Friday, June 15, 2012

X-Men: First Class Movie Review

In my review of X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), I said that prequels are consistently horrendous.  Again, I find myself withdrawing a previous statement.  Not only was X-Men: First Class (2011) an outstanding prequel, but it was also the second best movie in the X-Men franchise just below X2: X-Men United (2003).
During the Cuban Missle Crisis of 1962, CIA Agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) discovers a mutant named Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) who can absorb any kind of energy and expel it in powerful blasts. Shaw is threatening military leaders to get them to advocate the U.S. installing nuclear missiles in Turkey. MacTaggert convinces the CIA to seek out recently graduated mutant genetics expert Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and his foster sister Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) to advise them on mutant powers. Both end up being mutants themselves; Charles is a powerful telepath and Raven is a shape-shifter. With his abilities, Charles helps the CIA locate Shaw. During the skirmish Charles rescues Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender), another mutant bent on getting revenge on Shaw who killed his mother in a concentration camp in the last World War. Erik can create and manipulate magnetic fields to control metal. Seeing what they are up against with Shaw, the CIA invites Charles, Raven, and Erik to the “Division X” facility where they meet young scientist Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), a prehensile-footed mutant. Hank helps create a mutant-locating device called Cerebro which amplifies Charles’ telepathic range to find and recruit mutants against Shaw. They recruit Angel Salvadore (Zoë Kravitz), taxi driver Armando Muñoz/Darwin (Edi Gathegi), Army prisoner Alex Summers/Havok (Lucas Till), and Sean Cassidy/Banshee (Caleb Landry). Charles and Erik learn that Shaw is in Russia, threatening military officials there to send missiles to Cuba starting a nuclear war to wipe out the humans and leave the mutants reigning over the earth. Charles and Erik start training the misfit group of young mutants to hone their powers so they can help stop Shaw and prevent a global nuclear holocaust.
X-Men in general is about becoming a better person in spite of how society views you. In 1981 Chris Claremont, a writer for the Uncanny X-Men comics said, "The X-Men are hated, feared and despised collectively by humanity for no other reason than that they are mutants. So what we have here, intended or not, is a book that is about racism, bigotry and prejudice." This theme was implemented in the other X-Men movies, but seems to be most prevalent in X-Men: First Class. Good science fiction makes commentary on contemporary issues in a unique, metaphorical way. We like to think that we are tolerant of everyone, but racism, religious antagonism, bullying, and bigotry are still prevalent in most societies. People who are different in any way are often negatively sanctioned for it. Those who are victimized by such antagonism don’t deserve it. Not only does X-Men show us what it’s like for those targeted by bigotry and hate, it also shows us how evil and cowardly we can appear when we demonize those who are different from us, no matter the form it may take.
The writing and dialogue in First Class is studded with gems of wisdom and encouragement. When Charles is trying to help Erik hone his powers Charles tells him, “There's so much more to you than you know, not just pain and anger. There's good in you too, and you can harness all that. You have a power that no one can match, not even me.” Erik in turn sees  Raven (later to become Mystique) trying so hard to blend in and hiding her natural blue skin and tells her, “If you're using half your concentration to look normal, then you're only half paying attention to whatever else you're doing. You want society to accept you, but you can't even accept yourself.” Lines like these are put in places that really help develop the characters and plot to make them dynamic and solid. Yet we can still relate these bits of advice to ourselves. It really makes the movie uplifting and memorable.
The biggest drawback in this movie is that it is a prequel. If you’ve seen the other X-Men movies or are familiar with the comics, you’ll know the condition everyone will ultimately be in by the end of the movie. It’s neat to learn where Professor X and Magneto came from, but we still know what will happen to them. Nevertheless, First Class is so well written that the characters we already know don’t get superfluous back stories that make the character illogical in context of the original story. The characters' past stories actually are interesting and compliment what we already know about them; the tension isn’t destroyed by knowing what will ultimately happen in the story. This is a pretty solid movie. There are a few disagreements in the timeline in relation to the other X-Men movies, though. One of which is having Xavier explain that Magneto helped create Cerebro in X-Men (2000), but in First Class we see Hank McCoy constructing it. There are several others, but pointing them out would be nitpicking; they don’t detract from the movie.
Comic book lovers, fans of alternate history, and fantasy-prone moviegoers in general will find something to love in X-Men: First Class. The visual effects are smooth and creative. The movie has an intelligent script that was well-acted with a multi-layered theme. It’s possibly the best prequel I’ve ever seen. It’s not a kids movie, unless your kids are comfortable with harrowing World War II concentration camp scenes spoken entirely in subtitled German. This was a good movie and is worth buying a copy.

Who is your favorite X-Men character? It could be from the movies or comic books. Why do you like him or her so much? Comment below and tell me why!


  1. Nice geeky review! :)
    X-Men: First Class just redeemed the shoddy X-Men: Last Stand, for sure.

    1. It also redeemed the X-Men movie franchise from X-Men Origins: Wolverine. As far as I'm concerned the X-Men Trilogy goes X-Men: First class, X-Men, and finally X2: X-Men United.
      Thanks for your comments! Come back again and read some more!