Guest Post – ‘X-Men: First Class’ Review


Despite my high expectations and fear of being disappointed, I really liked X-Men: First Class. Director Matthew Vaughn did serve up the Bond movie/political thriller cocktail that he promised, and, contrary to his own statement, there is no sappy love song to gum up the works [rtm’s note: see comment in this post if you’re curious what this is about].

In case you don’t already know the basic premise: Charles Xavier (James McEvoy) and Eric Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) team up with a young bunch of their fellow mutants (Jennifer Lawrence, Zoë Kravitz, Nicholas Hoult, Lucas Till) to stop Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon, making “Six Degrees” even easier to play) and Emma Frost (January Jones) from starting World War III by playing the USA and USSR against each other.

For a first half crammed with exposition, this is a film that moves at a good clip but isn’t too fast-paced to follow. We see Eric’s and Charles’ deeply different childhoods. Later, as Eric smoothly liquidates truly evil ex-Nazis, always looking fine and sometimes in a three-piece suit, the Bond references fly fast and fierce. We are in Cold Wartime as well, so CIA agents and shady Russians abound. When the two founding fathers seek out their fellow mutants, the film gets really funny — probably my favorite sequence in the picture. With the team assembled, they begin their training and the latent conflict begins to develop: the future Magneto runs on anger and defiance; Professor X’s MO is peace and collaboration.

Before I saw the movie, I thought the casting was excellent and it proved to be so. As Xavier, McAvoy has the reserve and steadiness which contrasts perfectly with the restless energy Fassbender gives Lensherr. Jennifer Lawrence has a sadness that is perfect for Raven/Mystique, the girl caught between the two paths. (One of her scenes with Fassbender is a definite homage to the Bond series.) Although the childhoods of the younger X-Men aren’t explored, I thought they all did well with roles that are necessarily supporting. Even January Jones’ cool blank quality works well for Emma Frost.  There are a couple of well-placed cameos but you’ll have to see those for yourself.

The film is really about the conflict between Magneto and Professor X, and the larger question of whether it’s better to fight discrimination with violence or with reason. Possibly this would be overkill for anyone who’s really into the actual comic books. Even as they team up to stop a nuclear war, these two are on different trajectories and we see why and how their split is inevitable. Fassbender and McAvoy have a lot of chemistry and I found myself wanting them to stay together for a whole series of movies, though it was a foregone conclusion that they wouldn’t.

The carefully planned structure of the film falls apart a bit near the end. i don’t want to throw any (more) spoilers out there but the denouement seems a little rushed, though there are some satisfying shocks. I give it 4 out of 5 stars and suggest that if you are at all interested, that you see it on the big screen.

4 out of 5 reels

[rtm’s note: My review will be up later this week, but I’d agree with Paula on the rating.]

So did you see it this past weekend? What did you think of the movie?

24 thoughts on “Guest Post – ‘X-Men: First Class’ Review

  1. THANKS for the review, Paula. I totally agree w/ your rating, I really want to give it a 4.5 but there were a few things that I wasn’t crazy about. Fassbender and McAvoy are truly the reason the movie works as well as it is, their chemistry is perfect, just like Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in the first three.

    Guess what, I watched X-2 over the weekend as we just bought the trilogy on Blu-ray. We’re gonna watch the other 2 sometime this month, too. I think this movie makes me excited about this franchise again.

    1. The chemistry reminded me of the 2009 Star Trek as well, except Spock & Kirk start out antagonistic & are moving toward each other.

      it’s cool to rediscover things like that. i think i’ve seen all of them except Wolverine. i’m afraid i’m a bit of a bandwagoner on this one 😉

    2. Agreed. I really enjoyed myself in the cinema. I, like you have a couple of minor quibbles (length for one) but I thought it was pretty well executed.

  2. Ted S.

    Nice review Paula and I agree with you, although I thought the first half of the film was quite messy but I didn’t mind the rushed second half. I think Vaughn tried too hard to copy Batman Begins with this film and that’s the downfall of it. I wanted to see more of Magneto’s background but they didn’t go deep into his story and I didn’t care for the young mutants either. Also, I thought Kevin Bacon’s role was pretty weak, he’s basically playing the Magneto role from the other X-Men films. I understand why they included him and his bad mutants in the film but I wish they did it differently.

    With all that said, I still enjoyed the film and the cameo by a certain person was definitely the highlight of the film.

    I’d give a 3 out of 5 reels.

      1. Ted S.

        Oh yeah, let’s hope HIS new film will better than the first one. But since this film didn’t do that well at the box office over the weekend, not sure if Fox will green light that project now.

      2. yes looking at reviews, etc. today, i guess that cameo was pretty much common knowledge LOL but i didn’t want to spoil anything for even 1 person

  3. I hope to see this by the end of the week! To be honest, I had absolutely no interest in seeing this until all the positive reviews came flooding in 🙂

  4. Loved it. Fassbender will be the reason I end up buying the blu-ray. Dare I say I liked him in the role more than Ian McKellen? I dare! Unfortunately, some of the other roles weren’t as strong as leads McAvoy and Fassbender but that’s ok with me. Those two guys own the movie. When we finally see Magneto in all of his crimson costumed glory………geekgasm. No Wolverine… problem!

  5. Glad this is getting good reviews, thought it would just be another lifeless chip off the old block but it sounds like that’s not the case.

  6. Probably my favorite movie so far this year. It think being a total surprise that it didn’t just nose dive made me love it even more. Sure some things could have been improved but the core elements of story and character development were just awesome and powered by McAvory and Fassbender. It’s like they didn’t realize they were making a comic movieXD

    Man I can’t wait to see what happens if Vaughn is given a bigger production window. Here’s hoping right? And those cameos just killed me:P

    1. It’s definitely in my top 5 of the year so far, which surprised me. Some cameos are really obtrusive but these were very natural I thought.

  7. Nice job. I caught this movie on Tuesday and also enjoyed it. I was actually surprised afterwards to read a decent amount of rough reviews on some blogs. Especially when compared to some of the other recent comic-book films, this one is sharp and well-acted across the board (except maybe January Jones). I’d place it just below the top tier of recent superhero movies (X2, the Nolan Batman films) due to a few minor flaws, but it’s an excellent movie.

    1. Thank you! I agree, I’d place it in the same category. The Nolan Batman films are difficult to beat 🙂

      True confession: As one of the 10 people in the US who don’t watch Mad Men, I’ve never seen January Jones in anything else LOL

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