Tightened Crosshairs: X-Men: First Class

Last Friday night, I made my way out to theaters to check out one of the movies I was most looking forward to this summer:  X-Men: First Class. Surprisingly enough, I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest. Here are some thoughts in a little more detail.

First off, I think Fox did the smartest thing they could have by going for another prequel film. When you do that, you’re free to tell different stories with different characters without having to explain where Storm, Wolverine, Angel, etc. all went. It was a gamble, especially after the admittedly pretty bad X-Men Origins: Wolverine film. And y’know, how this syncs up with that, I don’t know, but I don’t really care. That’s the first thing you need to understand when watching this movie. If you’re looking for it to seamlessly match up with the prologue scene in X3: The Last Stand or with comic book continuity, you’re going to end up pulling your hair out and complaining a lot. If you’re looking for a movie that matches up pretty closely and is just some good entertainment, back-story, and character development, you’ve come to the right place.

One of the things I loved about the movie was the hokey plot setup. Sebastian Shaw wants to orchestrate the Cuban Missile Crisis (yes, the Cuban Missile Crisis) and somehow, it’ll lead mutants to their higher calling, and so on. Kevin Bacon plays a decent Sebastian Shaw, even if his Shaw is quite a departure from comics’ version. Still, he makes the character his own, and he steals most of the scenes he’s in. Took me forever, though, to realize he was the Nazi from the opening Magneto scenes. That fake mustache sure got me.

James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are the main attraction, as we’re told from half of the movie posters, and the movie does exactly what it said it would. It shows us where Professor X and Magneto broke off their friendship based on their ideologies. While a few of the scenes come across as almost too bromantic, it’s obvious that these two have a dream, and that they honestly think that they can accomplish it. That kind of youthful optimism is crushed by the film’s end, but it was refreshing while it lasted.

I do want to talk about the First Class of X-Men themselves, quickly. Beast was, perhaps, one of my favorite characters here, in both of his forms. I wish his voice had matched up better in the fur-Beast portions, but eh, can’t have it all. Frankly, the only thing about Beast that bored me was the attraction between him and Mystique. Fact is, Mystique went from one of the more intriguing characters of the trilogy into one of the most boring. Still, she’s one boring character in a sea of intriguing ones, so I suppose it can be forgiven. Havok had an interesting story-arc himself, although it seemed as though it was cut short. I imagined that, when the chest plate was dissolved by Angel, it’d be Havok’s powers that overcharged the already supersaturated Shaw so that his powers would be ineffective against Magneto when it came to killing time. Instead, we get a few shots of him hitting his target without the chest plate, and, well, what appears to be more of an attempt to re-engage the women in the audience with Lucas Till’s chest. Really, without the development that Havok needed, that was the only other reason I could have seen for them having the chest plate lost. Banshee was fun, for what little time he was around. If anything, I’m glad his presence let the designers go hog-wild with the period clothing for Banshee. I know some folks on the internet were upset that new characters like Darwin and Angel were chosen for the first class, but given how quickly they were written out or over to the other side, I think we can forgive it, again. The remaining members of the First Class far outweighed the more confusing choices.

There are a lot more things to say about this movie (does having Azazel and Mystique on the same team mean they’re going to have a Nightcrawler baby soon?), but in the end, despite all of my complaints and things that I’ve forgiven the movie for, I just really enjoyed it. It was tense. There were some great fight scenes and some great new special effects to go with these new super-powers. It was a good movie, and part of me would go see it again if someone asked me to, honestly.

If I don’t pop in and review Super 8 next week for the heck of it, the next movie review you’ll see out of me on here is for Green Lantern, in theaters June 17th. This is one comic book-packed summer for movies.

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