Friday, June 3, 2011

X-Men: First Class Review

I was concerned when I first heard about X-Men: First Class (XM:FC) because it was gong to be a reboot about the formation of Dr. Charles Xavier's school for mutants. I thought here we go again, another Hollywood attempt to get younger for the sake of a teenage demographic. Yes, some of the mutants are teenagers but I was pleased to see my concerns about XM:FC allayed. You see this is a mature story about the beginnings of the comic book superheroes.

The story starts out the same way the first X-Men (2000) film started out. We start out in Poland, 1944 where a young Erik Lensherr's parents are being taken away to a concentration camp. Only this time, we see what happens right after Erik is captured. A Nazi scientist by the name of Dr. Schmidt (Kevin Bacon) attempts to train Erik on how to use his power to manipulate metal. Dr. Schmidt surmises that it takes intense emotions such as rage for Erik to use his power. He brings Erik's mother in his office. He asks Erik to manipulate a coin. He can't. So Dr. Schmidt kills Erik's mother thus causing Erik to use his power.

We then flash forward to 1962, where Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) is hunting Dr. Schmidt. At the same time, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is an Oxford University student completing his doctorate. His thesis? Human mutation. This younger Xavier is a bit of a playboy using his powers to pick up women. Meanwhile, CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) in Las Vegas stumbles upon a plot to encourage the United States to put missiles in Turkey. She spots her first mutants. She enlists the help of Xavier to help her. They are led to Dr. Schmidt's yacht, only now he is known as Sebastian Shaw. Erik attempts to kill Shaw but escapes with the help of mutant Emma Frost. (January Jones) Erik agrees to join Xavier and other mutants to help the CIA to figure out Shaw's plans. They discover the plan is to start World War III by planting Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba aka in real life as the Cuban Missile crisis. What is Shaw's motive? To unleash world wide radiation to create a mutant race.

The use of the Cuban Missile crisis is a clever plot point. It also gives this movie a mature tone. This is one serious but fascinating film. Credit must be given to the writers of the screenplay, Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn with a story by Sheldon Turner and Bryan Singer. Director Matthew Vaughn (KIck-Ass) keeps the action crisp and sharp. He gets great emotional reactions from the cast. There is a thankful lack of camp. My only complaint is that the bad mutants have motivation for their actions while it's hard to see why the good mutants will stay good.

Michael Fassbender is great as the tormented Erik. The same holds true for James McAvoy, first as playboy Charles then he becomes the mature teacher, Dr. Xavier. January Jones exudes a sixties sexuality. She comes off as a Playboy Playmate from the period.

You'll forget this movie is based on a comic book because it's one sophisticated tale. X-Men: First Class is one of the best superhero movies ever made. The grade is A.

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