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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Movie Review: X-Men: First Class

Simple. Effective. Astonishing.

These words epitomize what could be described as the greatest prequel, possible reboot, and much needed jumpstarter of a comic book film franchise full of potential and stories to exploit. Despite the ups and downs it has generated with the four films it has amassed over the years, there's no denying that the X-Men movies are some of the boldest and greatest works in film history which I have had the privilege of viewing since it all started back in 1999. True, it all boils down to the people behind the project, most notably scriptwriters like David Hayter and the careful and crafty hands of a director like Bryan Singer, but when Singer packed his bags and left the X-Franchise to direct Superman Returns, a void was left wide open for 20th Century Fox to fill as the pressure and demand for more sequels opened up. Matthew Vaughn was initially brought in as a replacement, but after only making some casting choices, he soon dropped out due to family concerns and the fact that time constraints wouldn't produce the movie he wanted. Rush Hour director Brett Ratner filled that gap, and soon Fox released the lukewarm X-Men: The Last Stand to complete the trilogy with mixed reactions from the fanbase in general. A few years later, X-Men Origins: Wolverine was released, a spin-off vehicle for Hugh Jackman's character of Wolverine would explore the origins of the feral mutant, only for the Gavin Hood directed film to receive mixed reactions as well, with fans lamenting on how the once mighty X-Men franchise has fallen from the good to the obscure.

All that changes now. Like I said, X-Men: First Class is that game changer the franchise needed to turn the tide and bring it back into the halls of praise and worship fans will so definitely line into. Helmed by Matthew Vaughn, with a returning Bryan Singer co-producing and co-writing the screenplay, this prequel movie redefines the timeless and somewhat analog tale of mutants for the new generation, and it works for the most part. The key elements here are storytelling and casting, and despite being a superhero movie this flick can be considered one of the best blends of both that I've ever seen.

Movie: X-Men: First Class

Starring: James McAvoy, MichaelFassbender, Rose Byrne, January Jones, Kevin Bacon

Directed By: Matthew Vaughn

Set primarily in the 1960's during the era of the Cold War, X-Men: First Class introduces audiences to a younger Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr, whose origins are explored and destinies are intertwined as they face a common threat that will threaten the futures of both human and mutantkind. Growing up with the dream of meeting and uniting others like himself, Xavier believes in a peaceful coexistence between mutants and humans, while Lehnsherr reflects a darker upbringing wrought with tragedy, fear, and pain, foreshadowing his eventual path of pursuing a war between his race and normal people. Before all that transpires, these two unlikely individuals meet and become the best of friends, working together to stop a mad mutant with nuclear war ambitions alongside a ragtag band of mutants, thus forming a team that will come to be known in the future as "X-Men".

X-Men: First Class Theatrical Trailer

I have to say - the casting is literally perfect for this movie. James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Kevin Bacon stole the show for me right here, and their roles as Charles Xavier, Erik Lehnsherr, and Sebastian Shaw were priceless. I was expecially fond of Fassbender, who starred previously in movies like 300 and Jonah Hex. He played his part exceptionally well, and delivered the kind of intensity and anger necessary to portray the man who would eventually become Magneto. Heck, since the setting and many of his scenes in this movie shout "James Bond", the man could very well be a potential candidate for the franchise in the future. I was very impressed with his performance, and this film would serve well to catapult his career even further down the line. That's not to say that James McAvoy was overshadowed either. The "Shameless" and "Wanted" star also played a convincing young Charles Xavier, and he's got the demeanor and accent of the character down to a tee. The chemistry between these two bring the movie to life, which is only enhanced further by the rest of the cast starring in this movie. Oh, and Kevin Bacon's still got his chops for acting alright. His Sebastian Shaw may look more charming than intimidating, but that's the whole point behind his character, and he plays the part of a formidable antagonist well.

Story wise, I love how they crafted and managed to insert the early beginnings of mutant warfare into a 1960's setting and pay homage in turn to the James Bond movies of that era by adding a unique blend of espionage and technological wonder that goes well with all the mutant action the audience is craving for. Fans will be delighted (or disappointed) to see how some classic faces and devices from the X-Men's comic history are brought to life in this movie. I especially grew fond of the film's version of the Hellfire Club. Sebastian Shaw, Emma Frost, Azazel, and Riptide make for one heck of a bad guy line-up, but that's not to say that the young and first class of X-Men are pushovers either. It's a good blend of energetic and talented youngsters, and besides Charles and Erik, we have Banshee, Beast, Havoc, and Mystique, and we see how they use and adapt to their powers through the course of the movie. While there may be some continuity issues, the film also does well to establish relationships and ties between these characters that were or were not explored in previous X-Films. Heck, you get to see one heck of a cameo in this movie, but it isn't a post credits scene. You'll get what I mean once you sit down and watch this from start to finish, and if you're an X-Men movie fan, you're definitely going to get a kick out of it.

Bottomline, X-Men: First Class is definitely a must see for the diehard fan or uninitiated. Despite being a superhero film in general, anybody looking for a straightforward movie to watch will be surprised to see the great production values and talents this movie has to offer. I may have been impressed by Thor a month ago, but this takes the cake, and could possibly be the best Marvel/ superhero flick, heck even one of THE BEST MOVIES OF 2011. If there was anyway to reinvigorate a franchise, Matthew Vaughn and Bryan Singer have certainly gotten the formula and overdid themselves here. Simply Astonishing.

Rating - 5/5

*Originally posted by Timzster in The Crusader's Realm

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