Sunday, June 5, 2011

X-Men: First Class - Movie Review


I have been really impressed with the superhero movies of late. Both Iron Man movie have excelled, Thor was delightful, and the Batman movies almost don't count as "superhero" movies - they are genuinely awesome of their own right. X-Men: First Class continued in the same line.

Leaving X2, 3 and the abysmal Wolverine far behind, it did what the first tried to do, and did it better: it is a movie about the X-Men that ever so slightly makes fun of X-Men. It's self awareness is what made it work for me the way it did. Don't get me wrong, I am a huge X-Men fan. I wore a Rogue style skunk stripe in my hair in high school and I'm one of the 9 people who actually saw Wolverine in theaters - guess which of those two embarrasses me more. Hint, it's not the hair one. As a result, I would have gone to see this movie regardless of how good it was, but I don't think I'd have seen it opening weekend if I hadn't heard such good things about it.

It is really excellent. The casting was great; Jennifer Lawrence, who will soon be gracing theaters as Katniss Everdeen - the heroine of the Hunger Games and one of the greatest role models for young girls ever written - plays Mystique as a vulnerable young woman desperately looking for acceptance and affection. James McAvoy is a charming, if not particularly sexy, Charles Xavier and holds his own, though does not capture the character the way Patrick Stewart did. Michael Fassbender, unlike McAvoy, does make Magneto sexy in addition to very dangerous and slightly unhinged.

January Jones is a *cough* cold Emma Frost - so emotionless and nasty that we almost overlook the fact that she is only partially dressed for the entire movie. The rest of the cast is extremely good - the young mutants are endearing without being annoying, and the adults seem like actual people rather than caricatures. Rade Serbedzija scares the shit out of me, so I was rather distracted during all of his scenes, but that is a personal problem. Really, it's because after watching Mighty Joe Young as a child he haunted my nightmares for months, but you don't really care, do you?

Kevin Bacon, on the other hand, bears some mentioning. Sebastian Shaw is the "Big Bad" of the movie, bent of nuclear war to rid the world of it's pesky humans. At first sight, Bacon is an amusement. "Oh look, Kevin Bacon. Quick, someone sing Footloose!" Soon, however, he becomes tedious and brings absolutely nothing to the movie other than the question of why cast Kevin Bacon? Maybe Christoph Waltz was busy, or didn't want to play a Nazi again so soon, but I feel he would have been a far better Shaw.

Clocking in at 2 hours and 12 minutes, the film was surprisingly long, but never dragged. Start to finish, it was engaging and at times sweet, funny and exciting. Speaking of start, the opening scene of Erik and his family in a concentration camp is shot for shot from the first X-men movie - so much so that I was at times wondering if the editors had simply reused footage.

Personal favorite things:

All of the inside jokes for the benefit of hardcore fans
Excellent cameos - look carefully, they go by fast
Absolute best use of the one allowed "fuck" in a PG-13 rated movie I have ever seen

Less than favorite things:

A number of mistakes, especially math issues: in 1942 Erik and Charles are both 12, but in 1962 Charles is only 24
There is no after the credits scene, so don't wait in the hopes of one

Honestly, I had to think of things to complain about for this one. Definitely go see it, it's really quite good.

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