X-MEN: FIRST CLASS
MOVIE: **** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
Not too long ago, I saw someone mention on Twitter that it seems unbelievable that two of the best movies that came out this past summer were prequels that were also designed to reboot two weakened franchises. That person was talking about “X-Men: First Class” and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” That person was absolutely right. When both of these films were being developed, they seemed like they would have problems, but they both ended up becoming excellent installments that revitalized both the “X-Men” and the “Planet of the Apes” series.
“X-Men: First Class” did what “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” failed to do… it made the universe richer and actually gave some insight in characters we had been plenty of times in the past. The story follows young versions of Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) and Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) as they meet up and join forces to build a community of mutants and help avert the Cuban Missile Crisis.
A lot of the weight of “X-Men: First Class” is carried by Fassbender, who delivers an extremely sympathetic performance as the would-be Magneto. After all, when you see all he goes through, it’s no wonder he grows up to do the dastardly acts he does in the first three “X-Men” movies.
Does the continuity completely work with the other films? Not really. There are plenty of gaffs in the storytelling, but that also happens in comic books that are written and drawn by a slate of different people. In the end, “X-Men: First Class” works as an origin story we didn’t know we needed (and it serves as a much better one than “Wolverine,” reminding me of the talk of a Magneto origin film before that). The action and effects are great, especially compared to that of the original “X-Men,” which is a bit dated by today’s standards.
There are some problems with the film, most of them falling on the shoulders (or maybe the breasts) of January Jones, whose vacant expression throughout the film sucks the life out of her scenes. She’s somewhat balanced by Rose Byrne, who’s a fine actress but disastrously skeletal. At least Jennifer Lawrence as the young Mystique offers a realistic body type and good acting.
The Blu-ray comes with a Digital Copy disc for portable viewing. Bonus content includes the “X Marks the Spot” embedded viewing mode, which can also be broken out into a half hour or so of featurettes. There’s also the “Cerebro: Mutant Tracker” feature which gives background on the various mutants in the “X-Men” movies. The long-form documentary “Children of the Atom” offers an in-depth look at the film. These are balanced by deleted and extended scenes and a composer’s isolated score.