In the world of comics I am admittedly naïve and somewhat aloof of many mythologies that exist within them. I know quite a bit about Batman despite reading just a single Batman comic, but I’ve always stuck primarily to the movie incarnations than the print. I do read the occasional comic, but they are few and far between. The X-Men mythology is one I’ve learned or absorbed almost entirely from the films that have been released. I have to say I have liked but not loved a single one of them, but with Matthew Vaughn involved with X-MEN: FIRST CLASS I was more than willing to give it a fair shake, having been a huge fan of KICK ASS. As it stands, X-MEN FIRST CLASS is easily my favorite in the world of X-Men movies due to a fun yet cheesy script, Vaughn’s stylish direction and the acting chops of Michael Fassbender.
X-MEN: FIRST CLASS is a prequel to the original trilogy that follows the origins of both Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) who later becomes Professor X and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) who later becomes Magneto. Erik becomes consumed with revenge when a Nazi leader, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) kills his mother right in front of him in order to get him to prove his ability. His quest for revenge causes his path to cross with Charles who is assisting the CIA in trying to solve a plot involving mutants that Shaw has assembled and are orchestrating tensions between the U.S. And Russia in order to get one of them to ignite World War III. Erik and Charles become good friends while training a group of young mutants to use their powers responsibly in order to defeat Shaw.
One of my favorite aspects of X-MEN: FIRST CLASS was Michael Fassbender’s performance as Erik/Magneto. If I had one complaint it’s that there wasn’t enough of just him going around hunting the Nazi’s and tracking down Shaw, not quite enough of him developing both the relationships between him and Charles and him with the other mutants Charles recruits. There is enough there to make the film work and make it work well, but not enough to make it as unforgettable as I wish it was. Erik’s relationship with Charles is that of two separate ideologies regarding their perception of the human race; that’s also my favorite aspect regarding Fassbender’s portrayal of Magneto. Here he’s a sympathetic character that we know is destined for a tragic crossroads with Erik but you never have that sense that he is a villain. So the audience is free to root for both sides while also being able to pick which side they believe is more right than the other.
A couple of things that kept me from being head over heels with X-MEN: FIRST CLASS was some of the cheesier moments within the script and some of the really cartoonish special effects. The script itself is quite strong even with some of the cheesy dialogue; it just seemed a little too much at times. There are some very striking images that are set up with the visual effects, but then again some of them are undoubtedly fake and silly looking. There is also an abundance of montage moments and music; some that work and some that just don’t seem to fit. Not all the performances are that great, specifically January Jones. She might be great to look at but as a character in X-MEN: FIRST CLASS she has the movements and personality of a fembot from AUSTIN POWERS.
A lot of credit for the quality here goes to Matthew Vaughn. He gives the film a slick and stylish look as well as a tone that is tense in all the right places, great superhero action, some good comedic beats that includes a very cool cameo. Vaughn directs some very memorable visuals and action scenes that include the shot of Magneto lifting a sub straight from the ocean, hundreds of missiles hurling their way at the mutants on an island, shots of which can each be seen in the trailer.
I do look forward to seeing more of a variety as far as the mutants and their powers should sequels be thrown into development. There are some cool characters in X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, including Havoc, Azazel and Banshee. I will say that Azazel’s character design at times gave me a Hellboy vibe, mostly due to the bright red look and the devil tail. As I mentioned though, Fassbender as Magneto more than steals the show; although I still wish that the friendship dynamic between him and McAvoy’s character was fleshed out a little more.
I have to admit, at first the prospect of an origin story did not appeal to me in the slightest when X-MEN: FIRST CLASS was announced. After seeing it though, I’m pretty excited about more films from this storyline as long as they are at or above this quality. Matthew Vaughn has proven he is a very talented director especially in regards to the fantasy aspects of a hero’s story and the internal struggle of the characters. X-MEN: FIRST CLASS lacks a certain level of consistency at times but the flaws are easily overlooked due to the quality of the script, action and overall tone of the film. Comic and film fans alike can find something to enjoy here as the film works as a fun action movie and as a comic book adaptation.