|Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy among other talented actors.|
** out of ****
X-Men: First Class is trying to be a prequel, a throwback to the sixties, a special effects action thriller, the story of Charles Xavier, the story of Magneto, the story of Mystique, The story of Beast, and a new entertainingly different outing for the X-Men franchise. I didn't think it achieved at any of those things. It was just kind of lazy in every area where it had potential.
As a prequel it ties itself to the other films by playing a modified version of the scene which began Bryan Singer's "X-Men" (2000). It then continues by expanding on the history of the film's characters and within minutes it is already making huge story contradictions to not only the other X-Men movies, but X-Men in general.
According to this movie Hank McCoy invented Cerebro, Mystique and Xavier had their mutant powers far before puberty, and Xavier and Magneto's friendship lasted a matter of weeks before going their separate ways. Maybe all of this would have worked as a reboot if it hadn't made such a bold cinematic declaration to be perceived as a prequel.
This is one of those movies that I simply hoped would be good but I had doubts. The most hopeful possibility was that this film would have a lot of fun with its 1960s setting. Well kind of, but not enough. Would this movie have a kind of technicolor vibrancy and brassy soundtrack of a James Bond movie? No. That would have been cool. This movie just felt a little too modern. The music sounded pretty similar to the score to the first "Iron Man". Havok has spiked blond hair and uses the word "badass". Actors really don't attempt to change their modality to fit the way people acted in sixties movies. We are occasionally thrown in something like President Kennedy speaking on TV or someone saying "Groovy" to remind us which decade we're in.
The effects, for the most part, are substandard for a big-budget endeavor. Some are okay, some look awful. and none of them have a very natural look. It kind had the look of a SyFy TV movie
The real problem here is that the movie juggles multiple character's stories at once and none of them feel as strong as they should. The casting and performances are unmistakably good but the writing and direction are very unfocused. Scenes feel rushed and never help the movie develop a tone. I only know a little bit about the X-Men mythology and I know that the friendship which once existed between future rivals Xavier and Magneto was supposed to be strong. Reducing it to a short period of time was one mistake but the bigger mistake was having Mystique and Xavier grow up together. Wouldn't that make her the great friend Xavier lost?
Prequelitus: The case of a back-story falling into a formula where incidents happen and character's make decisions which seem unnatural or forced in order to fulfill the obligation of bridging with the original story. See "Star Wars: Episode III"
What I really didn't understand with this movie was why every character had to meet his or her destiny within a month-long time-frame. Characters make life-altering decisions on a whim and physical transformations happen out of necessity. We get it: All of these people, by the end, have found the identity they are still standing with fifty years later. Did Xavier need to make a joke about 'losing his hair some day'?
Finally comes the most important issue for any moviegoer: It doesn't stand alone that well either. The film's villain has intentions hardly different from Magneto's in the other X-Men films. The theme of adolescent confusion and self-discovery is back again for the hero characters. Thematically we've seen it all before. Although the familiar parallels between fear of mutants and racial oppression comes through in a jaw-dropping embarrassing way.
I suppose the real missed opportunity here was to make a movie about the friendship of the two men who would become Xavier and Magneto spanning several decades putting much more thought and strength into the only unique aspect this movie had to offer.