We’re done with the older series of films, and now we’re onto the new, as today’s review takes us back to the current focus of X-Men films, the ‘First Class’.
RELEASED: June 1st 2011
DIRECTED BY: Matthew Vaughn
WRITTEN BY: Matthew Vaughn, Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman, Sheldon Turner & Bryan Singer
PRODUCED BY: Lauren Shuler Donner, Bryan Singer, Simon Kinberg & Gregory Goodman
MUSIC BY: Henry Jackman
STARRING: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence, January Jones, Nicholas Hoult, Oliver Platt, Jason Flemyng, Lucas Till, Edi Gathegi, Caleb Landry Jones, Zoë Kravitz, Álex Gonzalez & Kevin Bacon
For the longest time, I’ve thought of First Class as my favourite X-Men film (and yes, that’s including Logan and Deadpool). As I go through and rewatch them all, I’m not entirely sure that’s the case anymore, but it’s still definitely up there.
First Class follows Charles Xavier in his younger years, as he becomes a Professor and is recruited by Moira MacTaggert of the CIA to investigate the mutant society known as the Hellfire Club. Their leader, Sebastian Shaw, is planning an extinction-level event that will place mutants at the forefront of society, and the only way for Charles and Moira to stop him is to assemble the first class of X-Men – the Nazi-hunting Magneto, the shape-changing Mystique, the genius inventor Beast, the survivalist Darwin, the explosive Havok, the goofball Banshee and the exotic Angel Salvadore.
While I do love this film, I must first once again acknowledge that it continues to screw up the timeline. Emma Frost makes her second appearance in the franchise a mere movie after her introduction, and is played by a different actress and is older than her other counterpart, despite this movie being set some ten years before. Similarly, Charles Xavier losing the use of his legs stands in direct contrast to his appearances in both Origins and the flashback sequence at the start of The Last Stand. However, going forward, it seems that we’re meant to pretty much ignore most of those films anyway, so I guess we can cut the movie some slack in that regard.
However, continuity errors aside, this movie works excellently when viewed as a simple prequel to the first couple of X-Men movies, as was intended. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender give excellent performances as a younger Professor X and Magneto, and add new levels of depth to the characters that Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen’s scripts didn’t allow them. Similarly, Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult bring fresh new takes to the characters of Mystique and Beast, respectively, and while they don’t completely line up with the characters from the original trilogy, they do very much work here.
The rest of the cast is also a lot of fun, and with the mutant focus primarily on just the X-Men and the Hellfire Club, it means screentime isn’t wasted on any and all random mutants that can be crammed into the movie, like it was in The Last Stand and Origins. Kevin Bacon, in particular, shines as Sebastian Shaw – and is perhaps one of the stronger villains to materialise in the X-Men movie franchise.
Similarly, the style of the film is on point. Matthew Vaughan does a great job capturing that sixties aesthetic, and perfectly blends together exciting action set pieces, fascinating character drama and amusing comic book gags. Unlike its two direct predecessors, this film is cohesive and well-made. It has a solid script and is delivered with clear and capable execution. Between the look, the cast and the directing, it once again captures the magic that made the first X-Men films so great, albiet in a much more cheerful and campy manner.
The result is an all around great film that serves as a nice palate cleanser after the less than stellar previous two films.
All-in-all, I give it: