X-men were in the Cold War?

A Marvel twist to a History Lesson

This weekend saw the release of X-men first class, a sequel, or should I say prequel, that has been assigned the duty of answering the questions that fans of the series may have.  Like Rise of the Lycans and Star Wars Episodes 1-3 before it, X-men First Class is a film that has been tailored to fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle, while still providing a unique storyline to capture the attention of the audience.  However, this prequel has another layer to it, in which this film could be used as a restart for Marvel’s mutant series that opens up the possibilities of multiple film sequels in the future, much like Star Trek did in 2009.

To start this review off, First Class is set in the Cold War era, a time of fear centered on the threat of nuclear devastation between America and Russia that is made famous in every history text book you may have read in school.  What was absent in those books however, is the involvement of two groups of mutants that may have either spurred the embers of the war or been an impasse to the devastation it could have caused.  One of these mutants is the future Professor X, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) a young, boastful, and dedicated scholar who likes to flirt with the women using scientific pick up lines.  The second mutant is the mentally scarred, Holocaust surviving, rage filled Eric Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), the future Magneto who begins as a bounty hunter filled with thoughts of revenge.  Despite the difference in background of the two, these two men become close friends as they, along with the other mutants hiding in the shadows of society, who are working towards accomplishing a plethora of goals.  As the other movies, particularly X3, have hinted, the heads of the two mutant factions were once extremely close.  This movie focuses on the development of that relationship as the two train to control not only their powers, but their emotions as well.

Perhaps it is here I should emphasize one of the greatest strengths of this movie, which is the impressive combination of Fassbender and McAvoy.  These two had very big roles to fill when they signed up for the job, and in my opinion they hit the part dead on.  McAvoy’s sheepish and proper nature that he had shown as Mr. Tumnus in Narnia is a perfect fit for the young Xavier.  Complement this with Fassbender’s rough, compulsive, and aggressive nature that he has shown in 300 and Inglorious Basterds and you have a dynamic duo that brings the movie to life.  Various scenes have Eric bringing out Charles’ hidden anger, while other scenes have Charles using his voice, combined with his powers, to help bring Eric to a calm atmosphere.  The two bold nature’s prevent this movie from becoming a one sided predictable argument that other superhero movies, like Spiderman and Daredevil, have shown in the past.  Perhaps their acting chemistry will provide enough evidence for future movies to use these two as the star roles in various film genres from spies and warriors to rivals in law, sports, or some other competition/job.

Despite the focus on X and Magneto, other mutants are thrown into the fray.  Two of the more well known mutants are Mystique and Beast, who kind of take the second place focus of the cameras, while Havok and Banshee are occasionally shown to provide comic relief.  In a fashion very similar to X-men origins, these mutants, despite how well known they are really don’t show off their skills as we have seen in the past.  Fans of Mystique in particular may be disappointed at the lack of acrobatic flips, crude one liners, and deception that she was famous for in the past as most of this is absent from the film.  However don’t think that all the powers have been disregarded.  We still the mutants show off their flashy powers, especially during training, in a brilliant digital display that we’ve seen in the past X-men films.  Although the mutant team is not as brash or aggressive as the X-men teams in the past, the mutant gang still provides some entertainment in the form of comedic relief which helps keep some of the slow parts fun, especially Banshee whose clueless, stoner like comedy made lots of audience members laugh.  For me the thing that provided the most humor was the countless similarities to scenes from Star Wars.  There were many times in the movie that my friend and I were quoting Star Wars lines that fit in perfectly with the scene, and a keen eye and fan of the series will easily be able to catch the one liners.

Perhaps the biggest disappointments for me in this film were the mutant villains that Charles and the team focused on.  Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) and his posse, White Queen, Red Devil, and Riptide, were not really that evil or useful in the film.  Throughout the movie I found myself wondering what these mutants were going to do other than sit around in submarine chairs and drink champagne.  Most of the action these mutants did involved a simple show off of their powers, while wearing fancy suits, and boasting about their plans for world domination.  It seemed like these mutants were all talk and no bite as they rarely showed off their powers and rarely put anything into action.  Kevin Bacon in particular seemed to have a power for just throwing his bull around, occasionally using his ability to take out a few people.  Red Devil, one of the coolest looking villains, had a few cool moves in the movie, but his acrobatic offspring Nightcrawler from X2 shows him up.  White Queen mainly shows off her psychic abilities, but is nonetheless a supermodel mutant often showing off her lingerie and providing some eye candy for the male public.

All in all this X-men prequel is a decent movie with a lot of character development and storytelling involved.    Fans of the comic book series may not like the new legacy and some may find the inconsistencies of the story to be a bit annoying, but overall they did a good job.  Should this movie be a reboot of the X series and provide enough ground for another sequel then two things should be done next time.  One is make sure to bring Fassbender and McAvoy back as the two leads to keep that awesome chemistry.  Two make the villains more involved and more evil to help bring the audience more into the movie.  My rating overall is a solid 8.

So until next time my friends enjoy the movies and look to my next new movie review on Super 8 next Friday!

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