X-Men – First Class: Witness the Moment that Will Change Our World

Posted: June 5, 2011 in Action, Adventure, Drama

From a young age, Erik Lehnsherr and Charles Xavier knew there was something special about them. While Erik endured tragedy and pain through the Holocaust, Sebastian Shaw served as the catalyst to help him discover his power through anger. Charles Xavier had time to develop his understanding of his telepathy and discovered a friendship with a shapeshifter named Raven at a young age. Years later as Erik seeks to track down Sebastian and enact his vengeance, Charles and Raven get recruited by CIA agent Moira MacTaggert to identify the existence of other mutants and partner with the CIA to stop a plot between the Russians and Shaw’s band of terrorists. When Charles and Erik combine forces, they assemble the first team of mutants to defend America and its freedoms. Included within the band of heroes are Hank McCoy as Beast, Angel Salvadore as Angel, Sean Cassidy as Banshee, Armando Munoz as Darwin and Alex Summers as Havok. Besides Shaw and the Russians, there are an additional group of mutants strongly against the human lack of acceptance including Janos Quested as Riptide, Azazel and Emma Frost.

Starring: James McAvoy (Charles Xavier), Michael Fassbender (Erik Lehnsherr), Kevin Bacon (Sebastian Shaw), Bose Byrne (Moira MacTaggert), Jennifer Lawrence (Raven), Oliver Platt (Man in Black Suit), Alex Gonzalez (Janos Quested), Jason Flemyng (Azazel), Zoe Kravitz (Angel Salvadore), January Jones (Emma Frost), Nicholas Hoult (Hank McCoy), Caleb Landry Jones (Sean Cassidy), Edi Gathegi (Armando Munoz), Lucas Till (Alex Summers), Don Creech (William Stryker), Glenn Morshower (Col. Hendry), Michael Ironside (Captain), Hugh Jackman (Logan)

The first class of mutants is a bit different from the comic version, but the main elements are still present. Charles Xavier is played by the multitalented James McAvoy, as well as Laurence Belcher as the younger version. In this film, he serves as the focal point for bringing together the mutant kind against a combination of violence seeking mutants and Russian agencies. He blends together a bit of 60s culture in his language with sparks of leadership. There is even a joke regarding his intellectual and mental age being far beyond his actual age. Michael Fassbender serves as the hothead Erik Lehnsherr, who struggles with the uneasiness of the human population’s lack of readiness to accept mutants and holds onto the rage associated with the death of his family during the Holocaust. Kevin Bacon shows up as the surprise villian, Sebastian Shaw. He has a strong cockiness in his abilities and utter hatred for all of humankind that leads to his tendency to take risky and offensive strikes to seek his goals of domination and destruction. Jennifer Lawrence suited up in the blue skin to play the younger Raven/Mystique. The band of actors portraying the young mutants exhibit a strong immaturity and desire to find their place in a world not yet able to accept difference.

This film by Matthew Vaughn is somewhere between a reboot and an origin story. It was originally meant to be focused on the development of Professor Xavier from a young age to the leader of the X-Men. In essence, it accomplished the original intention but also left the door open for a new series of films focused on the X-Men universe. This film sees the introduction of Cerebro, the mutation of Hank McCoy into Beast, the paralysis of Professor Xavier, and (most importantly) the division of the X-Men versus the Brotherhood. Where X-Men Origins: Wolverine was meant to focus on the development of Wolverine prior to his interactions with the X-Men, this new film opens up a number of backgrounds for various characters and even contradicts a few elements from the other origin story and X-Men films. Emma Frost is younger in the Wolverine movie and is one solid diamond in this new film. Wolverine has direct contact with Professor X in the new film but there is no real recognition of this interaction in the original X-Men movie. Xavier was already bald but able to walk when he first met Jean Grey in X3 but gets paralyzed while he is still young in First Class. While the comics have a number of parallel universes, this may be the start of the same setup in these movie productions.

The film is a very entertaining (but a little long) setup for a new series of X-Men films. There was some great interplay between Charles and Erik, entertaining battle scenes and exciting new characters, but while this films leaves you wanting more, it also feels like just a solid comic book movie with decent acting…not an epic action-drama that makes critics rethink comic movies as award-worthy. The inclusion of real political themes and videos does not enhance the development of the series.

Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5

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