Movie Review: X-Men: First Class

X Men Poster Movie Review: X Men: First Class

X-Men: First Class lives up to its title and is first rate in every way. A massive improvement over X3 and the Wolverine solo movie, First Class is a big step back in the right direction. Helmed by smart British director Matthew Vaughn, First Class earns all passing grades. Vaughn directed Layer Cake (a low-budget British crime flick) but really impressed me with Stardust, the underrated fantasy classic. Stardust is the best film of its kind in eons and X-Men: First Class is the best comic book movie since The Dark Knight. The movie may be entitled “first class”, but its really about the friendship of Professor Charles Xavier (a pro-peace hippie college-age genius) and his friend and soon to be rival Erik aka Magneto. The performances are good all around but critics darling Fassbender steals the movie with his soulful and sympathetic take on Magneto that is light years away from the flamboyant preening of Sir Ian McKellen in the other X flicks.

First Class opens with a very young Erik Lehnsherr as a child in a Nazi concentration camp during World War 2. Before he was Magneto, he was just a terrified young boy with abilities he struggled to control. Guided (and tortured) by the ruthless Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon, having a good time), he grows into an angry young man bent on revenge. Shaw’s right-hand woman Emma Frost is played by January Jones in a ponderous, ineffective performance that isn’t good but doesn’t really hurt the movie in the end. Meanwhile, Charles Xavier has made friends with a young blue mutant named Mystique (played with the same kind of intensity Jennifer Lawrence brought to the overrated bore Winter’s Bone) and decides to form a team of mutants to help defend the United States from both Russia and Shaw’s team of sinister mutants known as the Hellfire Club. Erik and Charles become friends but their differences become clear and Erik’s road to revenge becomes strewn with the Nazis who ruined his childhood and took away his life.

Fast-paced, thrilling, and often quite rousing, X-Men: First Class blows most recent Marvel movies right off the screen. The acting is very good, the storylines are intriguing, and the “mutant power” theme is one that any outsider or minority can relate to. The X-Men represent the outsider in us all, and the movie makes most of its characters (even Magneto) sympathetic. The lean, handsome Michael Fassbender is a rising star who can play anything from a Roman soldier (the underrated Centurion) to a romantic lead (Jane Eyre), I can’t wait to see where he and the franchise goes next. X-Men: First Class almost demands a sequel, but if it doesn’t happen because of weak box office then this is one x-cellent, stand-alone ride. Newbies and diehards will love it equally.

Grade: A-

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