Saturday, June 11, 2011
The Saturday Review: X-Men: First Class
Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Movies based on comic books can be hit or miss, and with an established rabid fanbase, there's always a danger when adapting a beloved series like The X-Men. After seeing several trailers for the newest X-Men incarnation, I was pretty sure it was going to be good, and I was not disappointed.
X-Men: First Class reveals the back stories for several of the core X-Men characters, including Magneto, Professor X, Mystique, and Emma Frost (the White Queen). Eric Lensherr (Magneto) is separated from his parents as they arrive at a Polish concentration camp. As he reaches for them, the iron gates bend and twist. His power is discovered by Dr. Schmidt (Kevin Bacon), who tortures him in an effort to harness the power. Charles Xavier, the future Professor X, discovers Raven Darkholme (Mystique), stealing food from his fridge and takes her in.
Twenty years later, Lensherr (Fassbender) is on a revenge mission to find and kill the elusive Dr. Schmidt. Xavier (McAvoy) is a newly appointed professor, traveling with Raven (Lawrence) posing as his sister. In Las Vegas, CIA operative Moira McTaggart is staking out the Hellfire Club and witnesses clear evidence of genetic human mutation. She seeks out Professor Xavier, an expert on mutation, and he begins working for the CIA, using a thought amplifying machine to find other mutants. He and McTaggart discover Sebastian Shaw and his team are a threat to national security. They join up with Lensherr and create a team of mutants to fight Shaw and his accomplices. As their presence among regular humans becomes more obvious, the people they are protecting become a larger threat as well.
This flick is stylish and smart, with gorgeous period costuming and plenty of inside references for devoted X-Men fans. The casting was excellent, and Fassbender and McAvoy are pitch perfect in their prospective roles. I'm usually not fond of January Jones, but she was definitely the right choice to play Emma Frost and any doubts of Jennifer Lawrence's suitability for Mystique were blown away by a cameo by Rebecca Romijn (the original film version of Mystique). Although the film has grossed the least at the box office of all the previous X-Men movies, I think it is the best so far and I am eager to see the second and third films in this series.
I think X-Men fans will enjoy this film, and it is an excellent starting point for those who are unfamiliar with the series. The special effects are very well-done and there are several humorous moments that provide levity in between some very serious scenes. It's definitely worth seeing in theaters, especially for comic fans.