‘X-Men: First Class’ (Film)

‘X-MEN: FIRST CLASS’

Please feel free to comment on my review.

How It Began For Xavier and Magneto

Here we go back in time again! 😀

Initially, there was going to be a second ‘X-Men Origins’ film focusing on Ian McKellen as Magneto with perhaps, I believe, an appearance by Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier. But because ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ wasn’t a favourite with ‘X-Men’ fans, ‘X-Men Origins: Magneto’ never got made.

Well, not really. You see, it was decided to reboot the ‘X-Men’ film series and start from scratch with a younger ‘X-Men’ cast in films set before the events of the ‘X-Men’ trilogy. We’d see a young Charles Xavier who meets a young Magneto before they become Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. 🙂

I get apprehensive when a film series goes in a particular direction of doing prequel films set before the originals. After all, I wasn’t particularly impressed by how a prequel film like ‘Star Trek’ (2009) was handled and that didn’t end up becoming a prequel film since it was set in an alternative reality.

Now not all prequel films are like that. I consider ‘The Hobbit’ film trilogy to be worthy of watching in the lead-up to ‘The Lord of the Rings’ film trilogy and I would argue the ‘Star Wars’ prequel films are better efforts compared to the sequels trilogy. Bottom line: I’m not that very hyped about certain prequels.

Therefore, I didn’t see ‘X-Men: First Class’ when it came out at cinemas in 2011. I was probably excited by meeting ‘Doctor Who’ stars like Sarah Sutton at conventions to be interested in ‘X-Men: First Class’. I recall my best mate Stephen telling me how excited he was about ‘X-Men: First Class’. 🙂

Stephen is more into the ‘X-Men’ films than I am and I was more interested in the trailer for ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ than the trailer for ‘X-Men: First Class’. In the end, I saw ‘X-Men: First Class’ when it came out on DVD. It’s just as well I did in order to satisfy my curiosity about the movie.

‘X-Men: First Class’ was directed by Matthew Vaughn. As I understand, he was originally meant to direct ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ before Brett Ratner took over. He was also considered for ‘Thor’ before Kenneth Branagh took over. It’s just as well Matthew Vaughn took charge of this certain film.

The film stars James McCoy, Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne, January Jones, Oliver Platt and Kevin Bacon. When the film came out in 2011, everybody raved about it, giving it positive reviews and it became a box office success. This is ranked as one of the best ‘X-Men’ films ever made in the series!

(sighs) I’m going to go out on a limb again on this one. I feel this ‘X-Men’ film is overrated.

(Audience boos)

Hear me out! That’s not to say I think ‘X-Men: First Class’ is bad!

On the contrary, this is a better effort compared to ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’. It’s a movie that mostly sets up the origins of most of the X-Men characters we would get to know in later films pretty well such as Xavier, Magneto and Mystique. The story is pretty solid and the acting is very top notch.

But I can’t rate this one highly enough because of the fact it’s a prequel film and it contains things that we already know what’s going to happen in later ‘X-Men’ films. Also, a few things don’t follow up in what’s established in later films, made worse knowing what’s going to happen in the timelines.

‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ and ‘X-Men: First Class’ aren’t heavy offenders of inconsistency with what’s established in ‘X-Men’, ‘X-Men 2’ and ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’, but they’re the starting points. Also, there’s not enough time to get to know the characters that we need to emphasise with.

That’s a problem I have with the ‘X-Men’ films. It’s not like with Spider-Man where you know who the main hero is and you get to know the other characters through him. In the ‘X-Men’ comics, the cartoon show and the films; you have to know a lot of the characters in really short amounts of time.

In ‘X-Men: First Class’, you know who characters like Charles Xavier, Magneto, Mystique and Beast are, but there are characters like Banshee, Darwin, Havok and Emma Frost that I don’t know about and they very often don’t return in future films. Sometimes I felt detached seeing certain characters.

Mind you, it does help that former ‘X-Men’ director Bryan Singer came back to co-produce the film as well as provide some of the film’s story. Not exactly in the director’s chair, but at least he provides influence in an ‘X-Men’ film where he didn’t with ‘The Last Stand’ and ‘X-Men Origins’ beforehand. 🙂

The film takes place in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I’ll give the film credit. I like how it gets the X-Men characters involved in established periods of history like the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. It’s also superb that we see characters like Xavier and Magneto on what they were like in the 1960s.

Anyway, Xavier and Magneto meet up and gradually form a mutant group to thwart the efforts of the Hellfire Club, led by the notorious Sebastian Shaw, a mutant supremacist who’s bent on enacting nuclear war. But Xavier and Magneto’s efforts will lead to a division between their mutant groups. 😦

Xavier will lead the X-Men and Magneto will lead the Brotherhood of Mutants. And right away I have a problem with Xavier and Magneto’s relationship. You see, the problem is that we already know that Xavier becomes the leader of the good guys and Magneto becomes the leader of the baddies. 😐

I would have liked it if ‘X-Men: First Class’ went in a direction where Magneto didn’t end up being the bad guy. At least not right away. You could’ve had Xavier and Magneto meeting as friends at a young age and they would work together to be goodies to the end during the Cuban Missile Crisis. 🙂

Then in the next film, you would see the progression of Magneto becoming the bad guy. Much like how Anakin Skywalker ended up becoming a baddie in the ‘Star Wars’ prequels. It would also help to explain why Xavier and Magneto were recruiting Jean Grey as a girl in ‘The Last Stand’s first scene. 🙂

But the film doesn’t really do that. Instead it has Magneto established as the villain from the very beginning and Xavier doesn’t even know that he did terrible things like killing people when hunting down Sebastian Shaw. Or maybe he did read his mind and find out, but it didn’t amount to anything.

That’s not to say I find the actors playing Xavier and Magneto bad. On the contrary, James McAvoy is a very good actor to play Charles Xavier. I saw him as Mr. Tumnus in ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ 2005 film and I also saw him in ‘Atonement’ with Keira Knightley.

I like how James portrays Xavier as a man seeking peace between humans and mutants in the 1960s and how he comes up against hostility from both sides. Mind you, Xavier does like to drink a lot once he’s a professor in Oxford. That’s nothing compared to James being butt-naked in ‘Becoming Jane’. 😀

Michael Fassbender stars as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto in the film. I’ve also seen Michael Fassbender in the 2011 film adaptation of ‘Jane Eyre’ one time. I will give credit to both Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy. At least they almost match to how they’d later become Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. 😀

I enjoyed how Michael Fassbender balanced that angry edge to Erik/Magneto’s character when he was hunting down Nazis and disliking humans who despised mutants, balancing that with a softer side to his character. That scene where Magneto killed Sebastian Shaw with a coin was really chilling.

Kevin Bacon stars as Sebastian Shaw…also known as Dr. Klaus Schmidt, the film’s villain. Schmidt trained Magneto at a young age to embrace his magnetism powers, prompting him by killing his mother and causing him to be angry. Sebastian Shaw would later form the Hellfire Club in the 1960s.

Whilst I enjoyed Kevin Bacon (He was also in the EE adverts! 😀 ) as Shaw, it would have been nice if we saw more of how Shaw trained Magneto to become who he was before Magneto met up with Xavier. Sadly that’s not explored here. Shaw also has the power of absorbing and redirecting energy.

Rose Byrne stars as Bea…oh sorry, wrong films…

…as Moira MacTaggert, a CIA agent who befriends Charles Xavier when asking for his help to sort out a mutant crisis caused by Sebastian Shaw. Who knew that Rose Byrne would later go on to appear in the ‘Peter Rabbit’ films after playing a younger Moira MacTaggert in the ‘X-Men’ movies. 🙂

Moira MacTaggert was originally played by Olivia Williams in ‘The Last Stand’. It was intriguing to see how Moira and Xavier’s relationship formed in this film, especially when it blossomed into a romance. I would’ve liked to have seen more of it if the film was long enough to develop characters.

There’s also Jennifer Lawrence as Raven Darkhölme/Mystique. I like how Raven/Mystique begins as a sweet person who becomes Xavier’s childhood friend and adoptive sister once he meets her in his house. It’s quite a contrast compared to how Rebecca Romijn played the character in the other films.

Raven/Mystique does seem to get easily jealous when Charles attracts the attention of other ladies, including Moira, since she might have a thing for him. She seems to be easily persuaded by Magneto’s argument about embracing her identity and her power rather than hiding it from others.

There’s Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy/Beast in ‘X-Men: First Class’. He would later star in 2019’s ‘Tolkien’ film. It was intriguing to see Hank with the big hand-like feet earlier in the film before he became a blue-furry creature matching what Kelsey Grammer looked like later on in ‘The Last Stand’.

