Wednesday, November 9, 2011

X-Men: First Class

When you think about it, this was a pretty remarkable year for films based on Marvel comics. No real classics, but they effectively build up The Avengers for next year, and they managed to put out three films without any of them stinking, or even being less than pretty good for summer action blockbusters. X-Men: First Class might be my favorite of the three, not just looking at the whole X mythology in an interesting way, but being the second best X movie that's ever been released.

At this point, the whole continuity of the X movie franchise is pretty messed up. The Wolverine movie probably did the most damage, but the whole thing is fraught with issues arising from recasting and changing things that needed to be changed. As a way of pushing a big reset button, First Class mostly works while still acknowledging what's been done before for the most part. It shows the early lives of Professor X and Magneto, depicts them becoming friends during a conflict that alerts major governments to the existence of mutants, and sets the stage for their antagonistic relationship that defines the rest of the series. It doesn't do all this perfectly, but it gets the job done, and considering how little time Matthew Vaughn and his cast and crew had to put it together, I think it's fairly impressive work.

The best part of the movie is very easily the development of Erik and Charles as characters and as friends, and it's what the whole movie builds from. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender both give very good performances, especially considering it's a comic book movie, and there's a real camaraderie that builds and a sadness when their relationship inevitably turns sour. The other stuff isn't as good, but it isn't too bad either. Kevin Bacon and January Jones play Sebastian Shaw and Emma Frost, the leaders of the Hellfire Club, are the main villains who want to start a nuclear war and create a paradise for mutants in the aftermath. Tying the main external conflict of the film into the Cuban Missile Crisis is a pretty clever move, and it works to ground the story in a period of history and play around with what we already know. There's not much else to the plot that isn't maneuvering to get characters in place for where they should be later, but there doesn't really need to be.

A good deal of time is spent with the main characters working with some members of the CIA to essentially create an early version of Xavier's school for mutants, with some familiar faces and characters new to the movies both getting introduced. One of the best single moments in the film comes from the recruitment montage, where Charles and Erik find a certain popular X-Man and get a rude response from. Otherwise, the whole training and preparing thing kind of slowed down the movie a bit, and none of the new mutants or their little subplots were particularly interesting. In general, the script definitely feels a bit thrown together, with a climax that goes on for a while but doesn't always have a clear purpose, and a few silly bits that took me out of the story. But as I said, the central story of Xavier and Magneto definitely works, and resulted in a pretty good movie. I'm definitely more interested in more of this than another Wolverine movie.

1 comment:

Nate said...

Agreed. I was able to see the movie for free while it was still in theaters, and I thought even that might be a steep price after the Wolverine origin movie. Ended up really enjoying the thing, surprisingly, mostly because of the central plot between Charles and Erik.

I'm really looking forward to the Avengers, too, which is odd because I had no interest in it before Iron Man 1 (which I guess is the point of these lead-up movies for us non-comics people).