Friday, 3 June 2011

X-Men: First Class review

I may have mentioned it before, but I am a big fan of the X-Men movies, going back to 2001 when I rented the video (!) of the first movie. Actually I think I bought the DVD shortly after that. It was probably one of the first DVDs I did buy.

This week sees the release of the fourth (or fifth) X-Men movie and marks the return of Bryan Singer, the director of the first two, albeit in a producing capacity. It also marks the "return" of Matthew Vaughn who almost directed the third movie. Much has been written (or at least read by me) about the movie's 1960s setting, the new take on the Cuban Missile Crisis, the short production schedule and some deliberate nods towards a certain 1960s spy movie series.

So having finally seen the movie here are my initial thoughts, sans spoilers.

First of all I do have to mention the recreation of the opening scene of the first movie. It will be very interesting to watch the inevitable shot-by-shot comparison that will do doubt turn up on YouTube.

Much credit must be directed towards Misters McAvoy and Fassbender who did did great work playing Sirs Patrick and Ian. James McAvoy played the good professor in a way we have never seen him before, clearly making the most of the 1960s and a full head of hair.

Michael Fassbender as Erik went for it. The word that springs to mind is "intensity". There are a few scenes early in the movie that are gripping purely based on his performance and the sense of danger he exudes. Watch out for the scenes in the Swiss bank and the South American bar. And it's great to see Erik doing dangerous things with metal. At one point he finds an interesting use for a ship's anchor chain. If I have one complaint it is that I do think his Irish accent was becoming a bit pronounced near the end of the movie.

It's also great to see Charles and Erik become friends. In the original movie Erik and Charles do refer to each other as "old friend" on occasion. Here we see how their bond was formed and its nice that the chess games are referenced. Particular mention must be made of the "rage and serenity" scene.

However I do think the movie has a third lead, namely Jennifer Lawrence. This movie goes some way to make amends to Mystique by giving her more screen time after she was unceremoniously "cured" so early in the third movie. In a way the movie is as much about her as it is about Professor X and Magneto. We obviously know she'll end up joining Magneto but it's quite a revelation to see her first meeting with Charles and the bond that develops between them.

It was also nice to see Hank McCoy/Beast getting some screen time. Nicholas Hoult played him endearingly geeky.

In the previous movies the team used the X-Jet. Here they use a plane based on the SR-71 which is a nice nod to the comics and the period. I want to build that model kit now.

Kevin Bacon plays the villain of the piece, Sebastian Shaw, who has a link to what happened young Erik in 1944. He is perhaps the most villainous of all the bad guys we've seen in the movie series so far. January Jones played a suitably icy Emma Frost.

A couple of inconsistencies with the previous movies do now arise. In particular the first scene of X3 no longer fits into this continuity, but this is something I will happily ignore.

There were two surprise cameos from original cast members. One in particular had the audience in stitches.

So overall I enjoyed it and I will be hoping we will see a First Class series develop. If this is what they can do with a curtailed shooting schedule then I want to see what they can do with more time!