Featuring a completely new cast as our favourite mutants, the X-Men franchise reviews are back with First Class, the fifth instalment in a saga that proved to be marvellous with its first few films. However, taking into account the movie that preceded this one, which depicted Wolverine’s Origins, was a pretty terrible, First Class had a hard job: demonstrating X-Men hadn’t got off track. Was it good enough to accomplish such a mission, though? Let’s find out!
Why not start with something that we usually talk about towards the end of the review? The Blu-Ray of this film includes, as an extra, a very unique way to watch the film, called the Isolated Score. As you may have guessed, it let’s you enjoy Henry Jackman’s soundtrack at its best. No wonder why they included it, as the score that can be heard throughout the film is exceedingly compelling, especially when the distorted guitar riffs kick in. It didn’t get the praise it deserved, as it always happens with the music featured in movies of this genre.
It’s always hard to see new actors embody characters we identify with a certain face or voice. People hated the idea of Daniel Craig playing James Bond when it was first announced, yet Casino Royale turned out to be one of the best 007 movies of all time. The same thing happened with Christian Bale in the role of Batman or Heath Ledger as the Joker. Hell, people were mad about Hugh Jackman portraying Wolverine at first! This time around, however, it seems that they have cast the perfect actors and actresses to portray the younger versions of the well known characters.
James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender portray young mutants Charles Xavier and Magneto respectively, and they both perform incredibly. They are a fantastic fit to their characters, but more importantly, the relationship among the two is beautiful throughout the movie, it feels genuine and intense. Jennifer Lawrence is in the film too, in the role of Mystique, the shape-shifting mutant. Her character is quite simple, but it must be said that the actress’ performance is very correct too. Other less prominent roles are appropriately cast too, from Nicholas Hoult’s fun Beast to January Jones’ Frost.
Nevertheless, there are a few weaker casting choices, the most obvious being the antagonist’s male sidekicks. Even if it is not entirely the actors’ fault, Azazel and Riptide (played by Jason Flemyng and the always disappointing Alex González, respectively) look pretentious and stupid. They are miles and miles away from looking like an actual threat.
First Class tells the origin story of most recurring characters in the X-Men franchise. From how Xavier and Magneto met each other to how the school for young mutants was founded, many questions any fan seeks answers for will find them here, as the Professor Xavier and his friends are enlisted by the government to stop mutant Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) from starting World War III. The story unfolds in a rather interesting way, but it loses focus too many times in an attempt to provide more insight into the lives of the main characters, which unfortunately results in a rather weak main villain.
Matthew Vaughn, who recently directed the terrific Kingsman, was in the driver’s seat of First Class too. His work isn’t bad at all, although it is full of missed opportunities. Together with John Mathienson, the cinematographer in charge, he should have taken the chance to make something more unique. For example, he could have used the time period in which the story happens, the 1970s, as a distinctive feature of the film rather than just making it part of its lore.
The same thing happens with the script. It isn’t terrible, yet it shines at nothing. It works properly, the lines delivered aren’t poor nor forced, the jokes are chuckle-worthy… But there isn’t a single memorable line at all. The “Quotes” section of the IMDb page for First Class is the dullest ever! Lots and lots of missed opportunities everywhere.
There are two sides to the visual effects in this movie. On the one hand, most of them are absolutely fantastic. They look great, they feel phenomenal even to this date, six years later. On the other hand, there are certain key moments in the film that lose all their dramatic effect due to poorly executed CGI. Funny enough, the missteps are the same as those in the very first movies, as the vehicles are clearly the most meaningful examples of rough computer generated imagery once again.
All in all, X-Men First Class is a very interested movies for fans, as well as for those viewers seeking an entertaining superhero film. It is a much, much better piece of film-making than its predecessor, without a doubt. However, due to the vast amount of missed opportunities in both storytelling and aesthetics, it is far from the fantastic first two entries in the franchise, too. With a great cast setting up an alternate timeline in the X-Men universe, only one thing is clear: there are still a lot of stories to be told. Hopefully, the best are yet to come. 6/10