X-Men: First Class:
So Whats An X-Men Movie Like With Out
Wolverine Sucking It Up? Pretty Damn Good
As most of you know, I've been a comic book fan for almost as long as I've been alive, and though unlike the majority of comic book fans out there, I understand and allow for differences when they translate a comic book into a movie or a television series, even if I was, as some said, over critical to the point it was almost seen as critical assassination, of Fox's other four X-Men movies, with my references to X-Men 3 and Wolverine being the most harsh. With that said, and the bad taste still in my mouth from those last two films, I was both excited and leery about the announcement of X-Men First Class, though reboots are all the rage in Hollywood for those not interested in 3D, they aren't always the way to go. But in this case, like with Star Trek back in 2009, I was gladly proven wrong.
X-Men First Class takes us back to the very beginning of the X-Men, a time normally only implied or hinted at in the previous films. It starts out with a lovely homage to the opening sequence to the 2000 X-Men film, the scene most feel was the best filmed sequence in the entire original film trilogy. Its 1944, and we're with in the confines of the hellish Auschwitz concentration camp, where young German born Jew Erik Lehnsherr is forcefully separated from his parents, his fear and anger trigger the manifestation of Erik's mutant power, the power of magnetism. Next we see young Erik in a room with a doctor by the name of Dr. Schmidt, he explains to Erik that he's a mutant and that he wishes to help him learn to use his new found powers, though his methods of teaching aren't exactly what one would call caring and nurturing. From here we shift across the world to 1944 New York state, to an upscale house in Westchester County, a lavishly rich suburb of New York City, where we meet a young Charles Xavier, who is already well aware of his powers of mental control and telepathy, where while investigating a sound he hears in his kitchen, discovers a young homeless shapeshifter Raven Darkholme, in the guise of his mother, attempting to steal food from the house. Charles states that he knows she is hiding her true form, causing Raven to change from the guise of Charles mother, into her natural blue skin and blue haired state. Overjoyed to discover that he's "not the only one" Charles extends his hand to Raven, claiming that she shall never have to steal food ever again, stating he will convince his parents to let her stay.
The film jumps forward from here to 1962, Charles and Raven are at Oxford University, where Charles is just about to finish and become a professor of genetics specializing in human mutations, a fact he uses to attempt and pick up girls, much to the annoyance and boredom of Raven who seems to just be along with Charles for the ride, staying in the guise of a beautiful blond girl in her 20s, around the same age as Charles, though she hints early on that she takes Charles "be mutant and proud" rhetoric more serious then him, questioning why she can't just be her normal blue skinned self, she also implies that though she is grateful to Charles and his family for raising her, she wishes that Charles would see her as more then just a sister. From there we jump to an adult Erik now hunting down those nazis who tried to make a weapon out of him as a child, he starts out in a french bank where he forces the location of several known nazis in hiding claiming he was going to kill them, and then come back and kill the one he got the info from after painfully extracting it from his unwilling informant.
From there we jump to Las Vegas in 1962, the height of the first golden age of The Vegas Strip, we meet young CIA operative Moira McTaggert who is trailing a high ranking general who she believes will put her in the trail of a man named Sebastian Shaw, the leader of an organization called The Hellfire Club, an organization operating under the facade of an exclusive high end gentleman's club. Moira infiltrates the club, where we discover that Sebastian Shaw is infact Dr. Schmidt, Erik's biggest target, but with out the German accent, and that Shaw not only is a mutant himself, but has many in his employ. From here the film starts to move everyone into place, Moira recruits Charles and Raven into the CIA to help in her tailing of Shaw, they encounter Erik as he crosses path with Shaw, trying to rise his private submarine, Charles saves Erik's life, and explains that he's not alone in the world as Erik thought he was, and that he will never be alone again, the same promise he made Raven all those years ago. From there, under the guidance of Moira and a guy simply called the Man In Black, a CIA agent who's incharge of a special facility he's been using to study and prove the existence of mutants, with out knowing he had one under his nose the whole time, a young brilliant man named Hank McCoy, who with the help of Charles creates a machine to detect the locations of mutants just like them, and together, Hank, Erik, Raven and Charles form a team of mutants, a sort of mutant special ops team to go against Shaw and his team of mutants, all leading up to the inevitable battle between the two sides, as a film like this is expected too do. For reference the teams are set up as follows; Xavier's team: Charles Xavier (Professor X), Raven Darkholme (Mystique), Erik Lensherr (Magneto), Hank McCoy (Beast), Alex Summers (Havok), Sean Cassidy (Banshee), Angel Salvadore (Angel), Armando Muñoz (Darwin) with Moira McTaggert as their CIA handler. Shaw's Hellfire Club consists of: Sebastian Shaw (The Black King), Emma Frost (The White Queen), Azazel and Janos Quested (Riptide), though none of them are ever referred to as their code names like the soon to be X-Men.
