The Two-Penny Review: X-Men First Class

X-Men First ClassI don’t often write about other media (well, not except in short bursts on Twitter, I suppose), unless I’m helping promote a friend or colleague who deserves some light shone through the mainstream fog. But occasionally, I consume a movie, book or comic on which I just have to comment, and hence we have today’s quasi-review on X-Men First Class, which debuted in movie theaters this weekend to the tune of $55 million.

Actually, this is going to be less a review than simply sharing why I enjoyed the heck out of this movie. If you want a real review, go to Rotten Tomatoes and surf away.

Briefly: I loved this movie. I loved the look, the feel, the delicate balance of emotional drama and whimsical adventure. I was smiling or gasping the entire time, and not just because it was big and dumb and loud (like, say, Thor) or because of geek-pandering Easter eggs (though, to be fair, there were plenty). No, it’s because X-Men First Class was just a wild ride, and one brilliantly scripted, mostly well-acted and exhilaratingly scored. More specifically:

  • The human drama was tangible and believable. Actually, I’ve heard minor complaints that the first third of the movie was too slow because of the focus on establishing the diametric between Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr. I thought it grounded the film, and everything else was set up so perfectly around that.
  • The peril was palpable. I don’t want to give away anything to those who haven’t seen the film, but there are some gruesome scenes of real violence, just the kind of harrowing stuff you’d expect if “evil” mutants actually existed. It’s the first time I actually considered how scary it would be to have people around in our world who have even the slightest enhanced abilities.
  • It’s worldly, and set in an unmistakable era. Sure, there’s a certain Forrest Gump effect with the placement of our heroes and villains behind the scenes of one of the modern world’s most dire crises, but it helps make the consequences of the film’s circumstance feel like a real potential global impact, instead of just “oh no, the X-mansion’s been attacked again.”
  • It’s fun. The two Bryan Singer-directed X-Men films — as groundbreaking as they were for their time — were dark, not terribly well-acted, and certainly not peppered with any of the whimsy of X-Men First Class. Somehow, Matthew Vaughn balances the seriousness of the subject matter (and especially Erik’s plight of revenge) with the Bond-esque thrills and comedic moments of the film.
  • It’s all about James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. Seriously, these two knock it out of the park, completely redefining Professor X and Magneto while developing their characters further than few other interpretations ever have. And seeing Xavier as a fast-talking post-grad swinging his way through Oxford University’s co-eds? Sheer genius.

In the wake of the weekend box office ($55 million domestically, I believe), there has been talk of the film not being a “hit,” because it didn’t bring in opening weekend numbers like Thor, Iron Man or even the original X-Men trilogy did. But I think the word-of-mouth on this is so good, it’ll have much better legs in theaters, and instead of geeks bitching about “continuity” from the comics or even the three prior X-films, they’d probably be better off looking at this like J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek — a newer, flashier, exciting take on an old formula.

But that’s just my two cents.

1 Comment

  1. Kerry June 6, 2011 8:57 pm 

    I couldn’t agree more Pj! Fassbender and McAvoy were both tremendously good! The script was brilliant, the swinging sixties production design was fantastic, and that one cameo was PRICELESS! I loved it and will be seeing it in the theater again.