As another weekend bursts into full swing, another new movie is out for review. Today’s movie is the 20th Century Fox movie X-Men: First Class. The Movie, rated PG-13, features an ensemble cast which includes James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence, and January Jones. This has been a fairly maligned film, because no one has been too sure what to make of it. You have a group of people who love it and claim that it’s the best movie ever. There are others that think it’s a horrible movie and deserves to be wiped from memory. Which one do I fall under? Let’s find out.
The movie begins in 1944 Poland with a young Erik Lensherr being separated from his parents and Nazi scientist Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) discovering that little Erik has a big secret…a secret that’s exacerbated when Dr. Shaw killed his mother in front of him. Concurrently, a young Charles Xavier discovers a young girl named Raven (who would later become Mystique) scrounging around for food in his home. Thrilled to meet someone different like him, he then invites her to live with her family. Later, an adult Erik (Michael Fassbender) has set forth a plan to avenge his mother’s death by killing all of the former Nazis that were involved in his capture and the experiments foisted upon him. Meanwhile, Charles (James McAvoy) and Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) are in Oxford where Charles is studying for his PhD. Around the same time, CIA Agent Moira McTaggert (Rose Byrne) is looking to find a corrupt officer involved in the Hellfire Club, with Sebastian Shaw as its leader and the enigmatic Emma Frost (January Jones) as his second in command. Charles and Erik reluctantly decide to join forces with the CIA and work towards stopping Shaw and the Hellfire Club, as well as trying to help stop the onset of World War III.
So…what worked about this movie? First of all, the cast was pretty much fantastic. McAvoy and Fassbender in particular really convinced me they were Charles and Erik, and their chemistry was excellent. The cinematography was spectacular and the CGI was phenomenal. The flying scenes in particular were a sight to behold. The story flowed smoothly, and they integrated historical images and video in seamlessly with the story they were telling onscreen.
What didn’t work? Well, one of the things that didn’t work was January Jones. Sure, I said the cast was fantastic, but the lone exception to that is January Jones. She’s a great looking woman, but she’s not necessarily a good actress. I’m sure she is okay in Mad Men, but she wasn’t too good in this. The other thing that really didn’t work was something that affects movies of this caliber as a whole. That problem being that it’s not an easy thing to create a prequel for something that’s already been established. In fact, I think the smarter thing would have been to consider this movie a reboot.
The movie was directed by Matthew Vaughan, and he is looked at as a bit of a geek favorite seeing what he did with Kick-Ass. There is a bit of a framing issue from time to time due to his love for wide shots, but it’s a beautiful looking movie. The score was done by Henry Jackman, and it sounds good for the era it’s based in. It’s powerful enough when it needs to be, and subtle when the scene calls for it. On a whole, the cinematography was fluid and the story was decent.
Despite the positive flow, I don’t really know how to feel about this movie. Like I mentioned above, it’s getting a myriad of reviews. It was great to some, horrible to others, and still those who are in between. As for me, I tend to fall right in the middle of that spectrum. Some parts of it worked for me, and others didn’t. On the whole, I’ll consider this a decent matinée, and I can competently recommend watching this in the theaters at least once. It may not get highest marks, but it’s certainly not a remedial effort.
After all, it could certainly be worse.