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"X-Men: First Class" - (Movie Review)
Wayne Klein
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Genre: Sci-Fi Release: 6/1/11
Cast: FJames McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Bacon, January Jones
Matthew Vaughn

Prequels can often be very tricky to pull off because a director and writer have to take into the films that "follow" in terms of character and plot development maintaining consistency. As a result, it can be akin to trying Houdini's attempt to get out of a straight jacket--you have to keep the audience in suspense knowing that you are limited in HOW you can entertain them. ---

The Plot: In a sense X-Men: First Class acts as something of a reboot AND a prequel but what is truly amazing is how well director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, Layer Cake) and his writers pull off this enjoyable film. X-Men: First Class isn't flawless however as the writers and director try to tackle too much of the backstory of Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and Charles Xaiver (James McAvoy), their unlikely friendship and how the two began working together before becoming enemies. When Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) tries to start World War III by manipulating the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. to come into conflict over the placement of nuclear warheads in Cuba, Xavier, Erik Lehnsherr (aka Magneto) and their new recruits of Mutants are called into action by the CIA to save the world. Xavier however has to try and keep Erik's quest for revenge against Shaw who served in the Nazi party and killed Erik's mother from distracting the X-Men from their mission to save the world from nuclear destruction. ---

Critical Overview:

The positives are many including strong performances from McAvoy, Fassbender and Bacon as well as the assured direction of Vaughn. The script has a lot of great ideas in it the problem is that the director and writers don't have enough screen time to devote to all of the things they want to accomplish; the story feels rushed at times and we don't get enough character development beyond that of Xavier, Lahensherr and Shaw. That's too bad because to truly care about these characters, their conflict and their attempt to save the world we have to have a chance to get to know them. Unfortunately, the amount of characters that have to be introduced results in not allowing us to see and understand WHY the characters choose the paths that they do in the film. ***

The film has a couple of clever moments that also acknowledge the other X-Men movies although Vaughn and his writers overplay this a bit too much by having Xavier make too many bald jokes or other clever references about things to come that the audience knows about but that the characters could not know. The script for X-Men: First Class doesn't suffer from the choppy storytelling that undermined X Men: The Last Stand or even Wolverine. The good news is that this film uses its budget for CGI effects more effectively than either one of those films. It also helps that Bryan Singer who helmed the first two films in the X-Men saga is aboard as producer; he was sorely missed on the third film that was helped by director Brett Ratner which suffered from plot holes galore and an inattention to detail in regards to the characters of the film resulting in a project that was a massive come down after the exceptional X2. Fans of the original comic books will no doubt be disappointed that the films in the series don't adhere to the comics more closely particularly when it comes to the characters and their introduction (for example Cyclops, Marvel Girl aka Jean Grey, Iceman, Beast and Angel were ALL original members of the X-Men) but the film does try to be consistent with the other films in the series by not reintroducing characters we've already seen in the X-Men trilogy.

Final Words:

While X-Men: First Class does rush from one event to another without allowing sufficient time for character development and the film does have a tendancy to be a bit too self referential, it's still an enjoyable film and the second best film in the X-Men series of films.


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