By: Oberst von Berauscht (Three Beers) –
Before the events of the X-Men trilogy Charles Xavier, Magneto, Mystique and others tried to live their lives like normal humans. But they possessed abilities far beyond the grasp of humanity, and that made them outcasts. Their origin story is told in this new entry to the Marvel Comics-based film franchise. The film opens with the story behind Xavier’s foster brother relationship with Raven (soon to be Mystique) and Magneto’s youth as a victim of Nazi experimentation.
Fast forward to 1962, and Xavier has just finished his formal education at Oxford, while Magneto hunts for Sebastian Shaw; the Nazi Scientist who killed his mother. Xavier is organizing a team of Mutants to help them master their powers, and use them for good. Magneto and Xavier are united against a common enemy, and become good friends quickly, but their opposing values make it a shaky alliance.
I know it is a lot of words, but really there is a lot going on here, and I promise it isn’t as confusing as it sounds. Probably…
There has been some confusion as to whether this movie is a reboot of the X-Men series, or a prequel to the original trilogy. I’ll just answer that question here and now. It is both… sort of. X-Men: First Class works very well in both categories, even borrowing directly from the concentration camp scene of the first X-Men movie. My point is they have enough open ground for a new series of films, without making this feel like part one of a series still to be created.
And that is a good thing, because this X-Men movie delivers well in a lot of areas. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender spar off of each other’s personalities, and yet make believable friends. This sets up the inevitable conflict that will tear them apart. Kevin Bacon, who has been absent from major features for a few years, makes an iconic return as Ex-Nazi Scientist and mutant Sebastian Shaw. His character is one of the more threatening villains in recent memory, his performance in one particular scene challenging Christoph Waltz’s “Hans Landa” for evil arch-nemeses.
The film’s Cold War era setting makes for a wonderful trip into period nostalgia, in many ways reflecting the classic era of James Bond films. There are hot chicks, cool gadgets, an evil mastermind bent on global domination, and a man with a frickin’ laser beam attached to his chest.
Shark sold separately
For a film that explores some very serious themes, there are moments throughout that feel shoehorned into the film simply for fan service. Most of these moments occur when the younger X-Men, such as Beast, Banshee, Havok, and Mystique, are given screen-time. One scene in particular is where the “team” sits around the living room showing off their powers and coming up with names for each other. It breaks the fourth wall in the worst way. I’d have preferred to have the character’s nicknames come about organically, but instead Jennifer Lawrence just says “hey, I really like the name Mystique, and by the way we’re calling you Professor X now, m’kay?
No, the dialog isn’t as bad as the “toad struck by lightning” line from X-Men; they seem to have learned from that mistake. But there is no excuse for self referential lines like [paraphrasing] “G-Men… No, you’re more like the X-Men”, or the multiple jokes about Xavier’s hair. The romantic dialog scenes also feel forced, like when Beast is talking to Mystique about how much he wants to be “normal”, and they say the word at the same time. Lastly, did we really need some variation of “I’m mutant, and I’m proud!” more than once? We get the allegory, thanks.
Looked amazing in 1941, but in 2011 this is the best you can fucking do?
Easily the 2nd best of the X-Men series, an eminently enjoyable but flawed effort
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: anytime people talk about being different
Take a Drink: for every Marvel cameo or reference
Take a Drink: every time you’re unsure if this is supposed to be a prequel or a reboot (Patrick Stewart walks in X-3)?
Down a Shot: anytime Xavier seems more like Obi-Wan
(Extra Credit) Chug a beer and chuck the bottle
At the head of an asshole who shouts this in the theatre