X-Men: First Class – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, January Jones, Nicholas Hoult, Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt, Alex Gonzalez, Jason Flemyng, Zoe Kravitz

Synopsis: This is the prequel to the popular movie franchise X-Men, as opposed to a direct retelling of the origin stories as represented in the original comics.   It covers the friendship and eventual parting of ways of Charles Xavier and Eric Lehnsherr, one to lead the X-men, the other to lead the Brotherhood of (Evil) Mutants.

A review by Film Nerd.

Yes, I admit it.   I rushed my last post in the 30 Day Film Challenge such that I could get this review up.   This is largely due to the fact I am more than delighted to be able to report that we can now finally all forget X-Men: The Last Stand, given that this prequel is a true return to form.   More than that, it is a strong film in its own right.

For me, this success can be attributed to three factors.   The first is faithfulness to the films that have gone before, creating a cohesive overall story (something which X-Men Origins: Wolverine failed to do in its convoluted plotting), and the assembling of a brilliant cast of actors, and a plot that successfully balances blockbuster action sequences with the more personal stories of trying to find acceptance when you are different in a culture that fears what is not considered normal.

I shall discuss each point in turn.   The film starts almost identically to the original X-Men film, showing a young Eric being separated from his parents in a concentration camp in Poland, at which point he first exhibits his powers.   This type of direct referencing immediately allows the audience to settle down into a familiar world, and have a connection with the film at hand.   Subsequent referencing throughout the film to what is to come also successfully is introduced without diverting excessively from the main plot for this referencing (or cameoing) goal.

The acting is uniformly brilliant.   There were many smaller mutant roles, each one adequate to what had to be portrayed.   The film intelligently though has a primary focus on the three mutants we are already intimately familiar with on-screen.   Jennifer Lawrence is brilliant as young Mystique, not yet confident at showing her true appearance to the world.   As such, we see how Eric’s acceptance is something she has long craved, and how she is seduced to his eventual solutions to co-existence.   McAvoy’s Xavier is clearly more young and brash than we are familiar seeing, however the performance was respectful to what Patrick Stewart has put on-screen, while simultaneously making the role his own.   The real gem of this movie is Michael Fassbender.   Similarly, in a respectful but owned performance, he portrays an array of emotions and internal conflicts.   He is strongly affection for his friend, and yet he has been disillusioned in humanity such that he has lost all faith in it.   His performance was so strong that as an observer, his arguments perhaps could have even swayed me, so sympathetically and respectfully was his plight portrayed.

I have somewhat touched on my final point in the above flow of consciousness, but it is the balance of the action with the emotional story arc of the characters that provided what was missing from more recent X-Men instalments.   The film was actually very slow to build up to the action.   Not saying there was a lack of visual flair in the first two acts…far from it.   However when the final battle came, it was effective and mind-blowing, without having to rely on every trick in the blockbuster handbook to provide entertainment.   As an audience member, I had enough interest in the individual mutants themselves to enjoy not only the battles themselves, but to also identify with their search for self when confronted with bigger events than they had ever seen before.

This is X-men done right.   Rush to the cinema yesterday!!

5 stars out of 5

X-Men: First Class on IMDB

X-Men First Class on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrbHykKUfTM]

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