X-Men: First Class (2011)

   Director: Matthew Vaughn With: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence, January Jones, Nicholas Hoult, Oliver Platt, Jason Flemyng, Lucas Till, Edi Gathegi, & Kevin Bacon.  Release: June 3, 2011 PG-13. 2 hr. 11 min. 

Director: Matthew Vaughn
With: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence, January Jones, Nicholas Hoult, Oliver Platt, Jason Flemyng, Lucas Till, Edi Gathegi, & Kevin Bacon. 
Release: June 3, 2011
PG-13. 2 hr. 11 min. 

 

Relaunching the universe, “X-Men: First Class” analyzes the foundational building blocks of the mutant team of heroes. Beginning in 1944 Poland in which the young Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) anger surges his mutation to the surface as his parents are tragically taken away during the great tragedy known as the Holocaust. Ripping out Bryan Singer’s opening scene from “X-Men,” the beginning of the film lends to a dark tone for Erik (Michael Fassbender) in which his anguish is only driving force behind his mission. 

While on his mission for vengeance, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) walks onto the scene as someone who desires to reach out to other mutants and let them know they are not alone. Meeting Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) as a child in which he catches her trying to steal food and says “I knew I couldn't be the only one. We have plenty of food, take whatever you’d like. You don’t have to steal anymore, in fact, you never have to steal ever again.” 

It’s a Martin Luther King versus Malcolm X origins story in which their beginnings drive their ideologies in which Erik’s (Michael Fassbender) violent inception forces him to become a weapon, while Xavier (James McAvoy) has an origin of choice in which he chooses to become a beacon of hope for mutant kind and a guiding hand. A heartfelt start to our film that quickly turns into nothing but action, as our characters are met head-on by Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon). A mutant whose can harness any energy and then reproject that energy onto others, Shaw (Kevin Bacon) wants to light the match that leads to the downfall of humankind and the rise of mutantkind.  His plan? He wants to persuade the Russian and United States world leaders towards the brink of nuclear war, a.k.a the Cuban missile crisis. 

With historical fact being surrounded by comic book lore, a C.I.A agent, Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne), attempts to persuade her commanding officers to place their faith in the idea of fighting fire with fire. She urges her hire-ups to trust in Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and the young team of mutants he brings together. The cadets involve Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones; a man who shouts), Havok (Lucas Till; Cyclops older brother who projects the same concussive beams outside of his body), and Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult; a man with crazy feet who eventually mutates into a blue furball beast). 

All of these mutants are given enough time to become recognizable and even memorable, Hank (Nicholas Hoult) is even given a meaty role in the narrative in which he shares the same desire that Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) does. To be normal, to fit in with society, but it's not until Erik (Michael Fassbender) states “you shouldn’t try to fit into to society, they should aspire to be you.” Hank (Nicholas Hoult) goes farther than her, knowing he has the chance at an ordinary life and in reference to Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, he attempts to cure himself, but only makes everything worse. Transforming from a man with animalistic feet to a literal blue-haired beast that is not precisely rendered believably. The prosthetics don’t correctly work, but Vaughn’s styling of the characters does. 

Vaughn blends that timeless sixties essence with the comic book imagery of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Even directing an entire sequence with the panel like transitions that exploit the best of his talents as a filmmaker. Going from “Kick-Ass” to this film was quite obtuse though, seeming as if it's missing a heavy dose of maturity, “X-Men: First Class” seems never to surpass the bombastic shrouds of its blockbuster style. 

Scared to cross that mature barrier once again, since the landscape had changed with the development of the levity driven MCU in its phase one prime, “X-Men: First Class” is directed like a comic book blockbuster in a good and bad way. Some of the scenes maintain that extra heft of escapism and others feel that there missing an integral puzzle piece. I needed that extra push, but I continued to get lost in the sixties scenery and the charisma injected into this comic book universe that once desired to wear shoes too big for its feet to fill. 

The performances are all around exceptional, but Fassbender and McAvoy share a dose of chemistry and skill as actors that makes them stand head and shoulders above their fellow x-men. I couldn’t help but feel that they were raising the bar for their castmates, but they were unable to match their talent. Lawrence has some resonating scenes that are carried by herself, but the writing behind her isn’t exactly the best. The rest of the actors are supportive of the story, but they don’t exactly stand out. Either because of the writing or the lack of attention, every other character fades into the background and becomes stigmatic plot devices to carry our main characters motivations. 

“X-Men: First Class” matches the brilliance of “X2,” and also suffers from the same flaws. Hinting at the mutational struggles that marginalize and stigmatize these characters, but choosing to focus on the action of it all. Though the action is handled masterfully and the screenplay is well done, “X-Men: First Class” is the stereotypical comic book movie that becomes absent of its emotions. Everything is done well, there are even yellow and blue uniforms, but mutants are symbols for us. 

They’re emotional; they're powerful, they're inspiring. They remind us of all the stigmatizing struggles that we continue to face as a society, but why these ideals remain outside of this franchise is beyond me. They've attempted it before, but it seems the franchise is as extreme as it's main characters. Either it's all dour or all action, never a blend of the two. 

“X-Men: First Class” is the “comic book movie” that is quite a turn of tone from Bryan Singer’s take on the mutant heroes. The inherent emotionality of the 1960’s comic fades into the background as the confidence and abilities of our characters become the focus. The mutant versus man storyline only grows present in the films harsh finale in which consequences emerge and reality conflicts with fiction, but the remainder of the film is fun, loud, and bombastically entertaining.