors that seem to be popping up lately I must say he is simply one of the most talented and most endearing of the new generation of actors sweeping the silver screen. When I heard that  he had been tapped to play the legendary Professor Charles Xavier you can imagine I was more than elated to hear such great news, sadly, I just wish there had been more to his performance. To call McAvoy’s performance as Professor X lackluster would be a justifiable statement; there is no dimension, no spirit, and most of all no love. It is as if he is just going through the motion of the screenplay without putting his soul into it, McAvoy is a talented young actor but as much as I like him and have faith in his talent as an actor, but sadly he had little to nothing to work with here. The  actor’s are not at  fault for the blundering of this, the fault, as it is should be assigned, is that  of the screenplay and its writers who do nothing for their actors except give them absolutely nothing interesting to do or say. McAvoy tries his hardest to make something out of a nothing role but, sadly, in the end there is just nothing there for him to do except make grand statements for his cause and use his impressive powers in some very nicely done special effects sequences. In the end that is all that he has going for him and nothing else. Michael Fassbinder is one of Hollywood's most under-appreciated and gifted actors, he is a man with such depth of character and unflinching realism in his performances. Such as in the most recent adaptation of the classic novel Charlotte Brontë’s classic Gothic romance “Jane Eyre” (2011) and his stellar work in the gritty independent film “Fish Tank” (2009). These kinds of performances and these kinds of films are not only the reason the movies were invented for  they are the strong forceful, passionate performances of actors of old who delved deep into their characters to find the haunted persona underneath. Instead of letting the special effects and flashy camera work do all the heavy lifting. So how is it that such a fine actor such as Fassbender gets cast in a film such as this that not only had the potential to show off his talents but let alone make him a big name amongst the mass moviegoers. Fassbender delivers a strong, angry, and dark performance as the young Erik Lehnsherr before his decent to the dark side as the anti-villain that all comic book geeks and non-comic book fans alike know as the sinister Magneto. Fassbender is well equipped to play the brooding anti-villain himself but much like the equally well talented James McAvoy. Left high and dry by a writing team more obsessed with action and grand statements, and special effects than the battle between two brothers who try to find a common ground, a common existence in a world where humanity will accept no substitutes. The rest of the cast including Jennifer Lawrence, Oliver Platt, Rose Bryn, January Jones, Kevin Bacon, Nicholas Hoult, Edi Gathegi  and Lucas Till all turn in adequate supporting performances but are undermined by this films lack of story and lack of direction and its insentient need to hammer things home when it could have taken the more subtle approach.

Now I know I have been laying it on a little thick with my criticism of this well-made but inconsistent film that has its head and heart in the right place but, when it comes to the story elements and the technical aspects of this film, style ultimately overpowers the substance of its story. "X-Men: First Class" has all the trappings of a big budget, knock you out of your seats summer  blockbuster  that will sure to rake in the big bucks at the box-office, but ask yourself this, what will this film bring as a form of art? What will it bring to the table that so many others have tried and succeeded on many occasions? So I ask what does "X-Men: First Class" bring to the game that will change everything? Well the answer is simple; it does not bring anything except a great cast, so stunning special effects and beautiful locations. This film is typical summer fair all around its loud, noisy, energetic, lively, stylish, and bombastic entertainment that while you are on this roller coaster you are having the time of your life. It is not until after you get off the roller coaster that you realize what a dizzying and empty experience the ride was. How even though it was more than enjoyable while you were whizzing up and down and doing loop-de-loops  it never felt truly daring or entertaining it was just all in the moment and that, sadly, is where it will stay. 

2 1/2 stars :

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November 22, 2011
EXCELLENT review although I loved this flick.
October 17, 2011
very thorough review, my friend!
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C.R. Lopez ()
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X-Men: First Class
is a 2011 American superhero film directed by Matthew Vaughn. Based on the characters appearing in Marvel Comics, it is a prequel to the X-Men film series. X-Men: First Class was released June 1, 2011 in the UK and on June 3 in the US.

The film is set primarily in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis and focuses on the relationship between Professor X and Magneto and the origin of their groups, the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants. The film stars James McAvoy as Professor X and Michael Fassbender as Magneto. Other cast members include Kevin Bacon, January Jones, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence, Zoë Kravitz, Nicholas Hoult and Lucas Till. The film was mostly shot in England and parts of the United States.

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Director: Matthew Vaughn
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Release Date: June 3, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: Bryan Singer, Zack Stentz
Runtime: 132 minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox
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