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]

Upcoming Genre Films for 2011 Part Deux – A Preview by Film Nerd

First of all thanks to Urban Fantasist for that awesome post.   Consider my appetite whetted.   As you referred to yourself though, there are certain tastes of mine that were not catered to, so here is a preview of 2011 from the perspective of someone who collected comics in high school.

I will be using the same list as Urban Fantasist from io9, but I will extend from there a little bit from a post by blastr featuring the top 55 trailers for films coming out in 2011.   I will of course avoid overlap between these lists.

The Green Hornet (io9, blastr)     January 14

A remake of the series that first captured hearts on radio serials then on television, featuring a rich guy turned vigilante.   The character was created by the guy who brought us The Lone Ranger, and at one point in the radio series it was indicated that the Hornet is descendant of the Ranger.   Directed by Michael Gondry of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind fame, it could prove interesting.

I Am Number Four (io9, blastr)     February 18

A group of nine aliens hiding out as teenagers on Earth are hunted down for extermination by the government.   With three down, this film follows the story of the fourth to be targeted.    Based on a novel of the same name.

The Adjustment Bureau (io9, blastr)     March 4

Matt Damon plays a congressman destined for big things, before he meets and falls for Emily Blunt’s ballerina.   He was supposed to never meet her again, but somehow does, and falls in love with her.   The mysterious agency of the title steps in to prevent the relationship, and put our heroes life back on the set path.   Escaping, running, and hiding ensues….

Battle: Los Angeles (io9, blastr)     March 11

Gritty war film with hand-held camera work with visceral closeups, etc.   Oh yeah, and humans are fighting aliens.   Sounds like a great big B-movie, but with a cast headlined by Aaron Eckhart, may prove a hidden gem.

Red Riding Hood (io9, blastr)     March 11

Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman star in this retelling of the classic tale, with the wolf recast as a werewolf connected the past of she with the hood.   Don’t know how Urban Fantasist missed that one, sounds like her cup of tea!!

Paul (io9, blastr)     March 18

Comedy starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, as two mates on an American road trip that meet foul mouth alien Paul, voiced by Seth Rogen.   Some of the gags on the trailer are foul, but delightfully so!!

Sucker Punch (io9, blastr)     March 25

A film by Zack Snyder, who previously brought us 300 and Watchmen.   He does have a talent for absolute visual splendour on-screen, and the trailers indicate this will be no different.   It is hard to get a grasp on what it is about, but seems to be the story of five girls attempting to escape the clutches of evil authority in a mental asylum…or is it a war zone???   Or a bordello??

Super (io9, blastr)     April 1

Okay, so the concept of this sounds very similar to Kick-Ass… average bloke dons a costume to fight crime.   So lacking in originality on that count perhaps.   Just watch the clip posted on blastr though and I dare you not to show some interest!!

Hanna (blastr only) April 8

Eric Bana’s ex-CIA agent trains daughter Saoirse Ronin to be the perfect assassin, with the goal to target Cate Blanchett.    A lot of talent there in that sentence, and a pretty cool concept to boot.    The trailer also kicks butt!!

Your Highness (io9, blastr) April 8

Danny McBride and James Franco reteam with the director of Pineapple Express to star as royal brothers on a rescue mission… a comedy that drags Natalie Portman and my favourite Zooey Deschanel along for the ride.   I am still giggling at the trailer… “What a coincidence, I was just about to finish thinking of you!!”   Hehe.

Thor (io9, blastr)     May 6

The Norse god is exiled to Earth, as reimagined by Marvel Comics.   Mjolnir was spotted after the credits to Iron Man 2, resulting in my second Nerdgasm for that film.   Those that don’t know that this is part of building towards Joss Whedon’s The Avengers should be stripped of their geek badge immediately!!

X-Men: First Class (io9 only)     June 3

The second Marvel movie for 2011.   With James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and January Jones on board, and Kick-Ass’ Michael Vaughn directing, can we put the travesty of X-Men: The Last Stand behind us???

Green Lantern (io9, bkastr)     June 17

A film based on a DC universe second tier hero.   Ryan Reynolds is good casting, but the CGI costume is still a little off-putting for me.   However, has the potential to be the next Iron Man, whom was one of Marvel’s second tier heroes.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two (io9, blastr)     July 15

You really want a synopsis for this one?

Captain America: The First Avenger (io9 only)     July 22

The source of my first Nerdgasm in Iron Man 2 was spotting Captain America’s shield partially constructed in Tony Stark’s work room.   Like Thor, this is building to Whedon’s The Avengers, and has Chris Evans donning the tights in what can only be called great casting!

Cowboys and Aliens (io9, blastr)     July 29

James Bond and Indiana Jones!!   The old west!!   Aliens!!    Daniel Craig waits from unconsciousness with a strange device on his arm.   Harrison Ford plays the villain of the piece, that teams with Craig when the bigger threat arrives.   Why didn’t they think of this earlier???

The Thing (io9 only)     October 14

Prequel to John Carpenter’s iconic original.   Stars Joel Edgerton, and personal favourite Mary Elizabeth Winstead, last seen in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

Sherlock Holmes 2 (io9, blastr)     December 16

Downey Jr. and Law return to 221B Baker Street, this time to face the infamous Professor Moriarty.   Be warned, blastr screwed up, the trailer from the first film, not the first trailer for the second!!

The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn (io9 only) December 23

Steven Spielberg directs his first fully motion capture film.   Peter Jackson produces.   They will be swapping roles for the sequel!!   Stars Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.   Some writing was even done by Doctor Who‘s Steven Moffatt!! Add that element of retro charm and I am sold!

Man, that is a lot of movies…. I hope Bride of Film Nerd doesn’t kill me when we need a second mortgage!!