X-Men: First Class Review: Does it Pass or Fail?
While this fun summer action flick is certainly a huge step above the previous four films, it still suffers greatly from the same mistakes: too many characters, a lack of depth, and a predictable plot.
I know: sounds like I didn’t like the movie. Let me say that as an avid X-Men fan, I have every right to be crazy about all the little details in continuity (and on the inside I am) but for the purpose of this review I looked at it from a writer’s point of view, and I still felt that what was promised wasn’t fully delivered.
What the Movie Gets Right:
Oh, Magneto, how I love you.
Anyone who knows me may know I like Magneto as a character. He is by far one of the most complex comic book villains in comics, past, present, probably future. Unlike Dr. Doom who is egotistic and trying to conquer the planet, unlike Green Goblin who likes to play with people’s lives, unlike General Ross who is hyperfocused on destroying the Hulk because he’s an old man with nothing better to do, Magneto is the victim of politics gone very, very bad. He was in a Nazi concetration camp, for god’s sake. And the movie cleverly takes this experience and uses it as a springboard for everything else.
Centering the movie around Magneto (perhaps because the producers took the leftovers from the Magneto movie that was in production and mashed it into this film) gave this movie a heart because everytime you saw Michael Fassbender’s Magneto you couldn’t help but want to root for him. You feel his pain when he was forced to be a pawn in Nazi experiments, and you feel his righteous fury when he brings his own brand of vengeance to them as a Nazi Hunter.
Xavier comes out strong, too. While I was initially afraid of James McAvoy as Professor X, he comes off strongly alluring, like watching a video of your parents or grandparents when they were “young and happening” kids. It’s fun to watch Xavier pick up women with his intellect and telepathy, a far cry from the Xavier we see in most adaptations who is more akin to Ghandi than George Clooney.
But after you move away from their relationship and respective characters, the movie becomes every other superhero action flick. In fact, it becomes every other X-men action flick. A bad guy has a team aready together to carryout a fiendish plot. The goodguys hear about it since one of them is somehow involved with the villain(s) at hand. After dealing with a few personal issues, of which at least one character may defect to the other side (willingly or not), and a person killed (accidentally or not), there’s a big mutant bruha that leads to the main bad guy being foiled, but leaving the team with a loss.
The acting was fairly good from the characters who count. Fassbender and McAvoy were top-notch. Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique was a great derailment from previous characterizations as far as giving her depth, and out of all the characters I feel her evolution most connects to the one set in the previous X-Films (now if only they’d forget the silly prosthetic look).Nicholas Hoult as Beast was great because his character invoked what the X-Men franchise is all about: coming to terms with yourself, especially during teenage awkwardness. I really wished they could have drawn this out a little better, but instead it’s handled fairly weakly after a while.
The rest of the X-Team is unforgettable, and why they had to use these particular mutants instead of more continuity friendly characters is beyond me (for example, using Alex “Havoc” Summers, instead of his older brother Scott/Cyclops, or their brother Gabriel/Vulcan) because all of their roles are bit pieces and completely 1-dimensional.
The villains are equally forgettable after the special effects eye candy wears off. Bacon’s Shaw, while fun (due largely to Bacon’s swag) is just as misplaced for his character as Jones portrayal of Emma Frost, or Azazel and Riptide’s characterizations. Besides Bacon, they, like the X-Team, are there largely to just fill a spot until the movie brings a fight for them to hurt or be hurt in.
This was what ruined the last few movies. More and more characters added, with little to no importance to each movie. Inevitably we stop caring, even if we love the only character(s) being focused on, who, for the previous four films, was solely Wolverine for the most part.
Does this movie have potential? Yes. It is still a good movie that brings a different atmosphere around the X-franchise that could evolve it (heh) into a monetarily and critically superior franchise.
But with how they seemed to have wasted the prime opportunity to draw out the franchise (especially with how the last quarter of the movie is a rush to connect the continuity to the first Trilogy), we won’t be able to enjoy more of Xavier and Magneto’s relationship.
The best we can wish for is that this reboot reestablishes the franchise with a stronger, more relevant storyline and that our voices carry like Banshee’s scream to the ears of the producers and writers on what needs to be done to make a proper, thorough X-Movie that ranks as high as the first two Superman movies, the first two Spider-Man flicks, and Nolan’s last two Batman movies.
Rating: 7 out of 10