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Film Review: X-Men: First Class

Jun 06, 2011 08:33AM ● By Wendy Sipple

The film is a prequel of the popular trilogy of X-Men films that were released earlier this decade. The film opens with the same scene the first X-Men film opens with as a young Erik Lensherr is entering a concentration in Germany 1942 and expands on the horrors he experiences there. Young Charles Xaiver, is also shown as he discovers a pre-teen Mystique. The two grow up together as brother sister. X-Men: First Class quickly jumps to 1962 and explores Erik Lensherr’s quest for revenge and Xaiver’s involvement with the CIA. Their two paths cross when they share a common foe, Sebastian Shaw. Shaw’s quest is to start a nuclear war between Russia and the US eliminating humans and leaving the world for him to conquer thus creating the Cuban Missile Crisis. Erik and Charles team up to recruit and train a mutant team of their own to do battle with Shaw’s group, the Hellfire Club.

X-Men: First Class is an epic film that expertly weaves fantasy with history. While the stakes are high the film manages to put character first and finds time to explore many relationships between several characters without sacrificing depth. What truly sets X-Men apart from the other comic book franchises is its open allegory of racial tensions of our country. It’s unmistakable that Charles Xaiver is based on Martin Luther King Jr. while Erik Lensherr represents a Malcolm X approach. This comic book series takes on a much tougher type of debate than the standard good vs. evil. The lines are definitely blurred. It’s very hard to really label Erik Lensherr as a villain as it is not a large leap to think Lensherr may have a point. I am not so sure if I were a mutant I wouldn’t be on Lensherr’s side, especially after the events in this film.
While the movie moved briskly and effortlessly as the plot developed, it never missed an opportunity to stop to breath. Some of the best moments are the quiet moments of dialog or small scale action scenes in the movie, my favorite being a meeting between Erik and three bar patrons. The film also mixed in a few cameos that connects the series and provided some fun lighter moments (and perhaps the best use of the F-word in a film).
The performances by the cast were excellent. James McAvoy managed the role of Charles Xaiver with a lot of charm and confidence. The clear star of the film is Michael Fassbender as Erik Lensherr. Michael Fassbender has an intensity about him that he has brought to every role I’ve seen him in. It is hard to imagine him not becoming one of the biggest stars in Hollywood and not earning awards as well. He’s a terrific talent and his take on Erik Lensherr is powerful and captivating.
The pace of the movie is quick and there are quite a few characters that populate the screen. Having a base of knowledge by either having read the comic books or having seen the first two X-Men movies (skip the third, it is not worth your time) will enrich your experience. I can’t help thinking how perfectly suited X-Men would be for a large budget TV series where even more time could be dedicated to the relationship and drama between these characters. There is so much depth in this series and room for so much possibility it’s potential seems like it would be limitless in the right hands.
X-Men: First Class is the finest “comic book” movie to date, and the best film I have seen this year so far. Matthew Vahn, the film’s director, did a masterful job and has already committed to a second film. I can’t wait to see how this group of characters play a part in history going forward. X-Men: First Class gets my highest Recommendation.
FILMS LIKE X-MEN: FIRST CLASS: – X-Men 2, Dark Knight, Serenity and Spider-Man 2

Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.

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