X-Men, First Class is the second of four big comic book summer movies set to hit theatres this summer. Matthew Vaughn takes over this falling franchise as director. Following the poor reception of X-Men, The Last Stand, and Wolverine Vaughn had a daunting task to bring this once credible franchise back to the forefront. Other directorial credits for Vaughn include; Layer Cake, Stardust, and Kick-Ass. Is Vaughn up to the task of resurrecting this film franchise?
A young Erik Lensherr (Bill Milner) and his family are imprisoned in a German World War Two concentration camp in Poland. Lensherr shows the ability to bend metal when placed under stress or when angered. After witnessing this, a Nazi officer named Schimdt and later Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) forces Lensherr to show his ability when he harms his mother. Lensherr shows the audience his power in spectacular fashion.
Meanwhile in New York a young Charles Xavier (Laurence Belcher) demonstrates his ability when he catches a shapes shifting being who was impersonating his mother. The name of the being is Raven (Morgan Lilly) they become friends as they realize that they both posses special gifts.
Time fast forwards twenty years in the future where we have an adult Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) hunting down Shaw in order to extract revenge as well as other Nazi officers. When trying to find Shaw he crosses paths with a now older Xavier (James McAvoy) and an older Raven (Jennifer Lawrence). Lensherr agrees to join up with the duo in an effort to stop Shawn from starting World War Three but to do this they must put together a team of people who have the same gifts as them (“mutants”).
From the opening scene of this film until the ending scene X-Men, First Class is a roller coaster. X-Men, First Class is well over two hours so to fill up the time effectively every action scenes sets up another action scene. This works do in large part to how it has just enough exposition in between to satisfy the audience than it takes off. Furthermore, the audience sees the slow rise and fall of the promising friendship between Lensherr and Xavier and it really is heartbreaking to watch. Fassbender and McAvoy are a perfect match on screen and their ability to draw the audience in and never let them go makes X-Men, First Class as good as it is. The best scene of X-Men, First Class is when Xavier accesses a touching memory of Lensherr’s and the audience is able to see that Lensherr does have some vulnerabilities and he does have emotions. This is made even more touching with the line “that’s a beautiful memory Eric.”
Anytime in a film when a character has a unique ability to do something, it all comes down to how the director shows the audience this gift. Vaughn really showed how creative he can be with Lensherr’s ability to control metal because when he goes on his mission of vengeance he pulls no punches. I do not want to talk too much about the scenes where the audience sees how devastating of a power Lensherr has in fear of spoiling too much. However, I can guarantee the audience that they have never seen a boat destroyed like how Lensherr does it.
The aspect of X-Men, First Class that will be overlooked and not talked about is the performances of Lawrence (Raven) and Nicholas Hoult (Dr. “Hank” McCoy). At first they both see eye to eye when it comes to what they think of each other. McCoy wants to develop a serum that would change him into a human and Raven at first shares his enthusiasm. However, as the story moves along Raven begins to change her mind. This is due in large part because Lensherr is telling her that she should not hide as a human for she is beautiful in her mutant form. The ability of Lawrence and Hoult are on full view to the audience and they do such a fantastic job of showing the characters progressing in their respective views on how they could or could not fit into society.
The driving force behind any X-Men movie is its stance on “mutants” being seen as a threat and how humans want them dead. X-Men, First Class portrays this in a very effective way. The audience feels for every “mutant” even if they are supposed to bad.
I have praised X-Men, First Class in a variety of ways. However, I have two problems and they are minor but they are still problems. The first is a well known stereotype with regards to a specific character that dies. I cannot say exactly who but everyone will notice it. It takes place at about the hour mark and the person who does the killing is Shaw. I just felt it was too obvious and could have been handled in better taste. That being sad I still felt said watching this “mutant” die so that might have been the whole point. Furthermore, the second is although Vaughn manages to balance over twelve characters in the film in a coherent way. Shaw’s male sidekicks are a little bland. Azazel (Jason Flemyng) and Riptide (Alex Gonzalez) compare to Sabretooth and Toad in the original X-Men (2000), they move the plot along but the audience learns nothing about them. Riptide does not have a single line of dialogue in the entire film. These are two very minor issues but they still exist.
I felt every emotion while watching X-Men, First Class, guilty, sympathy, sadness, happiness, and excitement. I left that theatre with an ear to ear grin on my face, I felt like a child at Christmas time. I love everything about this film, the style, the pacing, the action, the performances, and even the climax is brilliant. Mr. Vaughn you have not along resurrected a dying franchise but you have brought a new life to it. X-Men, First Class is the best X-Men movie made to date by far. This is my favorite film of the year by far. I am ecstatic to give this film the highest rating possible.