DVD Review: X-Men: First Class
Currently available on DVD & Blu-Ray.
Let’s be brutally honest – superhero/comic book adaptations over the last few years have been distinctly average. With the exception of The Dark Knight, Kick Ass and Watchmen, (which experienced an almighty battering at the Box Office - but in reality a brilliant movie) a fair few of these genre films have been poor, such as the damn awful Jonah Hex; whilst others such as Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger have at least been good fun and entertaining.
Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight put a halt to the pin that was about to burst the bubble by raising the bar- not just in comic book adaptations but possibly in filmmaking as a whole, forcing everyone else to up their game and with future movies on the horizon including The Amazing Spiderman and Zach Snyder’s Man of Steel, it’s a strong possibility that this fragile bubble is now made of sterner stuff.
X-Men: First Class centres on the relationship between Xavier & Lehnsherr – akin to Obi-Wan & Anakin. McAvoy’s take on the calm mature persona of Charles is the Kenobi equivalent whilst the volatile, impulsive Erik is comparable to the man who would be Vader. The plot and in fact, the whole film, hinges on their relationship (even though we know the outcome) and how their differences of opinions clash on how Mutants should co-exist with humans.
All this is set against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis where the dangerous mutant Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) in effect, wants to trigger World War III and take over the world. There is the issue however, that Erik – like Anakin, is haunted by the fact that with his immense powers he could not stop the death of his mother – is out for revenge, tracking down the man responsible for this tragedy.
McAvoy is quality as Xavier and whilst trying to develop the mature attitude we see in Patrick Stewart’s portrayal, he steers away from imitating him, starting as you would, from a blank slate. This allows the viewer to gain valuable insight into what his life was like before he was wheelchair bound and as the film progresses; his character develops into the passionate man who championed the cause for a peaceful, harmonious life with the humans.
Fassbender’s Erik means business; displaying the drive and vigour a character his type might possess dealing with the brutal murder of his mother and, of course, his appalling treatment from non-mutants. Kevin Bacon – enjoying a mini-revival – is very good and seems to love every single minute as the evil, calculating Sebastian Shaw. The talented Jennifer Lawrence , who has seamlessly made the crossover from Indie to mainstream, is excellent as Raven/Mystique. We cannot fail to mention the beautiful Rose Byrne, who herself, displays there is more to her than good looks, with a strong performance as CIA agent MacTaggert.
Whilst not quite the mind-blowing movie it should have been, X-Men: First Class is certainly one of the better adaptations over the last few years. A vast improvement on the mess that is X-Men Origins: Wolverine and considerably better than the disappointing The Last Stand, Mathew Vaughn’s direction brings along some much needed steel to the series.
The action pieces are excellent and the characterisation is the best since X-2, facilitated by some very strong aforementioned performances.
X-Men: First Class is undoubtedly the best Marvel/DC Comic adaptation since The Dark Knight. At times it does play it safe and in terms of fun falls way below the controversial Kick-Ass and lacks the brutality of James Gunn’s SUPER, it is however, a welcome and much needed return to form for the X-Men franchise.
FMV Rating: ***½