Hank shares some scenes with Raven and the two seem to like each other, almost to the point of a romance blossoming between them. I don’t think that’s reflected in ‘The Last Stand’, but then again Beast and Mystique’s past weren’t explored enough in the ‘X-Men’ trilogy compared to the prequels.

The film features January Jones as Emma Frost, a strong mutant telepath who can change her entire body into hard diamond form which grants her superhuman strength, stamina, psionic immunity, and durability, at the cost of using her telepathic powers. Wow! That’s one very powerful mutant! 😀

So, the Emma we saw in ‘X-Men Origins’ wasn’t Emma Frost after all if we’re to judge by how the timelines turn out. Emma Frost is like Sebastian Shaw’s second-hand woman in the Hellfire Club. A pity that Emma gets locked up for a majority of the film before Magneto gets to save her at the end.

There’s also Oliver Platt as…Man in Black Suit. No really, that’s what he’s called in the film. He’s a CIA agent and the head of Division X, a government agency that works with Xavier’s team during the Sebastian Shaw crisis. Surely Oliver Platt’s character could have been given a name in this certain flick!

At least Clark Gregg’s character in the ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’ wasn’t forgotten about and at least he was given the name Phil Coulson. In fact, I’m not sure what happened to Oliver Platt’s Man in Black Suit character. Did he die? I think he did die since a lot of his group at Division X were killed!

There’s Álex González as Janos Quested/Riptide, a silent mutant of the Hellfire Club who has the power to create powerful whirlwinds from his hands and body. Apparently Álex González is a Spanish actor, which establishes the reason why Riptide doesn’t say anything in the ‘First Class’ film.

Jason Flemyng stars as Azazel, a devil-like mutant who has the ability to teleport and is another member of the Hellfire Club. I wonder if Azazel could be related to Azal from the ‘Doctor Who’ story ‘The Dæmons’. It makes sense here with the two being devil-like and having similar-sounding names.

In the film, Zoë Kravitz, who would later do the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ films, ‘The LEGO Batman Movie’ and ‘Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse’, plays Angel Salvadore, a mutant with dragonfly wings and the ability to spit acidic saliva. A pity her character joined the Hellfire club and later Magneto’s team.

Caleb Landry Jones stars as Sean Cassidy/Banshee, a mutant who can emit incredibly strong ultrasonic screams, sonic blasts, sonic bursts and sonic waves used in various manners including as a means of flight. Banshee becomes essential when stopping Sebastian Shaw during the Cuba crisis. 🙂

Edi Gathegi stars as Armando Muñoz/Darwin, a mutant who has the ability to blend in and out with reactive evolution. A shame that his character didn’t last long! In the attempt to stop Sebastian Shaw acquiring the young mutants when attacking the Division X facility, Darwin is killed off in the process.

And there’s Lucas Till as Alex Summers/Havok, and I believe he’s the brother of Scott Summers who would later become Cyclops. 😀 Havok has the ability to absorb energy and discharge it as red blasts. Xavier and Hank McCoy help Havok to control his powers as they graft a harness onto him in the film.

The X-Men team that initially gets formed during the Cuban missile crisis includes Xavier, Magneto, Moira (although she’s not a mutant), Beast, Mystique, Banshee and Havok. Most of our heroes get to wear yellow and black outfits as opposed to the mostly black outfits worn in the original movies. 🙂

It’s such a shame that most of these X-Men character don’t stay in the same team when we meet them next time. Certainly Magneto and Mystique part from Xavier; and Beast remains with Xavier by the time we next see them. But at this point, I don’t recall Banshee and Havok being in a future film.

The film also features Glenn Morshower as Colonel Hendry, a US army officer who gets coerced by the Hellfire Club. There’s Matt Craven as the CIA director McCone and there’s Rade Šerbedžija as a Russian general. Oh by the way, there’s a lot of reading featured in this film concerning the subtitles.

I appreciate the film going to different parts of the world to establish a multi-national basis, but it’s a challenge to keep track of what’s said between characters when they speak in a different language. Sometimes I do just want to relax my mind and not have to worry about reading too many subtitles.

There’s an uncredited cameo of Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine in a bar in the film. Xavier and Magneto try to recruit him to help them stop Sebastian Shaw. But before they can even introduce themselves or ask for help, Logan tells the two to ‘go f**k’ themselves. Err…why did Logan say that?

