X-Men: First Class

Since it came out, among my friends, we had dubbed this X-Babies (a la Muppet Babies) and, though interested in seeing it, managed to miss its theatrical run. Perhaps our less-than-kind moniker helped drive that decision.

However, this is a rather clever reboot of a series that ended badly (we shall never mention X-Men 3) but which still had a rich universe to plumb. I was concerned when the opening the movie reused a chunk of film that had previously appeared in the series, Magneto’s experiences in Nazi Germany. But it was nicely offset with Xavier’s story and then quickly went beyond what we had seen before.

What was done particularly well throughout the film, was the raw fighting style of every character. The sure and clever uses of their powers that we’ve grown accustomed to over the years aren’t really there. But you can see the genesis of both their discoveries and their comfort with the powers as they learn to control them. There was also some particularly clever use of powers by the more mature mutants during battles.

If there was any truly jarring aspect of the younger versions, it was with Mystique, whose facial shape is so different from Rebecca Romijn, and the make-up not well adjusted to hide the fact, that it looked like make-up. And sometimes bad make-up at that. The actor did fine, but she wasn’t served well by her f/x crew. And while McAvoy and Fassbender do rather good jobs as the young leaders of the mutant revolution, you cannot keep from comparing them to Stewart and McKellan; sometimes well, sometimes not as favorably.

The plot that drives the story is a likewise interesting reboot of history, intercutting real footage with the film. To say more would be to ruin the surprises.

Interestingly, much like Titanic (the ship sinks), there isn’t a lot of suspense about what happens. We know who lives and what is likely to occur. In fact, they hold off some of the moments so long that when they do finally come near or at the end of the film, it is almost a let-down rather than providing a frisson of recognition. To a large degree, I don’t think the director and writer were trying to avoid this… it is the elephant in the room with any origin story. But with an action film, it does pull some of the tension out of encounters. The addition of red shirts and cannon fodder to the crew was done to offset the problem, but we don’t really connect enough with the additional characters to care.

Despite all these issues, the sense of humor and the honesty with which the film was done, brought back the universe almost to the level of the original X-Men film. Whether there will be more or not is an open question as it didn’t do as well as hoped in the theaters. But very little did this past year or two, so we may yet see another installment. Certainly Wolvervine 2 is coming and Deadpool is rumored. The breadth of possibilities is far from exhausted.

If you appreciate the characters or just want a fun time for a couple hours, this is certainly worth a try.


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