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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Movie Review: X-Men "First Class"

X-Men First Class
Directed by Michael Vaughn
Produced by Gregory Goodman, Simon Kinberg,
Lauren Shuler Donner & Bryan Singer
Story by Sheldon Turner and Bryan Singer
Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, January Jones, Kevin Bacon
Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, and Oliver Platt
Run Time: 132 minutes

This year's summer superhero extravaganza continues with Matthew Vaughn's X-Men trilogy prequel.

I just happen to watch this yesterday and this is what I have to say: X-Men First Class has to be the best Marvel movie I have ever seen in years - in terms of depth.

Yes, I said it. Even better than the first Iron Man and the first Thor movie last month.

X-Men First Class mixes colorful American history, great storytelling, compelling acting, character development and simple-yet-astonishing special effects to create a fun, smart, and emotionally engaging action-drama about mutants trying to find their own niche in the world during the 1960s Cuban missile crisis of World War II. 

The movie focuses mainly on the friendship between mutant-telepath Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and magnetism master Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) who both have similar goals, but very different principles on how to protect mutants from bigotry and suffering. These two roles were played perfectly by McAvoy and Fassbender - giving the movie just the right amount of realism and emotional quality. 

The usual good vs evil plotline is also shown and this is played between the X-Men and the Hellfire Club led by the nefarious Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) - a mutant who has the ability to absorb kinetic energy and use it against his opponents. This villain choice is absolutely perfect and Bacon's portrayal of the egotistic character is splendid. He gave it justice and made it look like he's an opponent capable of giving the heroes a great challenge. 

Other notable themes in the film include prejudice and racism, anti-semitism (as shown by Erik's experience in the Nazi concentration camp as a child in the beginning of the film),  and cultural and ethnic diversity. These were used very well in my opinion which gave the whole movie a great deal of depth and intelligence, thus, making it more than just a superhero cheesecake.

Character development is one glaring positive for this film which Michael Vaughn focused on among others. The result is a balanced chemistry within all the cast members, which in turn helped the story a great deal because it gave viewers an easy understanding of each character's origins and personalities, eventually making them relatable one way or another.

Special effects were not flashy unlike other previous superhero films, but they were effective mainly due to their well-timed placement, especially in the most important parts. I think the decision to rely less on digital effects worked well, paving the way for a more concise and clear storytelling that actually makes a lot of sense.

There are some minor flaws too mind you, with some scenes too compressed or too fast paced, which may annoy some viewers. Then there is the racial politics that was inserted in the movie that I'm sure will piss off some.

But even those mistakes didn't affect the film in any way because it continued to stick with the thing that works right from the get-go: "just continue to tell the damn story"

That is what happens when a movie is focused on delivering a unique tale rather than just blowing up cars, buildings and other things for visual pleasure. Sure, over-the-top action sequences really work nowadays for superhero movies, but it shouldn't be the sole selling point.

Allowing the director to tell the story just the way it is intended can only mean success, and that's what X-Men: First Class is all about. Moviegoers will definitely enjoy this movie and won't be disappointed with the 2 hours of solid and kick-ass entertainment.

Rating: 4.5/ 5

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