X-Men: First Class Reviewby Homer Yen (homeryen88 AT gmail DOT com)
June 4th, 2011
"X-Men: First Class" - Mutant and Proud
by Homer Yen
In the last film of the X-Men franchise, the filmmakers decided to focus on the origins of one of the more-recognizable and interesting characters, which was Wolverine. This brooding, short-fused fighter was the obvious choice for his own breakout film. But, I had thought that if there was to be another "origins"-type film, it would be centered on Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (played here by Michael Fassbender). Whereas Charles Xavier /Professor X (played here by James McAvoy) promoted the idea of mutants harmoniously co-existing and "fitting in" with humanity, Magneto felt that they shouldn't have to fit in but instead should fight to stand out and above humanity.
In a gritty opening act, we begin to understand why he has been harboring this need to assert himself. As a boy, Erik was interred at a Nazi concentration camp and his harrowing experience not only scarred him for life but also allowed him to begin to realize his gift to manipulate metal. This sets in motion a life fueled by revenge as he seeks out his captor, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon). In doing so, you see a braver and more determined Magneto as he pushes his way towards his goal. Fassbender is a good casting choice here and provides ruggedness alongside good leading-man eye candy. Avid filmgoers may recognize him as one of the allied soldiers that tried but failed to bluff his way in and out of a basement-level bar filled with Nazis in the film, "Inglorious Bastards".
Erik's and Charles's life intersect because they both have a common enemy in Shaw. We know why Erik is after Shaw. Charles's reasons are a bit nobler. He has been recruited by CIA Agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) to help with a matter of national security. With his telepathic powers, he can locate Shaw. And, while his telepathy is very potent, enabling him to also locate other mutants and to enable him to enter the mind's eye of others, he still can't figure out that Moira likes him! I guess that he has more important things to focus on. Shaw believes that mutants become stronger due to radiation and he engineers, with the help of his mutant team, what eventually turns out to be the Cuban Missile Crisis.
There is a standout mutant baddie that's introduced in this installment. That would be Emma Frost (January Jones), who can also control minds with telepathy, shield herself in both mind and body with her diamond-plated appearance, and looks super-groovy in her jumpsuit. Strangely effective was the ever-youthful looking Kevin Bacon. In my book, I best remember him in 1984s "Footloose" and today, he doesn't look a day older! He MUST be a mutant. Also, look out for one of the best 10-second cameos you'll see this year.
Satisfying but not thrilling, the movie always seemed to hold itself back from being the explosive drama/action film that it could've been. This is presumably to keep the film with a PG-13 rating to make it more commercially profitable. Erik could've been, in the words of Michael Jackson, "bad, bad, really really bad." And, he was actually more fun to watch before he met Charles, who kept encouraging a more peaceful tact.
However, I liked how the story writers were able to parallel superhero's lives with history, starting with the Holocaust and ending with JFK's most defining presidential moment. There is a nice emotional core as friendships evolve and devolve. The roles are well-acted and the film itself is well-crafted and the storyline is well-written. And, when we come to the film's conclusion, many of the questions that we had pertaining to the future Professor X vs Magneto are answered. Considering the overkill of superhero films this year, these mutants have done their genre proud.
S: 1 out of 3
L: 1 out of 3
V: 1 out of 3
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