X Men: First Class

Posted on June 14, 2011. Filed under: Movies to see before you die, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , |

Cinemas. I remember them. They were those things I used to go to all the time before I started my medical degree.

When I first heard about X Men: First Class I dismissed it as Saved By The Bell with mutants.  But when they decided to combine it with the back stories of Xavier and Magneto (previously pitched as two or even three separate movies) it started to get interesting again. So off to Camden Odeon I went. And here’s what I thought.

X Men: First Class is awesome. I know I overuse that word, but it really is. For X Men fangirls/boys it’s got just enough new mutants to keep us geeking out without falling into the trap of Last Stand by having too many.  Of course, some are more interesting than others.  Although Havok’s existence in the movie was cool, the actual character didn’t do much to grab my attention, and Angel (mark 2? ‘cos I know we’ve already had one underused character called Angel) was just wallpaper.  Emma Frost was forgotten for half the movie, but she was cool to have around while she was there,  Banshee was more fun than I thought he’d be, and other more minor characters fulfilled their roles of having cool powers and then getting out of the way of the plot.

From the outset I’ve had issues with the casting of Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique. I’m not even sure what it is about her, she just feels wrong. It doesn’t help that I’ve always imagined Raven with black hair (as she had in Last Stand, and hence the name) but Lawrence’s version was a bit too whiny and not cool enough for one of my favourite X Men.

That is my only minor quibble. Other than that this film is brilliant.  It’s being hailed as the best of the franchise, and I’ll definitely agree that it’s up there with the best. McAvoy and Fassbender are well matched as Charles and Eric, without whom this movie would be completely flat. McAvoy in particular shines, with a great balance of dry wit and genuine heart that it is easy to imagine transforming into the Patrick Stewart version we know and love.  The brotherly relationship developed between our two leads is very well written, and sets the scene nicely for how they react to each other in later movies. It’s a kind of old fashioned bromance that works well, knowing as we do what the pair will go through together later

Nicholas Hoult as Beast was almost shockingly good.  Beast isn’t a character I’ve ever got that into, and as much as I love Kelsey Grammar I found his portrayal in the third movie clunky.  Hoult however captures a nerdy shyness within a strength of character that finally makes Beast sympathetic.  His Jekyll and Hyde sub plot is a nice device and although the affinity between him and Mystique is obvious he plays it well.

The plot moves along at a good pace and keeps refreshing itself with new obstacles to overcome.  There are a couple of great throwaway jokes which have managed to recapture the sort of humour that made the first two movies great, while still giving us the action set pieces that we have come to expect from the big budget superhero movies.  The final battle is a feast of visual effects.

As perhaps the only blogger on the planet who didn’t trash Wolverine, I found myself trying to fit this film around the timeline of that one, bearing in mind that some characters cross over.  There are a couple of bits I couldn’t quite match up (probably mostly due to not having seen Wolverine in a while) but on the whole I think the continuity of this film with the rest of the series is much better than what has gone before.  There weren’t any gaping inconsistencies that jumped out at me (apart from possibly one that I need to check) and everything else fit in well with my (albeit limited) knowledge of the X Men universe. Made this Marvel geek very happy.

There’s not much else I can say without wandering into spoiler territory.  Most of the reason I love X Men is  centred around a certain adamantium clawed anti-hero , yet I didn’t find myself missing him. It looks like the X Men movies are finally back on track after one or two slight derailments.  All I know is I left the cinema a couple of hours ago and I already want to go see it again. And again.

Oh, and if that was enough for you, this movie contains the best cameo appearance ever. Ever.

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12 Responses to “X Men: First Class”

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Good review, I agree with most of it, I think you are a little harsh on Jennifer Lawrence who I thought was good and no mention of the perfectly cast Kevin Bacon.

There a few continuity issues in relation to the other movies such as: 1960’s Emma Frost in this film is older than 1970’s Emma Frost (Tahyna Tozzi)in X-Men Origins: Wolverine – In the first movie Xavier said he was seventeen when he first met Magneto, he is much older in this movie.

These are all small issues when compared to the whole Victor Creed/Sabretooth issue in Wolverine and X-Men, are they the same character as in the comics or two different characters?

And, agreed, I loved the cameo too!

I wouldn’t worry too much about minor continuity quibbles in what is a fictional, fluid comic book universe. The depth of the characters was more important and I think the way they looked at Magneto and Mystique’s development, in particular, was fascinating.

In some senses, I agree about Jennifer Lawrence – her acting was a bit awkward at times but having seen Winter’s Bone, I know she’s a very good actress. Especially considering I disliked that film. I’m less content about your appraisal of Beast who was pretty much as whiny as Mystique, if not more – he annoyingly strived to conform to the crappy standard of beauty in society (despite his largely hidden mutation!) and moaned about being called a “bozo”. The burn to end all burns apparently.

Anyway, like you said, it’s a brilliant film and now I’m trying to decide whether I like it more than X2. It’s a toughie.

– saamFG

Hey Saam, I’m not normally a big stickler for continuity, I defend Wolverine to the death despite massive holes and actually I think this one does really well to fit in with what has gone before depsite supposedly being a reboot.
I really liked seeing the growing relationship between Mystique and Magneto because I’ve always wondered what she saw in him and where that came from.
It’s not so much her acting that bothered me, it’s purely superficial that she looked wrong. It’s just me being a misogynist I guess 😛

I think I was too busy loving it to pay a lot of attention to detail. I always say you don’t know a film until you’ve seen it twice and I definitely need ot see this one again. I think I put it on a level with X2. ‘Cos I do love me some Wolverine 😉

Sorry Andy didn’t even see your comment there!

