Review: X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (2011) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Review: X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (2011)

RATING: 2.5/5

Once upon a time, the X-MEN movies used to be a highly potential franchise. Thanks to back-to-back success of 2000's X-MEN and 2003's X2: X-MEN UNITED, you can say that director Bryan Singer has single-handedly re-established the comic-book genre into something to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, the franchise quickly turned sour with the arrival of 2006's X-MEN: THE LAST STAND (which was single-handedly ruined by director Brett Ratner, who replaced Singer after he opted to do SUPERMAN RETURNS instead). Then came X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE in 2009, which continues to disappoint even further. So hope is naturally high when Twentieth Century Fox has finally grow a brain and smart enough to hire director Matthew Vaughn (KICK-ASS) to reboot the franchise back to square one. The good news is, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS is marginally better than those ill-fated X-MEN: THE LAST STAND and X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE combined together. But the bad news is, this highly-anticipated prequel isn't as good as one might hoped for. First class entertainment? Not close enough, but somewhere in between.

The movie begins in the 1940s with a recreation of the opening scene in X-MEN where the child Erik Lehnsherr (Bill Milner) first discovers his magnetic powers when he tries to save his mom (Eva Magyar) in a Nazi concentration camp. When the head henchman Klaus Schmidt (Kevin Bacon) witnesses how Erik comes to bend the gate into twisted metal, he is astonished with his power. However Klaus also ends up killing his mother when Erik fails to move the coin with his power as requested. More than a decade later, at the height of the Cold War in the 1960s, the now-adult Erik (Michael Fassbender) is plotting for a revenge against Klaus Schmidt, who is now calls himself as Sebastian Shaw.

Meanwhile, in United States, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) who has a telepathic gift, befriends Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) who is another mutant able to shape-shifting into human form when they are kids. As they grow up, they become close to each other. Then of course, Xavier and Erik eventually stumble upon each other during a CIA operation, headed by the head agent of Division X (Oliver Platt) and Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne), an agent in charge of genetic mutation to stop Sebastian Shaw and his fellow mutants in the boat across the sea. Xavier and Erik become friends, in which they are subsequently in charge of locating other mutants to join their team. That includes Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Sean Cassidy/Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones), Armando Munoz/Darwin (Edi Gathegi), Alex Summers/Havok (Lucas Till) and Angel Salvadore (Zoe Kravitz), all of them which are eventually trained to control and understand their powers better.

Unfortunately the biggest problem among these mutant team is Erik. Unlike Xavier who is more interested to build peace and harmony among the human race, Erik is the polar opposite. He is driven with rage and anger, and he disagrees that human will accept of what they are. It doesn't take long before they eventually become enemies in the end.

Making a prequel is always a difficult task, especially for comic-book movie dealing with origin story. You can either end up being as disappointed as something like X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE or something as exceptional as 2005's BATMAN BEGINS. Too bad Matthew Vaughn is unable to reach that height of what Christopher Nolan has established successfully in term of comic-book movie prequel for BATMAN BEGINS. To begin with, Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn's screenplay hits too many bumpy roads over the course of its two-hour plus running time. The plot is especially inconsistent and surprisingly generic in term of storytelling.

The characters, in the meantime, are mixed bag. Other than exceptionally good performances by Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy (who both shared terrific scenes together), the rest of the cast (even those talented actors like Jennifer Lawrence and Kevin Bacon) are mostly neglected to average character moments. The most disappointing cast of all is of course, January Jones as Sebastian's right-hand woman, Emma Frost. Apart from her sexy look, her acting is so stiff as if she's a lifelike mannequin.

Technical values are surprisingly mixed as well, considered the nature of a big-budget production like X-MEN: FIRST CLASS. The special effects are especially dated, and some of them are plain awful (What's with the bad-looking FX over Beast anyway?) until one might wonder whether the studio is rushing the deadline for the release date. There are cool action sequences, notably scenes involving Azazel (Jason Flemyng), a red-faced demon with an ability to teleport in no time; the bar scene involving Erik and the three men; and the climactic finale at the beach. But as cool as they are, you'll be surprised that Vaughn who executed such stylish action set-pieces in KICK-ASS isn't quite the same person you will expect him here. John Mathieson's cinematography along with Eddie Hamilton and Lee Smith's editing often cut too fast to let us enjoy the action scene properly. It's like as if they are so eager to move to the next scene and want to end the movie quickly.

Still X-MEN: FIRST CLASS remains adequate enough for a franchise reboot. It's just that a movie like this with such caliber of talented cast and crew, it could have been better. Likewise, do pay attention during the course of the movie for plenty of easter eggs (references of subsequent X-MEN movies) as well two surprise cameos (one of them involves a soon-to-be memorable catchphrase of "Go f**k yourself" that will surely send the fans happy).

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