Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Film Review - X-Men: First Class (2011)

When I first heard about X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, I thought that it was just Hollywood's latest lame attempt to beat a dead horse: take a dead franchise, put young, attractive people in it, make them all stupid and teenagery and then add explosions. I was expecting X-Men in high school, and by the end of it, people would be Team Xavier or Team Magneto. Gladly, I was wrong. This is a good piece of comic book movie.

Casting was hit or miss,
but the casting of the leads was excellent. James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Kevin Bacon were all game. The chemistry between McAvoy's Charles Xavier and Fassbender's Erik Lenscherr was especially fun to watch. You got the impression that those scenes together were as fun to film as they were to watch. There was a jovial intensity and camaraderie that is difficult to pull off given how different their characters' backgrounds are. This is especially impressive since they had work in a believable, life-long bond within two hours. The fun of prequels is knowing how things turn out. SPOILER ALERT There's a fun anticipation of watching Magneto turn evil, and Fassbender captures the cold, steely (steel's a metal, right? Accidental pun point!) yet intense nature of the character. In some ways, waiting for Magneto go bad was like watching Revenge of the Sith knowing that Darth Vader would show up in the final reel. Now that I think of it, watching Magneto go bad was much more powerful and believable than watching Hayden Christensen...do anything. Christensen and Ewan MacGregor had two movies to convey what McAvoy and Fassbender did in one. (...Lauren's the cool one. I'm the dork.) It's also fun watching Professor X become who he is: the benevolent, compassionate teacher.

Jennifer Lawrence did a serviceable job as Mystique, but the role and character weren't written with much purpose. In this movie, Mystique grew up best friends with Charles Xavier... but save for a few explicit words of dialogue, you never really felt the weight of that history and closeness. Her character's arc and ultimate decision at the end didn't make sense to me.

January Jones as Emma Frost... January Jones is smoking hot, and it's fun to watch her parade around in silly, revealing costumes that show off her hotness. And I don't think she's a terrible actress... but she lacks charisma. Put simply, she was boring. She just seemed disinterested in the movie. It was like that SNL she hosted where you liked looking at her but found her totally unappealing... almost humorless. (Hell, I've known hot girls who were boring, but at least they're genuine interest in their cat gave them a fun quirk... Now imagining Emma Frost with a cat... made of diamonds.) The bad guys are supposed to believe that they are right, and they are willing to destroy mankind to show it. She did not convey that belief, so it made her harder to understand.

Part of the fun of this movie is the setting and the circumstances. You don't often see a superhero movie that takes place in the past and has/participates in "real world" issues. It was good on the studio's part to reboot the franchise this way. Also, watching McAvoy and Fassbender running around in the 60s with martinis in their hands is fun. The plot and story were appropriately epic. At times, I got lost in who/why the bad guys were blackmailing or threatening others (which I partially blame on my crappy knowledge of history), but all the pieces were set for the endgame. Most importantly, the endgame made sense.

Other stuff... There are some fun cameos. I'd be a dick to reveal who showed up, but I honestly didn't see it coming... Rose Byrne is quickly becoming my celebrity crush... Maybe Kevin Bacon's excellent turn as a super villain made January Jones look boring in comparison... There are a bunch of fun nods to the fanboys.

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS is a good summer movie. It's on the cusp of being a great one, but as a buddy of mine put it (and I agreed), everything seemed to be off by a beat. It lacked something, and I'm having trouble with what it was exactly.

7 out of 10 bottles of beer on the wall

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