Top 365 Films – #226 – X-Men: First Class (2011)


Top 365 Films - X-Men First ClassDIRECTED BY: Matthew Vaughn

STARRING: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, Nicholas Hoult, January Jones, Oliver Platt, Jason Flemyng, Lucas Till, Edi Gathegi, Caleb Landry Jones, Zoë Kravitz, Álex González and Kevin Bacon

BUDGET: $160m

EARNED (Worldwide): $353.6m

AWARDS: None

 

SYNOPSIS

In 1962, the United States government enlists the help of Mutants with superhuman abilities to stop a malicious dictator who is determined to start World War III.

 

X-Men: First Class gives us a fresh take of the X-Men franchise as we follow the younger versions of Erik Lehnsherr and Charles Xavier before we come to know them as Magneto and Professor X. We’re placed in the 1960’s where a CIA agent named Moira MacTaggert discovers that mutants exist and that one of them, Dr. Sebastian Shaw, for personal reasons has a stake in the Cold War happening, taking the world into nuclear Armageddon. She then invites Professor Xavier to recruit mutants to work for the USA government and to help take down Shaw. Meanwhile Lehnsherr is on the hunt for Sebastian Shaw as well for his hand in his horrific past.

 

Prequels are a tricky thing, especially in a franchise that had a trilogy of installments, two out of three being good, then a prequel followed which ended up being one of the worst in the franchise to date (X-Men Origins: Wolverine). So news of another prequel coming along soon after in the vein of giving backstory for some of the ensemble we’ve watched in the original trilogy was of mixed views. Thankfully however with Bryan Singer producing and Matthew Vaughn directing, X-Men: First Class brought back a much needed kick start to the X-Men franchise after two bad films in a row and ideally what makes it work is the casting of the key players. We have James McAvoy taking on a role of Charles Xavier (taking over Patrick Stewart), an Oxford academic student that earns the title of Professor and envisions of a utopia of mutants and the rest of mankind coexisting and also happens to be a ladies man and have the full use of his legs (and has hair!). His counterpart however, Michael Fassbender, takes on the role of Erik Lensherr (taking over Ian McKellen), a young concentration camp survivor who suffered great tragedy and torment under Dr. Sebastian Shaw and in the process, has instilled a lifelong thirst for revenge and seems incapable of using his powers without channeling his rage. Then there is a third key mutant in this storyline with Jennifer Lawrence taking on the role of Raven, a shapeshifter who struggles to keep her natural mutant appearance under wraps and in this story is an adoptive sister of sorts in relation to Charles Xavier. The dynamic between James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender is interesting and riveting to watch, especially when the two of them come to be good friends in the process of this film yet will never see eye to eye when it comes to the future of mutant kind. It’s the latter that gets the bigger journey out of the two, from the opening scene taking on the original opening scene in the first X-Men film, to suffering a tragedy at the camp which unleashes the potential of his powers that we’ll come to know him for in the present and also for his revenge trekking crusade trying to find Shaw and kill him. It’s interesting that the film is set back in the Cold War era, taking on the paranoia of the Cuban Missile Crisis and basically rewriting history of the events that unfold (and in doing so will lead to historical rewrites in the followup X-Men: Days of Future Past). Outside of the key three X-Men originators in First Class, Rose Byrne does a good job as  CIA Agent Moira MacTaggert and liked the character (and I’m glad to find out that she’s to appear in X-Men: Apocalypse after being a no show in Days of Future Past), Kevin Bacon is one of the better villains to have appeared in the franchise as Dr. Sebastian Shaw, Nicholas Hoult is good in a low-key (of sorts) role as Hank McCoy which grows more in the followup film and as for the rest of those trained to become the X-Men lineup, they’re decent but there’s none that really standout to you like the original characters from the trilogy. The only one that caught my interest was Darwin, who could literally adapt to anything and everything but was gone too soon for my liking. A well directed film from Vaughn and yet still to this day, some people are curious as to how his direction on Days of Future Past would’ve been executed.

 

FAVOURITE SCENE: In present day 1962, a few former German soldiers are at a bar in Argentina. Then, Erik Lehnsherr enters. Terrifically shot and acted scene, particularly on Michael Fassbender’s part.

FAVOURITE QUOTE: Professor Charles Xavier: Erik, you said yourself we’re the better men. This is the time to prove it. There are thousands of men on those ships. Good, honest, innocent men! They’re just following orders.

Erik Lehnsherr: I’ve been at the mercy of men just following orders. Never again.’

DID YOU KNOW?: The filmmakers had only two choices for the role of Sebastian Shaw: Colin Firth andKevin Bacon. They decided to go with Bacon as he was American and seemed more menacing than Firth. Matthew Vaughn would later cast Firth in another comic-book based film, Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014).

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