Saturday, June 11, 2011

X-Men: First Class – High Marks For A First Class Effort

With an all star cast, 20th Century Fox unveils their newest X-flick with the summer's latest tale of mutant strife – X-MEN: First Class.

Continuity with the Marvel (Comic Book) Universe
The First Class
THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Continuity for X-Men movies is a bad joke at best and this movie hits a new doesn’t have the continuity with the other X-movies. Billed as a prequel within the continuity of the films, I watched it under that pretense. How foolish of me.
ARTH VADER (AV): Even though FOX completely re-wrote every shred of Marvel comic book continuity in this movie, for once, I’ve got to say – and you're going to kill me for this Pontificator – I didn't mind it. Look, the X-MEN story lines run too deep and take on too many sub-plots to make any sense to the layman. Now, as a comic purist, I was appalled. Yet, I was able (somehow!) to put away the continuity crisis – prevalent in all FOX hero movies – the movie is a good time.
(TP): Not killing you yet Vadster, but with terms like “preboot” (prequel/reboot) and “requel” (reboot/prequel) describing the film, I should’ have known it was trouble. There was very little in this film from the comic except the characters themselves. Wait...I retract that, Beast was in the first class.
(AV): I missed Scottish brogues from both Moira McTaggart (played by the lovely Rose Byrne) and from Banshee, a.k.a. Sean Cassidy (played by newcomer, Caleb Landry Jones) that I heard in my head as a kid reading X-MEN. The twists of Mystique and Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) being adoptive siblings and the Hellfire club being a Vegas brothel – well they were just two of many bitter pills to swallow. So I shut that part of my brain off and just watched.

