Monday, June 6, 2011

Movie Review - X-Men: First Class

X-Men: First Class - **1/2

Directed by:  Matthew Vaughn

Starring:  James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Bacon, January Jones

Review:  There are some forces at work here that go against this film and one of them is entirely personal to me (although I would imagine that many X-Men fans probably share the same sentiment).  The number 1, non-personal item that works against this film is the same trap that a lot of prequels fall into.  When you don’t start at the beginning and go back to it there are certain things that hamstring your storytelling because since we all know that they already happen, we have to see them happening.  At times, it seemed as though certain things were forced by the script to happen, simply because we know they already do.  How Magneto got his helmet, how Beast got his form and his name, how Mystique joined Magneto’s crew, how Professor Xavier and Moira McTaggert became friends, all of these scenarios are played out, and happen innocently enough, but don’t feel quite as organic as you would like.

The second item that goes against this is that there is so much that I wanted to see on a character level that they just didn’t have the time to delve into in this film.  Professor Xavier (McAvoy) and Magneto/Erik Lensherr (Fassbender) are supposed to be great friends who start out with the same end goal and get driven apart by their view on how to achieve that goal.  While this happens in the film, they talk about how they are friends, but you don’t really feel they are anything more than acquaintances who are using each other to get what they want. 

Another interesting dynamic is the character of Mystique (Lawrence).  Mystique starts off with Xavier, but then develops an affinity for Magneto and decides her ideals lie with his methods and not Xaviers.  Seems straightforward enough but you don’t really see that dynamic develop.  Magneto and Mystique have conversations and Magneto draws out his point quite astutely, but for Mystique to choose him over Xavier, whom she has spent nearly her entire life with, isn’t really dealt with with the level of depth that you would hope (or at least I hoped).  Mystique and Xavier have one conversation about this topic that is far too short and doesn’t really allow the audience to get a feel for the true motives at play here.

Now, those issues aside, I’m not saying this is a bad movie.  Quite the contrary, it is quite enjoyable and does please the crowd quite a bit, both X-Men faithful and non-faithful alike.  Despite my gripes above, Vaughn (director) does a good job of portraying how all this got started and showing the first step to how they got to be where they were in the first X-Men.  Magneto’s past is there, Xavier’s is there, there is a plausible storyline as to how they join forces, and although it seems slightly forced, how their ideals separate and eventually they separate into two factions is made clear.

I look at Magneto and Xavier as similar to Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr.  Not that their either of their ideals are similar to Malcom X’s or Dr. King’s, but they are similar in the sense that both Magneto and Professor X have the same goals, but just different ideas of how to achieve that goal.  It is an interesting parallel especially when considering how good of friends the two are.  I can only assume that there will be another X-Men movie along this storyine and I fully expect this issue to be at the forefront. 

Vaughn also does a good job of getting the most out of his characters with limited time.  With so many characters and such a grandiose storyline, each individual character is not given as much time to be developed but Vaughn does a good job of squeezing out the best possible performance from all of them.  McAvoy and Fassbender make you believe in their friendship and Mystique and Beast are fascinating characters both delving into their struggle with embracing their abilities and yet hiding them with shame.  This is another particularly interesting storyline that I expect to be fleshed out more in the sequel (s?), especially with Beast as someone of his intellect has always had one of the toughest times dealing with being a mutant, yet is one of the biggest champion’s of it.  It is a very unique dynamic that leads to a very interesting character.

This movie is by no means perfect and yet it’s very enjoyable all the same.  Being an X-Men fan this has satisfied my desire for another X-Men film and yet only whetted my appetite for further explanation into the origins of the X-Men.  For both X-men and non-X-Men fans alike this movie is enjoyable and worth your time. 

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