‘X-Men First Class’: Marvel beyond the Avengers

Kevin Bacon, Jason Flemyng, January Jones, Rose Byrne, Nicholas Hoult, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Lucas Till, Jennifer Lawrence, and Zoë Kravitz in X: First Class (2011)

X-Men: First Class (2011)

Directed by Matthew Vaughn

7/10  PG-13

Quite easily the greatest “X-Men” movie yet, “First Class” tracks the effect a band of mutants had on the Cold War, circa ‘62, changing history as we know it. Charles Xavier (a brilliant James McAvoy), still on his feet, is a fly, groovy telepath looking to change the world (who wasn’t in 1962?). Magneto (Michael Fassbender) has been using his metal-morphing powers sparingly since he was released from a Holocaust internment camp. All this time he’s been searching for the man who killed his mother, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) – he compares himself to Frankenstein’s monster, looking to kill his creator. When Erik and Charles run into each other, they team together—along with familiar friends Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Havok (Lucas Till), and Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones)—to find and kill their common enemy. As relationships crumble, the X-Men begin losing their closest allies to the enemy—and then even the U.S. and U.S.S.R. militaries work together to destroy the mutants. Who will remain loyal to the cause, and who will let their power take control of them?

Jennifer Lawrence in X: First Class (2011)

Director Matthew Vaughn couldn’t have found two better leads than McAvoy and Fassbender—apart they’re terrific, but together they’re an unstoppable super-duo. Spectacular effects rival that of Marvel’s other marvels, but the drama goes beyond petty superhero crises and teen angst. McAvoy and Fassbender are both familiar with legitimate drama—McAvoy’s “Atonement” and Fassbender’s “Shame” are both tragic. The action is immediate, and the powerful score by Henry Jackman (whose credits include “The Dark Knight”) moves it along quickly despite its two-and-a-half-hour runtime. Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, witnessing what we assume are her first murders, shows a realistic reaction of tears and awe. It’s rare in superhero movies to see our heroes cry, but Vaughn doesn’t hide these men and women from the emotions the rest of us feel—plus, he gives us a Hugh Jackman cameo; who can argue with that? I did have one complaint: the young Beast looks a bit like Sully from “Monsters, Inc.”—but thankfully he was only featured in the latter half of the movie. Regardless, “X-Men: First Class” makes me look forward to the next “X-Men” movie, to be released in 2014 – this franchise is starting to look up.

10 thoughts on “‘X-Men First Class’: Marvel beyond the Avengers

  1. I didn’t dislike First Class, but I wasn’t enchanted by it, either. Lawrence and (surprisingly) Bacon shine, but the rest of the performances feel phoned-in (even Fassbender). I also found a lack of tension in key moments.

    1. I think the score did a lot to help the tension, and I don’t see the phony performances. I’m not a huge fan of Bacon’s newest roles, but he didn’t completely blow this one.

  2. You make a really good plug for this movie…I hadn’t seen it hearing that it was just so-so but I think I might just look it up for performances alone. Cheers.

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