X-Men: First Class was gooooood. You know when you have all these words rolling around in your head but it’s pretty impossible to just pick one to describe it with enough effect, so I’ll stick with good, throw in genius, add a dash of amazing, and a pinch of awesome.
Director Matthew Vaughn went back to the beginning, to the origin of the X-Men, from where Erik Lensherr bore his hatred, the moment in time when Charles Xavier could walk, and from where Mystique appeared and other fascinating back stories that would take forever to read about, condensed into a 2 hour movie.
The beginning of the movie, however, is all about Michael Fassbender. As Erik Lensherr on the hunt for the evil Sebastian Shaw played by Kevin Bacon, a Nazi who killed his mother in the pursuit of unleashing Erik’s power, Fassbender holds his own. Skipping from country to country and displaying a fine talent for speaking foreign languages, Fassbender plays the angry young man with the talent to manipulate metal until he comes across Charles Xavier who persuades him not to kill Shaw, for the moment anyway.
Synonymous to this we see a comfortable Charles Xavier living in a huge mansion (to be Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters) discovering his mother in the kitchen, but all is not as it seems and Charles soon realises it’s not his mother but a mutant who he takes an instant liking to. Raven as she is called before they establish their nicknames (Mystique), and is taken under Charles’ wing and they form a solid friendship whilst growing up together. It is clear from the get go that Raven is uncomfortable in her natural blue form and appears as her human form of choice, played by Jennifer Lawrence, for the majority of the movie. I wasn’t sold on the make up and costume from the movie posters that were released, but it does come across slightly better on screen and I’m sure there were plenty of guys out there that would have preferred to see a full body shot the same as Rebecca Romjin appears in the previous X-Men series.
Which brings me nicely onto her awesome cameo. We see Raven lounging in Erik Lensherr’s bed being the temptress that she is and Erik simply comments if she was ten years older then maybe… pop Raven turns into Rebecca Romjin “how about now?” GENIUS. And there I am in a quiet cinema and burst out with a “ha” and no one else even flinches! How is this possible? No one even blinks at the cameo, I loved it but then again I was probably the only person in the Hull cinema that knew who she was.
Moving on, we have the Stryker reference, I like it when the writers make a point of connecting histories makes perfect sense. Jumping ahead when Xavier and Lensherr team up using the prototype Cerebro that Hank built to gather as many mutants as they can to form their own army we see a delightful cameo from Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, “go fuck yourselves”, brilliant.
For the main part the movie works perfectly well with the ensemble cast and as I said before it condenses the history of the main characters for the audience to easily understand, but I can’t help feeling a bit empty on some of the lesser characters. Such as Angel (Zoe Kravitz), we know what her powers are but why does she so easily defect to the so called “dark side” with Shaw and his team, without a second thought? Havok’s powers in the movie are strikingly similar to those of Cyclops, but with this been an origin movie Cyclops hasn’t been chosen to feature, however the comic book history states Havok is supposed to be the brother of Cyclops hence the similar powers, but apparently producer Bryan Singer has said that he will not be related to him in this way but in some way that suits the film.
There is no clear definition that Azazel is a demon, but a human with mutant powers like the rest, unless I missed it Riptide isn’t clearly introduced? But the silent mutant appears to be able to spin tornadoes from his hands, but no calcium spikes. Sebastian Shaw’s character was interesting, only briefly seeing him at the Hellfire Club to which he originally was initiated into by no other that Howard Stark, Tony Stark’s father (Iron Man), his ability to absorb kinetic energy was definitely underused but then would probably overtaken the purpose of the movie which was for Lensherr to hunt him down and defeat him which would be impossible if he didn’t have a weakness, which all superhereoes/mutants do.
January Jones was simply playing January Jones. I don’t know her personally obviously, but her character Emma Frost is hard-faced (literally) bitch, with the ability to turn into a diamond to protect herself and the more established ability of telepathy. I’m just not a massive fan of the actress and I didn’t really think she brought much to the screen, even the scantily clad outfits Frost wears did nothing to make her more appealing.
I really enjoyed Nicholas Hoult’s portrayal as Hank McCoy/Beast, and the relationship he forms with Raven. The fact that he also struggles with his mutant appearance and then makes it worse with the serum he produces and turns into a big blue beast using Raven’s DNA, makes sense as to why they are the same colour. One of the better characters in X-Men history. Then we have Charles Xavier, played by James McAvoy. He has come so far, from the Shameless television series to a brilliant Hollywood actor. Handsomely intriguing as Xavier, he has great chemistry with Fassbender which is fantastic to watch and definitely makes the movie what it is.
The movie blends the characters to the storyline, so the background thread of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 is a method of dividing the characters into bad and good US vs. the Russians, highly amusing. Russians are always the bad guys. This, in the end, forms the reason for the split between Erik Lensherr and Charles Xavier, from the beginning of the movie you can see how dangerous Lensherr is and he has no qualms about turning against the humans when they ultimately turn against the mutants that had just for all intents and purposes saved the Cuban missile crisis. Xavier simply wants peace, for mutants to co-exist with humans and he believes this can happen. Mystique knows this can’t happen especially for someone like her with such a visible mutant ability, she easily defects to Magneto’s side.
With all the special effects and the clear power that Magneto demonstrates the next movie is sure to be even more explosive than the first. Let’s hope they crack on with filming I don’t want to wait too long for the next installment and for all the cast to be reunited.