First Class does a great job making you understand that these characters, some of which we've known for almost 50 years now, are not the well established in complete control of their powers and knowing who they are. It does a great job showing them grow from young confused people who think they're all the only one in the world like them, a fundamental part of all the early mutants in the marvel universe before mutants became publicly known, some might call it forced but its not, logically this would be the case in a pre-internet world, this would be the case, specially in the pre-revolutionary group period of the mid to late 1960s where repression of knowledge and ignoring the facts were common place. It would make sense that none of them would really know what they were because at that time there is no school for them to go too where they can learn what they are and how to deal with their powers at this point. And the film does a great job of explaining how the Xavier Academy is formed, and how each character starts to move in the direction of who they are ment to be, Hank McCoy ends up in his more commonly known blue fur via an accident in the lab, just like in the comics, though they explain the blue shade of it by means of it being a test with Raven's blood cells, sense she is blue in her natural state. It also does a great job showing the transformation from Erik to Magneto, which really is what we all want to see, seeing as the whole point of the film is to see how him and Xavier become the opposite sides of the same coin.
And though there is all of this wonderful and amazing story and imagery, as well as two great uncredited cameos, one by Hugh Jackman as Wolverine who is approached by Charles and Erik to join their team and they are promptly told to "fuck off", and the other being Rebecca Romijn as one of the forms Raven takes on, there are some flaws in the film. Mostly that it focuses so much on the soon to be first class of X-Men, but it gives almost no time at all to any of the villains other then Shaw and afew scenes with Emma Frost, there is almost no lines at all spoken by Azazel and there are infact no lines at all spoken by Janos, infact no one even refers to Janos at all in the film, he's just there, with his bad hair and he's apparently evil, and there really is nothing we learn of Azazel other then that he's red, demonic looking and can teleport around with the familar BAMF sound made famous in the comics by Nightcrawler, who in the comics is the son of Azazel and Raven. Unlike others though, I don't mind that The Hellfire Club doesn't have its normal structure system; Shaw is the Black King, Emma is the White Queen ect. because it wasn't really needed for this film, it wouldn't have any point in the story, and to be honest, neither are really strong enough built up characters to make any sense of the idea in the first place, all we know of Shaw is that he's old and has a vaguely defined power of energy absorption, and all we know of Emma is that she's a telepath who can also turn into a diamond form that she can use for defense, there is no explaining why she has this secondary mutation, its just implied to be like Beast's turn into his more well known blue animalistic form, but no idea how hers was triggered. There are other things that were slighty annoying and unexplained, but to go into them it would be a spoiler for anyone thats not seen the film, and I just don't wanna do that.
So the big question, is X-Men: First Class worth going to see? Ofcourse it is, I'd actually venture to say its worth about 95% of ticket cost. Sure there are some things that aren't exactly all that great about it, but you get tht with all films, what amazed me the most about the film was its three key characters; James McAvoy as Charles Xavier was brilliant, he gives you enough of the character to understand that under all of his equality preaching, Xavier is a vain prick who thinks using his power to glorify himself over others is ok cuz its "for the cause". Michael Fassbender who I only remember from Inglorious Bastards honestly, plays an incredible Magneto, you can see in his face just how much pain he's been through, even when you see him happy, you can see the pain he's repressing, they don't just drop his change at the very end on you as a shocker, its a local and expected given all of his trauma, reaction. The biggest surprise though is just how well Jennifer Lawrence, whom I've only seen before this in Winter's Bone and The Beaver, was as Raven Darkholme, Mystique has always been abit of a strange character, she really only raised to prominence sense the 1990s when it was revealed she was the mother of two of the X-Men and in the last as been linked to afew major characters, and other then a short stint as a hero she really wasn't all that big of a character until the original trilogy made her one, the fact she not only was believable, but made you actually care about a character most seemed to deem as one dimensional, is really just amazing. I will also say, if you are expecting January Jones as Emma Frost to be interesting, you'll be out of luck, other then showing off a fair amount of skin, though not in her mordern outfit or her original cape over a corset and knee boots look, there really isn't anything to Emma Frost in this film, i kind of expected that honestly, Emma's more a nitche and fanservice character who plays well in the comics, she was really only done write in a 2008 animated series which featured her. But all of the downs and ups aside, if you are up for a good fun time where you get to see some action and some great visual effects, as well as an Sr-71 Blackbird 7 years before it was created in the real world, definitly give First Class a look.
here is the trailer for those who aren't convinced yet...