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X-Men: First Class (2011)

01/01/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy X-Men: First Class (2011) in the USA - or Buy X-Men: First Class (2011) in the UK

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region 2 DVD: pub: 20th Century Fox 5098811000. 126 minute film with a few extras. Price: about GBP 9.99 (UK) if you know where to look. cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne, January Jones, Oliver Platt and Kevin Bacon.

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I have to confess to some trepidation to watching ‘X-Men: First Class’. After the way things were somewhat mangled after the third film, ‘The Last Stand’, to go back to the beginning of how things started kinda defeats the objective. More so, as it repeats the first ‘X-Men’ film of how Magneto discovered his powers although then it was then elaborated upon. I mean, you know who’s going to survive, not to mention how much it deviates from the original comicbook. Even if I enjoyed watching the film, part of me thinks that these ‘X-Men’ films are not the definitive article yet and given a couple years or so, we’re going to see one that actually starts off with Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman and Marvel Girl. After all, it isn’t as though none of them haven’t made an appearance in any of these four films so no one can say they aren’t possible yet.

In many respects, doing a film closer to the original comicbook from 1963 onwards creates its own problems. If you even showed a hint of Xavier’s step-brother, Cain Marko, then you would have to hint that there would be a Juggernaut somewhere down the line. The same would apply if Karl Lykos was mentioned as one of Xavier’s contemporaries. Mind you, having the Savage Land and its dinosaurs blended with super-heroes is certainly something that is long over-due.

For this story, the activities of the Hellfire Club happen much earlier and whose leader, Sebastian Shaw (actor Kevin Bacon) wants to instigate by manipulation a war between the USSR and USA in 1962. An odd comment by Shaw that mutants are children of the atom seems a bit redundant when all the older mutants here would have been born before the development of the atomic bomb. I couldn’t help but think that Shaw’s plan was a version of Factor Three’s way to wipe out mankind.

Into this mix, we have CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (actress Rose Byrne) recruiting Charles Xavier (actors Laurence Belcher and James McAvoy at various ages) as a consultant before finding out he’s a telepath. The way Xavier presses his temple every time he uses his power almost makes me think he has a button there. He in turn recruits Erik Lehnsherr (actors Bill Milner and Michael Fassbender at various ages) and they in turn recruit a team of young mutants, even if some of them, like Beast (actor Nicholas Hoult) seem too close to Xavier’s age. An opportunity to show they have an international background is lost when Banshee (actor Caleb Landry Jones) doesn’t have even a hint of an Irish accent. I share a bit of despondency with having Alex Summers aka Havok (actor Lucas Till) around as well but this is film version and it’s already deviating from the comicbooks so I suppose anything can go. It is interesting that some attention was given to explain how Banshee got his flight vanes and Havok a device to help him focus his energy blast. Having the Beast invent practically everything for Xavier from Cerebro to the Blackbird as well does tend to indicate that his energy should have been devoted to that than as a team member. Having Raven aka Mystique (actresses Morgan Lily and Jennifer Lawrence at different ages) being a life-long friend of Xavier who turns against his ideology for Magneto’s seems at odds because as a shape-shifter she doesn’t have to worry what she looks like.

Much of this film is devoted to recruitment and training and then on the attack against members of the Hellfire Club and their devious plot, topped with the USA and USSR attempting to annihilate them at the end and failing. No spoiler in knowing that. The good guys are supposed to win after all. Other than the Emma Frost, the White Queen (actress January Jones), the other members, Azazel (actor Jason Flemyng) and Riptide (actor Álex González) have wonderful effects demonstrations but are a waste of two actors for the lack of dialogue and characterisation.

Considering the amount of extras other super-hero films have, ‘X-Men: First Class’ doesn’t even rate an audio commentary nor even a Stan Lee cameo and only extended scenes of material in the film which does make me wonder if there’s a special edition waiting in the wings.

Although I’ve been critical of a lot of things about this film, as a standalone away from the comicbooks, it does hold up pretty well and a neat way to pass a couple hours. Just don’t expect it to be cannon.

GF Willmetts

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