I’ve been at the mercy of men just following orders. Never again.
If there is anything I love more than comic books (OK OK graphic novels mostly) it’s great acting. That’s why X-Men: Fist Class stole my heart. I’m telling you that Eastwood, Abrams, Cronenberg, Malick, Salles, Fincher, Clooney, Scorsese, Curtis, Crowe better bring their A-game or this eXtravaganza might end up crowning 2011 for me. Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method should come close considering the fact that the driving force behind the latest X-Men feature, Michael Fassbender will be taking on the extremely interesting and layered Carl Jung.
The comic book genre has been under some examination as of late, the growing amounts of attributions to it have rendered it under severe survaillance and pressure. Is it sustainable? Is it necessary? Sure, it sells, but can we really have a great film experience in this sci-fi world of costumes, tricks and supernatural debauchery? Let me tell you this, First Class lives up to its name. Presenting us not with just an entertaining, actionpacked comicbook tale of epic proportions, we get a deep, developed and higly classical show in dramatics, acting, suspense and heartache.
X-Men : First Class is a classic tale of origins, an archetype of storytelling that the world of superheroes have claimed its own. We are yet again introduced to the characters of X, Charles Xavier (played by the fabulous Scotsman James McAvoy and Magneto, Erik Lehnsherr (by the even more fabulous Irishman Michael Fassbender). Two very different characters, one, Erik, carrying a heavy burden of his mother’s death and a desire for revenge, and the other, Charles, a quick witted, charming visionary of peace and prosperity within the emerging mutant community. The two, and their compadres, (Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence, Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Banshee (Caleb Laundry Jones and Havok (Lucas Till)) are recruited by the CIA to work in liaison with their operation of preventing a nuclear war between the US and the Soviet Union when in 1962 the Soviets (after pressured circumstances) get manipulated into transporting nucler missiles into Cuba.
The big bad baddie, Sebastian Shaw (a name fit for a tax attorney rather than the man trying to bring about the destruction of Homo Sapiens (played by Kevin Bacon) working on claiming the world his own and those likeminded, is determined to make this WWIII thing happen in order to let loose the mutant rule. Erik has other plans, as he craves to kill Shaw, the man responsible for the death of his mother and the emergence of his abilities.
Really a triumph of the two main characters, Charles and Erik, before they became those old, determined, passionate men in the original X-Men trilogy, the film graps the audience on all levels. It serves for the passive, entertain-me crowd, the romance starved and the ‘I’m-in-the-wrong-theatre’ type of character, bust most of all, it transcends above and becomes an intelligent character study. A great deal of this glory belongs to two men, Michael Fassbender and James Mc Avoy. The blooming of a brotherhood, torn apart by rage and hurt is one of those forever relevant and gravely impacting stories.
McAvoy and Fassbender (of both of which I’ve been a fan of for quite a while now) work together brilliantly, both comically and dramatically creating a believable and layered relationship between friends-turned-enemies. Rarely do we get characters this interesting and multifaceted in action entertainment that live up to their paragons. Jumping in to fill the boots of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen is no easy task, in fact it should be a daunting one, but these guys hold on their own by all standards.
I also have to commend Matthew Vaughn for yet again bringing us the freshest summer film imaginable. Last year’s Kick-Ass made him into a household name (yeah yeah, in the house of geeks!) by presenting us with his originality and younghipfreshcool point of view. You can see that p-o-w repeated in X-Men : First Class. (If you haven’t seen his 2004 Layer Cake, you need to check that out too!) It would seem easy to dismiss any of these films (LC, K-A, X-M:FC) as plain, straight up action, but having seen many-an-actio-film that simply are just that, there is really no logical reason to make that renouncing (in my eyes even demeaning) definition when it is clear they are much more both substansially and thematically.
Taking on otherness, fear of difference, importance of appearences and struggles of acceptance, the film explores thematic aspects that have been relevant throughout history in class struggle, feminism and now, pronounced in immigration issues. The story explores interesting ideas in regards to the relationship between the new race of mutants and the prevailing human race, and introduces us to characters struggling with being accepted and accepting themselves, a topic dwelved into even more in the three first films. A underlying social commentary is often a difficult matter to handle when it comes its position and emphasis, but the film does a great job by not getting preachy, but making the audience think about these issues by introducing us to relatable characters going through these difficult decisions and prejudices. In the end we find the characters in a midst of two divisions, a division between the mutants and the ‘normals’ and those mutants looking for justice and domination and those looking for peace and co-operation.
First Class is by no means perfect. It has a bit of cheese, a bit of camp, and it holds a bit too much detail for the average viewer (especially unfamiliar with either the comics or even the films) but by no means does it have to be a model example of filmmaking at its finest. I mean, it’s no Citizen Kane (I don’t know why I keep using this saying, it’s not like I consider it to be the best movie ever .. oh well). It is simply, a uniquely well execute blockbuster that makes you both think and feel, and is elavated even higher by a few really great performances.
Prequels by definiton suck. There’s no instance where a prequel ever topped an original (no Temple isn’t better than Raiders), until now. I love the X-Trilogy (well I love 1 and 2, I like 3) but here is something that has just claimed the title of ‘an exception to the rule’.
The artform (well you can barely call it that to be honest) of blockbusters just got a well needed boost.
If You Don’t Like X-Men : First Class then …
– you should be nuked from the inside out / have your head crushed within a collapsing helmet / served Soviet Union style.
P.S. Call me Magneto bitch!