Let’s start with the good aspects of the film. Overall, the performances in X-Men: First Class were fantastic! James McAvoy as Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr superbly carried the film to its obvious conclusion, where dear friends are made bitter rivals. While McAvoy’s Xavier didn’t have far to go from wise-beyond-his-years graduate student to wise-beyond-his-years School for Gifted Youngsters head master, I was enthralled with Fassbender’s emotional journey and depth. I loved his performance in Inglorious Basterds, but his portrayal of Erik Lehnsherr was like watching an actor who truly found his stride. Kevin Bacon as the evil Sebastian Shaw provided an excellent villain, despite the holes left (by the writers) in his character’s backstory.
The film was peppered with a few Hollywood heavyweights, including Oliver Platt, who met a surprisingly early demise and was quite underused (especially given his character’s name, Man in the Black Suit), and Michael Ironside. If you didn’t catch this interesting tidbit in the end credits, Ironside was, for some reason, credited as “M. Ironside.” What brought on this mysterious credit? The world may never know...
Perhaps, the most exciting appearances in the film came from X-Men alums Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Romijn, reprising their roles of Wolverine and Mystique, if only for a moment. Strangely enough, these flashes of excitement were what made the film enjoyable. It was almost as if each thrill lasted just long enough to carry you to the next flash of fun. A notable mention should go to Nicholas Hoult, who provided a superb version of everyone’s favorite Beast, despite the less-than-stellar special make-up effects.
Lastly, I do want to give my sincerest thanks to whomever at 20th Century Fox decided to remove Matthew Vaughn’s love song, “Love Love” by Take That, from the film. As reported in “The Fanboy Scoop - Week In Review” podcast from last week, Vaughn received a vast amount of negative feedback from female geeks everywhere when he insinuated that the only way that women would see X-Men: First Class would be to include a love song.
Per Vaughn, "I think there's a lot for women to enjoy in this film," he said. "Remember Armageddon [and] the Aerosmith song that got girls who probably wouldn't have originally gone to see Armageddon hearing there was a love song, and [saying], 'Oh, maybe there is something in the film?' . . . So it's pure commerce, to be blunt, and I want women to see this film." (Thanks to Blastr.com for the tip.)
Despite my heightened anticipation to hear this glorious song (after all, that is the only reason that I went to see the film), I was disheartened to find that it was nowhere to be found and completely removed from the end credits, as well.
Thus ends my praise of the film. Before delving into my issues with the film, I do want to stress that I did enjoy it. I was not overjoyed, but I certainly would not convince fans to avoid it. Without further ado, here are the faults of X-Men: First Class.
First, I will start with a few minor issues. With every new location in the film, the filmmakers felt it necessary to emblazon the establishing shot with a blatantly obvious caption that described the location. For example, “Covert CIA Headquarters Building.” Here’s the thing, Matthew Vaughn: a) It’s a building? What gave that away?! b) If the next scene involves actors that are portraying CIA agents, we will get the hint; and, c) a HUGE building is quite difficulty to maintain as “covert.”
Next on the list was the consistent use of miming by McAvoy and Fassbender when making use of their powers. I may be mistaken, so please correct me if I am wrong, but Professor X did not need to touch his temple every time that he accessed his powers, and neither did Magneto. Perhaps, it was an acting choice or the decision of the director, but I couldn’t help but giggle every time that Fassbender crouched into position to turn on the power; all that I could think was that he was doing his best impression of Sho’nuf from The Last Dragon. And, McAvoy was no better, touching his temple at every turn as if trying to convince the audience that he really was psychic.
Another issue with this film was the lack of continuity with Emma Frost’s powers. Diamonds are supposed to be the strongest metal known to man. Can anyone explain to me how a common, bronze bedpost is supposed to break Frost’s neck when she is in diamond form? While we're on the subject of January Jones' character, could her acting BE any more painful to watch?
Finally, I saved the best (or worst) for last. My biggest problem with X-Men: First Class was with its view of and message towards women. In the eyes of the screen writers (two of which happen to be female - shame on you!) and director (as detailed above) of the film, women are only capable of prostituting their bodies and overall appearance, literally and figuratively. Both Emma Frost and Angel worked as prostitutes to accomplish their goals, which meant doing the bidding of whichever male leader seemed to be winning. Mystique bounced from man to man, hoping that someone would tell her she was pretty. All of the women were scantily clad throughout the film (if not for its entirety) and were not given much of a story other than realizing that a) they have to use their bodies to get what they want, or b) appearance is everything. Even Moira, the only female character who was somewhat able to think for herself, took her clothes off in the first five minutes of the film because, “That’s one weapon that the CIA didn’t give me.” What kind of message is this for women? The female characters in the X-Men comic books were strong, intelligent, well-rounded characters. And, they happened to be female. What is so difficult about writing a strong character who happens to be female?
Well, folks, thus ends my rant about X-Men: First Class. Many of the audience members stayed in their seats until the end of the credits, hoping for an Easter egg of additional footage. Unfortunately for them, the movie credits ended with no teaser, but the audience’s collective sigh of disappointment reaffirmed that X-Men: First Class succeeded in leaving the viewers wanting more. Where do we go from here? Are there any intriguing stories left, now that we watched Xavier being confined to a wheelchair and Erik choosing evil? Honestly, I highly doubt it.
Overall, the film was very entertaining yet problematic. If you are interested in seeing X-Men: First Class, I would suggest giving it a try, but buyer beware. You may be disappointed.