X-Men: First Class
It was no secret that production on X-MEN: FIRST CLASS was rushed, to say the least and whenever films get rushed through the production process, it usually equates to a jumbled mess of a movie with poorly developed characters and a weak script that doesn’t always make sense. It’s what fans have come to expect from the X-Men franchise after X3 was embarrassingly bad and X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE was disappointing, even if it was entertaining at times. But First Class director Matthew Vaughn was determined to not let outside forces ruin his chance to make another great superhero movie (his first being the underrated KICK-ASS) and the result of his hard work is a unexpectedly great X-MEN: FIRST CLASS.
The surprising aspect of the film is that it’s more of a multi-character, character-driven drama than it is a superhero film. This isn’t Hugh Jackman running through the woods screaming “who am I” for 90 minutes, this is a look at several interesting, complex characters that the previous X-Men films never took the time to develop. We understand fully why Magneto is the way he is and we get an even greater appreciation for who Professor Xavier is and how he became the man we know, both emotionally and physically. Mystique was relegated to a sideshow gimmick in the first three films and now she’s a legitimate character with real emotions and backstory. We’re no longer waiting for the characters to get into the next fight or to try out their powers, we now want to know more about them and who they are. In the world of superheroes, that’s a tough thing to pull off and First Class did it so effortlessly, it makes you wonder why so many other films struggle with it.
Of course, this is made possible by two amazing performances from James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. McAvoy had mentioned he was worried the film would come out cheesy, but his class and talent prevented that from being a possibility. But as good as he was, Michael Fassbender was even better as Magneto and his presence actually makes me long for a possible Magneto spin-off. One could call First Class an origins movie for Magneto, which may not sound interesting, but Fassbender gave such a powerful performance that the character of Magneto is far more than he ever has been on film. By the end of the movie, we understand his motivations and actually start to see things from his point of view. Screenwriters Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn did an overall amazing job. And again, having four screenwriters on your film is another sign your film is going to struggle, but somehow they made it work.
But as much as I liked the film, it was not without a few drawbacks. January Jones was completely worthless as Emma Frost and managed to somehow make a sexy outfit as mundane and dry as possible. She is irritating in ‘Mad Men’, but here her lack of talent was distracting. We also had a cheesy moment where each character tried to give the other nicknames, which of course became the names we know them as today. But the scene felt forced and uncomfortable and probably would have been better on the cutting room floor.
I enjoyed the first two X-Men films, but being a fan of the comics, I longed for a true X-men film that had characters we cared about (that didn’t have adamantium skeletons) and stories we wanted to follow. Matthew Vaughn delivered with X-MEN: FIRST CLASS and then some. My only hope with this new X-Men franchise is that it lasts longer than the previous incarnation.