X Men: First Class is a look into the origin of the X Men. It goes beyond the X Men we know today to show the back story to Charles Xavier, Magneto, and the very first sets of mutants who have come together as a team. The X Men like codenames, so to not give too much away I will give them codenames too. There’s “Hot Lips” the fairy stripper, “Mr. Hula-hoop” the prison inmate, “Smurfette” the shape shifter, “Curious George” the scientist, “Squeaky” the scream-o, and “Adapto” the taxi driver. They aren’t the X Men yet, but they soon will be. On the side of evil is “Bling Bling” the first lady prostitute, “Hot Flash” the magician, “Senior Spin” the hurricane guy, and Shaw Shank Redemption.
In this movie version of the X Men origin story (which is not a part of X Men Origins), Xavier (James McAvoy) and Lehnsherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender) come together to battle a common enemy, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon). Through luck they cross paths when a government agent by the name of Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) stumbles upon Shaw’s plan and enlists Xavier to help her. They find more people with special abilities and become an unnamed government team to battle Shaw’s team which includes Azazel (Jason Flemyng), Riptide (Alex Gonzalez) and Emma Frost (January Jones).
This movie uses the same fast based action, offbeat humor, and stylized storytelling that has made the X Men franchise what it is today. Fair warning, if you were not a fan of the other X Men movies this will be an all too familiar journey down the same path, as the way this film is made is identical to that of every other recent X Men movie. Instantly recognizable in this film is James McAvoy who is known for his starring role in Wanted as well as his roles in Atonement, The Last King of Scotland, and The Chronicles of Narnia. In the movie there’s even a scene poking fun at the actor’s starring Wanted role. Michael Fassbender should not be looked over though, he has been in Eden Lake, Centurion, 300, but most easily noted is Inglourious Basterds, seeing that his story begins in Nazi controlled Poland where he is stripped from his parents to a concentration camp. Rounding out the Big 3 is Kevin Bacon. He’s become a major underground movie icon and has funneled that cult following into his undeniable stage presence as Sebastian Shaw. When Bacon is on screen, Bacon is on screen. And it’s hard to pull away from, even with a half-naked January Jones sharing the screen. Bacon demands your attention.
The rest of the cast is just as impressive a line up.
- Rose Byrne (28 Weeks Later, Damages, Troy, Get Him to the Greek, Bridesmaids, and Knowing), January Jones (Mad Men, Unknown, American Wedding, and Anger Management)
- Jason Flemyng (Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Snatch, and Clash of the Titans)
- Nicholas Hoult (Clash of the Titans, A Single Man, The Weather Man)
- Caleb Landry Jones (No Country for Old Men, and The Last Exorcism)
- Edi Gathegi (Gone Baby Gone, Crank, Death Sentence, and Twilight)
- Lucas Till (Battle: Los Angeles, Walk the Line, and Hannah Montana: The Movie)
- Zoe Kravitz (It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet).
Each of these actors and actresses give a unique presence to the movie.
In more depth about how I feel about the movie, I did have one problem. Other than the main villain, the only other person to die was the black guy. Who was the only black guy in the movie. And from then on there was not a single other African American on screen. I feel like after how much of a racial cliché it has become, that they might have changed who died or the race of the person. Have them make a rewrite to show social evolution. I did like the use of actors from the previous X Men movies making cameos in this X Men movie. It gave a nice little Easter egg for the audience that they didn’t see coming.
Also, the movie very thoroughly tells how each character got their name and how Magneto acquired his helmet and Professor X his disability. Without being obvious it gives the science of the helmet and why Magneto has such a dark view of the world, he’s a holocaust survivor. Later in the movie, near the end, you even see Moira come up with the name for the X Men and joke about Charles going bald. All of this done in a very natural flow that gives the feel of going for the most logical approach even in a movie that is fantasy. You grow a connection to all the characters, even the madness of Shaw, and see how they all influence each other. Most notable is how Shaw influenced Magneto through both killing his mom and torturing him to bring out his powers. In the end he becomes the very monster he grew to despise, killing him with a coin Shaw gave him after killing his mother.
Some feminist may become mad at how women are used in the film. Each uses there body to make a living, and each submit to the power of a stronger man to lead them, giving themselves to their man in any way he needs. No woman in this film is independent in anyway. Emma Frost is Shaw’s prostitute, using her telepathic powers to avoid actually touching her clients. Angel is a stripper who would rather be naked than be seem as a mutant. And Mystique is needy for love and will throw herself to any man that would show her attention. Her only problem is Xavier sees her as a sister, Beast doesn’t like her blue, and Magneto won’t give her the time of day. If anyone had shown Mystique romantic love, she’d have had no actual story conflict.
The story I found most intriguing is Beast’s. He is a rather undernoted character in the X Men film franchise, but in this movie they give him a deeply connecting internal struggle between being a mutant and being accepted. He treads the line of having a hide able mutation and letting it show in order to run faster. Trying to make himself appear normal, he ends up accelerating his mutation and making what he is undeniable, but also amazingly powerful. This subtle climax to his story gives the viewer a second insight into how it feels to be different and having to accept yourself, even though society won’t. And ironicly he get the same blue skin that he told Mystique wasn’t beautiful. The only story with a corny end is that of Xavier’s. When he is accidently shot by a bullet that Magneto deflects, he wallows around and even calmly talks to Magneto. Then he persists on screaming that he can’t feel his legs for 5 minutes until the scene fades out. If this was meant to be a dramatic scene, it fell flat and reminded me more of a Life Alert commercial than an X Men movie.
The general wrap up at the end was all in all ok, with a little humor and irony. You completely forget about Emma Frost though, until she is broken out of the underground lock down. The movie itself was an enjoyable experience with amazing visual effects that X Men movies have come to be known for having. I would definitely recommend it, although there may be parts where the old time story conflicts with new time views.