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X-Men: First Class

X-Men: First Class

What She said:

She

So here’s the thing about X-Men: First Class.  I thought it was going to be a total stinker.  I mean, they already killed the franchise with a mediocre third movie and that Wolverine origins flick.  When I heard they were making a prequel of sorts, I was wondering what crazy studio would actually fund them beating a dead horse.  Then they released the movie, and all the good reviews started pouring in.  I still didn’t believe it, although my curiosity was peaked.  Finally, I got to see the movie.

And it was really good, refreshing even.  Refreshing because it had the sort of energy, strong plot, and outstanding performances that defined the first couple of movies.  I was thrilled to again see the Professor X/Magneto dynamic that Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen made memorable all the way back when I was still in high school.  Just as those two talented actors brought the frenemy relationship to life back in 2000, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender did a fantastic job of it in First Class

Amazingly, a movie that should seem completely separate from the franchise actually feels strongly linked.  Part of it is thanks to some humorous cameos, which I won’t spoil for you.  But in addition to this, First Class provides a backstory that works well with the latter films.  Not that it needs to.  The movie stands up on its own well.  It could be completely separate and would still be pretty good.

First Class tells the story of the first exposure of the mutant population in the early 1960s.  There’s a Cold War backdrop, and after Charles Xavier and a few other mutants are discovered by the U.S. Government, they are asked to aid in stopping nuclear war.  All that is sort of a side story.  A more central story is the relationship between Charles and a young Magneto aka Erik.  Erik is slightly deranged, as always, and out for vengeance for wrongs that were inflicted upon him by an evil Kevin Bacon (Sebastian Shaw) when he was still just a kid.  As Erik seeks retribution, Charles tries to tame him.  The storylines merge into a big blow-up at the end of the movie.

The movie is smart and engaging.  After a bunch of dud rentals over the last month, it’s finally nice to see something that’s actually satisfying.  Both McAvoy and Fassbender are fabulous, two talented actors going head to head, and the outcome is fun to watch.  Of course, I’m also partial to this because Kevin Bacon is in it.  Kevin Bacon…need I say more.

Thumbs up.

What he said:

He

Like my counterpart, I was extremely wary of this movie. Very rarely is a series able to revive itself after an unsuccessful sequel, let alone two (I think X3 is ok, but Wolverine is downright terrible). It just doesn’t happen. Plus, we live in an era of sequels, so it is easy to write them all off.

Then it came out and good reviews started to pour in. Comparisons to the first two films were being made. That really caught me off guard. I don’t get out the theater all that much anymore, but I knew that I would be renting this one on Blu-ray the second it came out.

First Class is the story of how Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) met, formed a bond, and came up with the idea for the X-Men. The prequel goes to great lengths lay the groundwork for the relationship between these two characters that we come to know in later X-Men movies; Bryan Singer’s in particular.

For the most part, it succeeds greatly. The only real issue I had was with how quickly and easily the separation occurred. Their whole relationship is formed and broken in a little over a week. During that time they become BFF, only to have the relationship sour into one of the biggest rivalries in comic book history. It seemed a little too fast. I get that they had to make the story work, but why not simply make it take place over a longer period of time? Aside from that, their chemistry was fantastic. It was definitely worthy of being considered earlier versions of the characters Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen brought to life a little over ten years ago.

A big factor for that was the performance of Michael Fassbender. McAvoy was in no way, shape, or form bad, but Fassbender OWNED this movie.  I never thought I’d say that about someone not named Ian McKellen playing Magneto. He brought new levels of anger and revenge to a character that was pretty pissed off to begin with. I simply cannot say enough good things about him I this role. I caught myself smiling several times, which says something considering he’s one of the biggest villains in the X-Men universe.

Along for the ride are a whole new cast of mutants, which formed the first X-Men team. One of the most integral members is Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), who if you are familiar with the previous X-Men movies, you may be surprised by her alliances. Lawrence was great as a younger Mystique, but again I felt some of the same problems that I mentioned above.

Another new character was Sebastian Shaw (played by Kevin Bacon). He is role is very similar to that of Magneto from the previous X-Men movies and boy does he handle it well. Even though his character’s personality and motives are not all that different from what we’ve seen by McKellen before, he does it in a way that makes you not care too much. The guy is pure evil and damn entertaining while being so.

There are a slew of other characters, mutant powers, and even a great cameo or two (but I won’t spoil it for you) to keep your mind occupied. This is truly an entertaining movie that has brought a stagnant franchise back from the dead.

Rating: Thumbs up.

Written for your reading pleasure on October 13, 2011.