Monday, 6 June 2011

Film Review: X-Men: First Class

Rating: 8.1/10 - Excellent

For the first time in quite a while, not since Black Swan to be specific, I watched a film which met all my expectations and actually exceeded them in certain aspects. See my full review of X-Men: First Class after the jump.

Director: Matthew Vaughn. Screenplay: Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn. Producers: Gregory Goodman, Simon Kinberg, Lauren Shuler Donner and Bryan Singer. Executive Producers: Stan Lee, Josh McLaglen and Tarquin Pack. Cinematographer: John Mathieson. Editors: Eddie Hamilton and Lee Smith. Score: Henry Jackman. Distributor: 20th Century Fox. Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne, January Jones, Jennifer Lawrence, Oliver Platt and Kevin Bacon. Age Restriction: 13VM. Running Time: 130 Minutes.

This is without a doubt the best X-Men film so far. Director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) has successfully rejuvenated a franchise that for all intents and purposes looked dead and buried after the shockingly bad X3 and the not much better X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Credit must also go to the screenwriters who have done an outstanding job with the script. Setting the prequel story within the context of the  Cold War and, more specifically, the Cuban Missile Crises, brings an added sense of realism and danger which was sorely lacking in the previous two X-Men films.

In the film we are introduced to the younger versions of Professor X and Magneto, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) respectively, and we are shown how their initial friendship eventually turned into the most important rivalry in the mutant universe. Both want to help their fellow mutants to find their place in the world but their modus operandi are incompatible and are ultimately bound to lead to a major confrontation at some point. Just like the US and the Soviets, theirs is a clash of ideologies where the ultimate victor won't necessarily be the one with the most weapons but rather the one who yields the most influence. During the course of the film Charles Xavier tries to win over the hearts and minds of his fellow mutants by showing that they can help make the world a better place for all who live in it by working together with the humans. Erik Lehnsherr on the other hand, believes that humans are the inferior species and that mutants are the superior next level in the evolutionary chain.

On the downside, the action set pieces are fairly middle-of-the-road by today's standards and the finale isn't quite as epic as it should be when considering the sheer brilliance of the first two acts. Thankfully the story more than makes up for this relative shortage of action. Far too often Hollywood blockbusters, especially the comic book superhero variety, emphasize style over substance so it is a welcome surprise that First Class doesn't fall into that trap. Even the least attentive film goer should be able to pick up on the film's major themes like friendship, loyalty, and prejudice with ease and appreciate the value that they add to the characters' journey. From the doomed friendship between Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr to the sense of impending doom over the escalating tension between the USA and the Soviet Union, not since The Dark Knight has a comic book film used universal themes on a such a grand scale. Prepared to be blown away.

Verdict: This is what happens when you combine a brilliant story with exceptional acting: an excellent film that engages in it's world from the first minute to the last.

 X-Men: First Class is out in cinemas now.

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