There was no need for him to say that. Not just in the profanity sense but also to two people he’s never met before who are about to politely invite him to join their team. Maybe Xavier and Magneto should have pushed it more, but instead they end up leaving Logan/Wolverine to his own devices. 😐

Actually, I would’ve been put off too. I know this is meant to be a humorous cameo, but it’s just off-putting for me. Also where’s Victor Creed in all of this? After all, this is 1962 before ‘X-Men Origins’ took place in the 1970s and 1980s. Was Victor visiting the bathroom so he could have a toilet break?

There’s an inconsistency I have to address about this film. The film ends with Xavier now disabled after being accidentally shot by Moira and is put in a wheelchair. How come Patrick Stewart’s Xavier was able to walk when he and Magneto were visiting Jean Grey at the beginning of ‘The Last Stand’?

I know there might be an explanation for it in ‘Days of Future Past’ where we see Charles Xavier able to walk on his two feet again, but it looked like the filmmakers forgot Patrick Stewart as Xavier was meant to walk in ‘The Last Stand’ and ‘X-Men Origins’. Did they want to forget about those movies?!

The action sequences, especially in the Cuban missile crisis climax scenes, are pretty good. The CGI visual effects add well to them, especially as the Blackbird is flying out there between the American and the Russian vessels in the Cuban ocean. Also there is the Cold War atmosphere about this film. 🙂

I liked the montage sequences of Xavier training mutants like Magneto, Beast, Banshee and Havok to control their powers. In some respects, like ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’, I wish the story of ‘First Class’ had been spread out into two films rather than one film to appreciate the origins of the characters.

On Blu-ray, there are special features including an eight-part behind-the-scenes featurette called ‘Children of the Atom’. There’s also the ‘Cerebro Mutant Tracker’, a BD-Live portal with additional ‘Cerebro Mutant Tracker’ profiles, the interactive ‘X Marks the Spot’ feature, 10 Marvel ‘X-Men’ digital comics, extended and deleted scenes, an isolated score option by composer Henry Jackman, and a theatrical trailer for the film.

‘X-Men: First Class’ is a decent film to establish the origins of Charles Xavier, Magneto and other characters like Mystique and Beast featured, but I can’t say I was excited by it when I first saw it on DVD. I probably expected too much from it and had certain issues with some of the film’s continuity.

I know people rate it more highly than me and that’s fair enough. Thankfully a later film would excite me more in featuring some ‘First Class’ cast and the original cast from the ‘X-Men’ trilogy. Before getting to that film however, it was time to check out what Wolverine was up to in modern times. 😀

‘X-Men: First Class’ rating – 6/10


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2 thoughts on “‘X-Men: First Class’ (Film)

  1. Timelord 007

    First class review (boos) i agree Tim this is were continuity gets really confusing which becomes even more confusing in DOFP depending on what cut of the movie you see, in the original triogy there was no mention of Xavier & Raven being close friends & when Professor X & Magneto were searching for other mutants it was Patrick Stewart & Ian McKellen versions because you seen that in Last Stand (get the zero room ready).

    However action scenes are great & we have a decent cast in the roles it just shame the writers are very loose with the continuity, i dont envy your next couple reviews 2 cuts of The Wolverine, 2 cuts of DOFP lol

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi Simon.

      Ah, I see what you did there when you said ‘First Class Review’. 😀

      Indeed, it’s a shame the continuity of these ‘X-Men’ films started to go downhill in both ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ and ‘X-Men: First Class’. I wouldn’t mind it so much if the filmmakers actually had the decency to explain how Xavier and Raven didn’t seem to have a close connection to each other in the original trilogy as they had in ‘First Class’. And how Xavier was able to walk when he and Magneto visited other mutants like Jean Grey in ‘The Last Stand’ as well as being able to walk in ‘X-Men Origins’ despite him having been disabled in ‘First Class’. I know it’s sort-of explained in ‘Days of Future Past’, but even then it’s a stretch of the imagination. The filmmakers seem to come across as lazy or loose with the continuity of these films, even when they combined original and new casts together in ‘DOFP’. It’s a shame as I do like the new cast in the prequel/beginnings films and I would have liked it if the continuities in all ‘X-Men’ films matched up to my expectations. Sadly they don’t. And it’s bound to get worse as the film series progresses.

      I don’t have the extended cuts of ‘The Wolverine’ and ‘DOFP’. For the sake of argument, I’ll be reviewing those two movies based on their original cuts and will review the extended versions hopefully at some point later on in the future. I might make a reference to the extended cuts of those two ‘X-Men’ movies when I’m reviewing the original versions.

      Many thanks for your comments, Simon.

      Tim. 🙂

      Like

      Reply

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