I find Kevin Bacon distracting just because he’s Kevin Bacon. And I was more interested in Magneto than Bacon’t character, but I guess he was an OK bad guy.
I know the Emma Frost thing is a bit of a glitch, and I was trying to work out how she goes from this film to that.
Hadn’t spotted the age disparity with Xavier though.
You’re right though, they are small issues (in X1 we see a hairless non blue Hank McCoy on a TV screen, Moira McTaggert is at the end of X3 as teh character she really is in the comics etc…) but seeing as they weren’t trying to keep continuity I think they did really well.
I’m not going to start the Sabretooth argument again because we’ve all seen how long I can keep that fight going for on my Wolverine review 😉

I’m actually going to watch Wolverine today to see how it fits with First Class. And I want to check if I’m right about the ending…

Does the cameo appearance beat Charleton Heston’s cameo in Wayne’s World? Because that would be tough to beat.

Yes. Yes it does.

As far as fitting it into the Wolverine timeline, the end of Wolverine takes place during the Three Mile Island incident in 1979. This movie took place in 1972. White Queen was there as a kid. So was Cyclops. That means that Emma Frost must have Benjamin Button syndrome and that either they are not having Cyclops and Havok be brothers here, or that Havok is about 18 years older than Cyclops.

I would say these are gaping inconsistencies. There’s also the fact that Beast was shown in the first film (or second? I don’t remember) in human form.

Wow, did I ever just geek out. Sorry.

I was avoiding the timeline debate Ian but since you’ve brought it up I feel obliged to join in. I should warn you though, I’m good a bending movies to fit my reality. Just read my Wolverine post:

*THERE’S PROBABLY GOING TO SPOILERS HERE*

Where did you get ’72 from? I was working on the basis that there was about 10-15 years between the two movies, seeing as First Class ends with the Cuban Missile Crisis which happened in ’62.
Emma being a different actress really isn’t that big a deal. We’ve dealt with that before, and we’re not given her age in either movie.
And who says Cyclops wasn’t born during first class just because he wasn’t in the movie? I know Havok is technically his younger brother, but if they’ve gone for older instead then it works, in fact it might even work as younger (I can’t be bothered to do the maths). It’s the great Peter Jackson trick of “just because we didn’t mention it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen”. Cyclops doesn’t have to be in First Class to be the right age in Wolverine.

The gaping inconsistency I thought most people would jump on is Xavier at the end of Wolverine. I don’t want to say more than that even with spoiler warnings, but it’s a massive inconsistency (what I was alluding to in the post that I needed to check)

People keep bringing up Beast being shown in the first film, but he wasn’t actually a character, he was a name on a screen in the background for five seconds to let the fans have a geek out moment. They weren’t planning to use him. I really don’t think you can hold that against them. And Moira McTaggert is a completely different character at the end of Last Stand. If you’re going to nit pick start there.

That’s my geek out for the day done. People get really hot under the collar ripping apart the timelines in the X Men movies, but I think that misses two important points:
1. First Class is officially a reboot and so has no obligation to fit the timeline
2. They’re just movies! And they’re fun. So enjoy them and stop worrying 🙂

(not a personal attack at you Ian, I’ve been having this argument for weeks, you just were the unfortuante one who copped it :P)

*edit: I’m reliably informed by the lovely Michael that Beast is on the TV in the background of X2. Bad Katie for getting my geek facts wrong.

Yeah, I meant to say 62. That was a mistake.

The problem with Cyclops and White Queen is simply the ages. They are just kids in Wolverine which takes place 17 years before first class.

I know that Beast was a very minor thing, but I just thought I would throw it in anyways.

As for your two points, is this a reboot? It seems like they try really hard to fit in with the original trilogy and be a legitimate prequel. As for the stop worrying, believe me, I really did like the movie. But you happened to bring it up in your review, so…. 🙂

As far as I had it down Wolverine begins before but ends after First Class. I know that makes Emma age backwards, but they never specifically say she is a kid in Wolverine or how old she is in X2.

I think officially it is a reboot, but I’m glad they decided to at least keep some things consistent. I’m not sure they’re entirely sure where they’re going with it now to be honest. There are 5 films in this franchise and it’s almost impossible to keep things consistent bearing in mind how far apart the films have been made. When they made the first two films, I doubt they expected to still be adding to the storyline over a decade later. I’m just happy they are.

Saved By The Bell with mutants??! Seriously! That’s not only a terrible thing to say but it’s so inaccurate. Awesome is the word, Katie, I saw it twice and like it even more the 2nd time around. Can’t wait to see it again on Blu-ray when it comes out next month. You didn’t mention January Jones, but to me, she is the only quibble I had about the entire thing (well that and Darwin getting killed off). She is just flat out annoying.

I also agree w/ your comment about continuity, it doesn’t bother me that much and kind of expected. I expected the character development of Charles and Erik to be handled well and Vaughn did that brilliantly, so I’m satisfied in that regard. I’d love to see a follow-up to this with McAvoy and Fassbender. Oooh, wouldn’t that be nice!

I know! But I did change my mind. The original brief wasn’t going to include the charles and magneto story and I think in that case it would have been very thin.
To be honest, January Jones didn’t really bother me. She wasn’t a character I particularly cared about so she was just set dressing. The fact that she didn’t do or say much didn’t really matter.

I reckon there will be more of Charles and Eric: The Early years. I’m yet to see the film for a second time, but I’m looking forward to it.


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