Casting, Directing and Acting
(AV): This is where First Class really shines, Tiffy! I couldn't ask for better casting. This film is so stacked with talent, minus the very flat (by delivery, I mean!) performance of January Jones, as The White Queen and the odd but solid performance of Raven/Mystique (played by Jennifer Lawrence).
(TP): These were the best performances I’ve seen in a comic film and had very dramatic moments dealing with pain and loss. Michael Fassbender had my undivided attention with every scene. I understood Magneto’s pain and philosophical position...and I even found myself agreeing with it! (yes, I became an evil mutant watching this film).
(AV): First rate acting and stunning direction were assets as the VFX folks outdid themselves as always, but the camera work, the exponentially increased story pacing and cinematography were all... first class – err – rate. P-Man?
(TP): Kevin Bacon turned Sebastian Shaw into the biggest menace I’ve seen in a movie in a long time and his resolve gave me chills. Jennifer Lawrence brought more to Mystique than I’ve seen in the other films combined. All other cast were terrific despite missed opportunities for more depth. With top notch directing, I only questioned the aerial battle between Banshee and Angel...but my misgivings are minor compared to the excellence delivered by great casting, superb directing, and incredible acting.
Special Effects
(TP): Excellent and plentiful, Arth. Sebastian Shaw absorbs energy and Emma Frost transforms into diamond...and I turned to mush every time I saw it. All the powers were believable and awesome. I thought Darwin’s power manifestation was the most interesting.
(AV): Stunning, Ponty, absolutely stunning. To me, if a Movie handles effects right, it can march right up to that red line between believability and plausibility. I believe there is a definitive difference between Special Effects (SFX) and Visual Effects (VFX). SFX show me the cool stuff that’s possible while VFX let me experience it. I felt as though I was flying with Banshee over the Soviet Fleet, or that I had to duck every time Havok used his power or cringe in terror every time Azazel would drop a CIA agent from 500 feet. This, along with some impressive audio effects, made this movie shine like Xavier’s cranium.
(TP):The (VFX) were indeed impressive Vader-Nader. Simple acts were done creatively enough that large displays of power put me beside myself with excitement. The movie delivered when it came to powers and when it came to Magneto...a simple coin turned out to be the deadliest display of all.
Taking a Deeper Look
(TP): This film had humor, action and profound drama. Xavier’s exploration of Magneto’s pain is touching and their chemistry is epic. That said, it failed as a prequel to the other movies. Plagued by continuity errors, it should have been a reboot.
(AV): This is where we separate homo superior from homo sapiens, folks. The hard truth is that the folks over at FOX are NOT in the business of making good movies. Their business is to make money, and true to the Hollywood mantra, they assimilate, butcher or consume anything that will turn a profit. From best selling novels, comic books, graphic novels (yes, there IS a difference!), plays, poems, short stories, Broadway plays and musicals, nothing is sacred. Or as good as the original. When was the last time anyone left a theater saying; "Whoa! That was better then the book!"
(TP): Yeah...and it goes deeper. Beast built Cerebro but in X2 it was Xavier and Magneto. Not a biggie, Xavier lied. Emma Frost is a teenager in X-Men Origins: Wolverine but here she’s an adult. Xavier seemingly forgets about Magneto’s helmet here in X-Men. In the opening of X-Men: The Last Stand and the end of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Xavier is walking and bald...being in a wheelchair with hair in this film is twenty years too soon. Storm and Cyclops are children here which makes them older in X-Men than depicted (giving credence to my assertion that Angela Basset should have played Storm!). The history here between Mystique and Xavier is completely new, but we’ve already established Xavier is a liar, so I’m sure he makes omissions too. In X-Men he told Logan he met Erik at seventeen...and now we know they met in his twenties. Charles is clearly a habitual liar.
(AV): Ouch. So, X-MEN: First Class will fall short of a much greater potential. However, as a story with an underlying subtext for greed, intolerance and overcoming personal adversity, this movie actually hovers near relevance. Pontificator, you and I may disagree on this, but when it comes to the thrill of seeing these characters on the big screen with top-bill actors (Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw? Brilliant!), I’m still as giddy as a nine year old in a comic book store.
(TP): Darwin is easily the most interesting character introduced in a long time, his demise is cliche and, given the nature of his power, dumb. Although Wikipedia stated “ After the credits roll, he is seen reforming his body into energy on the moon” (they have recently changed the wording here since it didn't happen) this never manifested itself when the credits stopped rolling.
Looking Ahead: Sequels
Bastion (Nimrod Sentinel)
(TP): If they dare to make a sequel to this prequel, I can only cringe at the further continuity issues that will arise. Kudos to whomever cast Michael Ironside, I’m a big fan and want him in the next one. There is so much material to source from that it’s just ridiculous to repeat anything.
(AV): Sequels? This one's easy. Since FOX bought the rights to co-produce the X-MEN, Fantastic Four and Spider-Man with Marvel Studios, their screenwriters are concerned with selling tickets. After five movies it's safe to say they have some winners on hand, and with screen plays on deck for X-MEN Origins: Deadpool and X-MEN Origins: Magneto, FOX isn't stupid. With a $50 Million opening weekend, movies like X-MEN: First Class are here to stay. With an endless well of sub-plots, story lines and characters, FOX has a limitless vault of concepts to butcher. The source material is way better than FOX’s dopey ideas, in-cohesive time-lines and pointless stories. Yes, I know a movie is a different animal, but when you ride that original source material into the sunset (Spider-Man, Iron-Man, Thor) you get really fantastic films that everyone loves. Pontificator, how say you?
(TP): Show me Sentinels! Shock me and make it the future sentinel, Nimrod...attached to a really cool future storyline. Trick me and go in the opposite direction taking the story to the past with Apocalypse...Mr. Sinister in tow as his henchman. Of course, that would require we go further back than X-Men Origins: Wolverine did, all the way to ancient Egypt to understand En Sabah Nur (Apocalypse for those that don’t know his real name), but I’m up for the trip. It can be the sequel that’s a prequel to the prequel. Heck, give me Nimrod in the same story and we can have it be an epilogue too!
THE PONTIFICATOR rates X-Men: First Class: This is tough since I was taken out of the game early. I went to a prequel and got a pre-boot. So all through the movie every inconsistency was magnified a thousand fold. I struggled to like this film and there was much about it to enjoy. Thinking back, I feel better now reflecting than I did when the credits were rolling.
ARTH VADER Rates X-MEN: First Class: I know my esteemed partner will lambaste me on this, but I liked this movie. Filled with could have beens, should have beens and would have beens, this was the most poignant, best scripted, most closely aligned and best cast X-MEN to date. Yes, serious re-tooling is needed to get these movies to live even close to their potential, but that would take a wholesale buyout from Marvel studios – and that just isn’t going to happen, even with Disney backing. Fun, engaging and filled with beautiful, cool and deadly mutants of every creed and one the best movie-pacing efforts of the genre, I give this film a solid eight busted blocks
(TP): Consider yourself lambasted your Vader-ness, but I concede the excellent special effects, superb acting and parts that still have me thinking, like Azazel’s use of teleportation to make it rain men...literally. The profound exploration of pain and loss.The brilliant writing that put Xavier in the position of savior to all mankind, at the cost of being an accomplice to murder. That scene alone rattled my brain. Initially I rated five blocks busted, but have reconsidered and give it six.
X-MEN First Class: 7/10 Busted Blocks

Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. For the record, I did sit through the entire credit roll at the end and ... NOTHING! It was the X-MEN movies who started all of that 'sneak peak' stuff. C'mon guys! Don't do that. You will loose more fans than you think by continuously pissing us off.

    Wolverine and all three X-MEN movies had a little tease at the end. It is one of the tactics comics used for decades to lore us back for the next installment.

    Very disappointing, Fox. Very, disappointing.

  2. I'm really not surprised by the lack of a tease at the end of this movie Vader...after all, it was these kinds of tidbits that got First Class into continuity I can see how they would want to avoid it.

    I just don't understand why the decision makers can't figure this stuff's not rocket science, it's a super hero movie! This need to always reinvent the wheel is frustrating....

    If anyone with influence on how these movies get made is reading this...the answer is yes!...Vader and The Pontificator can do it better!...:-)

  3. I was wondering why they killed the only black guy....ironically the guy who had the power to NOT die. I guess it served him right for allowing someone to place a fireball down his mouth.

    Darwin: Wait...I got uh I'm adapti...fml nevermind bye guys.

    1. Yes...I didn't think this made any sense either and had read somewhere that there was supposed to be a scene after the credits wherein he reappears on the moon. Darwin ca survive an encounter with the Hulk (in the comics)...but can't survive Shaw in the movie...? Dumb..