Movie Review:: X-Men: First Class

I think I should start this review with a movie critic quality pun line, here goes:  “X really marks the spot in this latest comic book installment, which is definitely a FIRST CLASS summer blockbuster!!” (snickers to self over typewriter, sips chardonnay, puts on Mozart).

I think it’s slightly unfair of me to say this is the best of the X-Men series, because in all honesty I haven’t watched X2 in a few years.  But I remember REALLY liking X2.  Maybe the immediacy of seeing X-Men: First Class is making me say this, but: this is the best of the X-Men series.

It works as both a fresh start for the series that definitely went stale with the Wolverine solo picture, and also as a really great period piece that intertwines actual history with make-believe mutant ones.  To be honest, if I never saw Cyclops in another X-Men movie, I’d be pretty happy.  And the central characters of the story are Xavier and Magneto, who get new life with some good actors playing their younger selves.  Now, I loved Ian McKellen as Magneto, and I liked Patrick Stewart as Xavier, but these new guys just seemed more…  lively?  Passionate maybe?  Michael Fassbender in particular was awesome in this movie.  Giving an ice cold portrayal of Magneto, while still being able to unleash some rage metal bending.  Between this, Inglorious Basterds and Fish Tank, this dude’s got some skills.  Jennifer Lawrence seemed slightly underwhelming from an acting perspective.  But I’m not sure if that was her, or the lines she had to read.

Over on the bad guy’s side, Kevin Bacon was pretty good, showing up out of nowhere to be the main villain in an X-Men movie…  January Jones was her typical frowny self, but I can’t complain about her costumes.  And I suppose the tornado guy was able to pick sides at some point, but I feel bad for the guy who looked like the devil.  I think you’d assume he was evil even if he fought for the X-Men.

Again it works great as a period piece, with all the 1960′s CIA and espionage you can handle.  And it’s also a good origin story without having it feel like a normal comic book origin story.  It felt more like the main, core plot was the Soviet threat as opposed to discovering powers (even though it was gratuitously examined in a fun scene).  That’s probably because all of the mutants have been that way since birth, there’s nothing to discover.  It’s more about coming out of hiding than anything else.  And not having a problem being yourself, and all that jazz.  That’s not new ground for the series, but I felt like it was covered most elegantly in this one.

Aside from elegance, the action in this not to shabby, either.  I don’t recall any of the action scenes in a negative light as I try to remember them.  Maybe some of the special effects were a little suspect, but nothing laughably bad.  And it had the greatest training montage I’ve seen since Team America mocked training montages several years ago (talkin’ bout a montaaaage).  It was good summer entertainment, while not also being throwaway summer entertainment.  Only at the end did some of the lines seemed forcefully bad, always involving saying a character’s name.  They might as well have just looked into the camera and winked.  But the story and (most of) the dialogue was definitely above average.

I think they picked the best director for the job, and I would definitely pay to see another X-Men movie directed by Matthew Vaughn.  But I hope this stays a standalone picture, and they don’t beat it into the ground like they did with the other X-Men movies.  I’d be way more happy if Vaughn went on to other projects he really wants to do.  And if I was a movie studio executive, I’d let him choose whatever he wants.  First Class was no Kick-Ass, but both of those movies are better than a vast majority of crap that normally gets released.  I expected a good X-Men film out of Vaughn, and I ended up being completely satisfied without being blown away.  Plus it’s like 2 and 1/2 hours, and to me it only felt like maybe 30 minutes shorter than that.  Always a good sign if a film is fun enough to make time fly.

8 out of 10

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