X-Men: First Class

Of definitions of peace and satisfaction...Photo: Twentieth Century Fox
5 StarsWhy I Saw It: Love a story about what we do with who we are, how we become what we do, and how what we see came to be. Not a franchise fan, but open-minded.
What I Thought: Missin’ Hugh Jackman? Not really. (Consider the magnitude of that statement.)

X-Men: First Class. Dir. Matthew Vaughn. Perf. James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, Jennifer Lawrence, Oliver Platt, Rose Byrne, Nicholas Hoult, Edi Gathegi, January Jones, James Remar, Matt Craven, Michael Ironside, Jason Beghe. Twentieth Century Fox, 2011.

How Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr grew from friendship in obscurity into powerful leaders ~ and arch enemies ~ Professor X and Magneto.

The Marvel movies just keep getting better, and I can only begin to imagine the satisfaction of Stan Lee as he puts his head on the pillow at night and drifts off in sweet contemplation of his legacy.

X-Men: First Class fires on every possible cylinder, in general and for me personally ~ and I don’t particularly care for superhero comics.

I do, however, care for strong character development, powerful performances, a complex and tightly woven story, an intelligent screenplay, skillful direction, superb special effects, and imaginative action sequences.

Found it all here. X-Men: First Class is well-recommended for anyone, highly recommended for action aficionados, and mandatory for comics fans. And it stands on its own, so just come on ahead.

Honestly, I’ve respected but haven’t been fan of the franchise (though I a-do-ore the cast of X-Men: The Last Stand and Ratner directed, ergo I enjoyed it ~ and the bridge thing was very cool). As with pre-Begins Batman, superpower without dimension doesn’t grab me; feels too much like gimmick. No gimmick here. In First Class, the superpower comes forth from the character, rather than the character’s being merely a superpower [or special effects] delivery system. Even better, earlier installments are now more vibrant.

Matthew Vaughn and Bryan Singer bring their ever-crisp, clever, cerebral-yet-heartfelt styles to script, direction, and production, reconvening many of their cohorts from previous projects (I’ll leave to you to explore them on IMDB, but trust me, it’s fun). They may even have reused a certain location ~ there’s a road in the woods I could swear is in First Class, Inglorious Basterds, and Valkyrie. (See? I said it was fun!)

The major cast does an excellent job overall. James McAvoy (like Patrick Stewart) continutes to appear to do little as he grounds and carries an entire film, Jennifer Lawrence continues to show up strong, Kevin Bacon is at his despicable smug evil best, and Michael Fassbender is sensational.

The casting team took an interesting tack ~ a “2-Tier”approach, so to speak, with respect to the primary characters with key purpose and secondary characters who fill everything in. They put the money into securing big name, at the very least well-established, talent into the most noticeable roles of each tier, and worked down from there. For example, the CIA director and the captains of the ships about to start a war sport better known actors than the some of the lesser involved primary X-Men (I’ll bet you know who Michael Ironside is; Caleb Landry Jones, probably not so much). It’s an interesting approach that gives the film a substantive and lively feel throughout.

The one weak link is January Jones. I simply cannot see the appeal. Yes yes, I get the obvious, but her lack of affect simply drives me to distraction (third time I’ve seen her now, I’m talking over time ~ if she and Shiloh Fernandez teamed up, I think I might scream in frustration within minutes). Fortunately her role is interesting, well-crafted, and doesn’t ask anything other than the Barbie-doll-cum-Bond-girl. Thank goodness for strong dialogue and delicious costume design. (The other “weak” link for me were Angel and Banshee as characters, whose powers fell back to the superpower-delivery-system, but that’s just a matter of taste.)

Henry [no-apparent-relation-to-Hugh] Jackman’s score is a beauty, overtly present only by virtue of its excellence (the influence of the inestimable Hans Zimmer is securing his destiny). And the entire visual and production departments, individuals too numerous to mention, deserve exhausting schedules come awards season.

The mutant makers should be proud.

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