As of a few months ago, nothing had me more skeptical than this reboot/prequel X-Men: First Class- for several reasons. First, the marketing for it was over shadowed by the more flashy Marvel properties like Thor and Captain America. Second, the last off-shoot of the ‘X’ franchise was a failed attempt with X-Men Origins: Wolverine. And finally, the early images of the first class in costume looked like a bunch of amateur cosplayers on their way to Comic Con. Even though I am a fan of Director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass), I was confident that this would place in a distant fourth to it’s super-collegues.
XFC focuses on the early years of these infamous mutants, more specifically on the early friendship between Xavier (McAvoy) and Magneto (Fassbender). This ‘faction’ (fact+fiction) story places this mutated freshman class in destiny’s crossroad at the Cuban Missile Crisis. We learn what catalyzed this dynamic duo to form the first class and eventually, what rips them apart. Footloose’s Kevin Bacon plays a lesser known villain (to the non-comic book nerd) known as Sebastian Shaw, leader of the Hellfire Club. Let me say right off the bat that these three make the movie. Each of them plays strong, well formed characters. Each with power and charisma to command the screen. Even though it’s telegraphed exactly where this story is going, you can’t help but savor up every rich minute with the tension between these three.
XFC 1960’s pendulum swings from a Sean Connery, James Bond flick to an episode of Mad Men. All the locations are exotic with standard wall-to-wall shag carpeting. This really sets this Marvel creation from all the rest. It unashamedly says ‘hey, before we save the world, let’s sit down for a martini baby’. We don’t see a lot of 60’s movies anymore- which is the brilliance of the film. Placing it in the tensions of the Cold War added a level of dimension that parallels what the mutants are experiencing. The wrong move between human-mutant relations will potentially lead to a disastrous civil war- which we see played out in the X-Men trilogy.
My only big complaint is how the women are treated in XFC. The White Queen, played by January Jones, was a bore. Fanboys have been dying (and fantasizing) to see Emma Frost appear on-screen ever since the first X-Men film. Sure while she looks the part, her delivery was dead-pan and forgettable. Jones looked like she didn’t know what to do with the character- which the script didn’t help her at all. We learn very little about her and why she so faithfully stood by Shaw. I think White Queen’s failure was a pretty epic mistake on Vaughn’s part. She could have shined like her diamond armor skin instead of the lack-luster performance we got. I also thought Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique was also a mis-step. Through out the entire movie, we see mystique as being innocent, naive, and a faithful friend. Then for almost no reason she turns to the cunning Mystique we all love to hate. Lawrence’s depiction was delivered with the same emotional gravitas as Anakin Skywalker in that lame sci-fi trilogy. She became evil because that’s where the story had to go- zzzzzz. In a lesser part, the mutant Angel treated with the same level of shallowness. Perhaps Vaughn was using this as an opportunity to illustrate the neglect and misogyny of women in the 1960’s- yea right. This would have been an almost perfect superhero film if the women were developed beyond just their breast size.
On another note, the music was pretty lame. It felt like an after thought with little originality. I can’t even recall a single note from the score (of course it was 2 am when it was finished).
Overall, I loved this reincarnation. It looks to fit nicely with the first X-films and I was once again proven wrong about my first impressions months ago. In fact, I think XFC packaged with X-1 and X-2 would make for a much better trilogy than with X-3. The only thing that made me sad was that I don’t think they can shoe horn in another 60’s XFC sequel without disrupting the continuity. But hey, you know how comic books are about changing continuity :).
I give this a 4 out of 5 Babbles.