Today: February 26, 2024

X-Men: First Class DVD

Superhero shenanigans abound in this thoroughly entertaining and clever skew on the X-Men franchise.

Superhero shenanigans abound
in this thoroughly entertaining and clever skew on the X-Men franchise.

There
are three things Hollywood cannot get enough of right now: 1. A Superhero
Movie. 2. A new instalment in an
already hugely successful franchise and 3. A reboot of a franchise that has nowhere
else to go. With this in mind the studio heads over at 20th Century Fox
must have been lighting some fairly huge cigars when the pitch for X-Men First
Class came through as it firmly ticks all of the above boxes. But give credit it where it’s due, it’s
one thing to bow to popular demand it’s another thing to deliver a film that manages
to transcend the genre, premise and history of all of the above to become one
of the year’s most fun and entertaining movies.

With
the Cold War in full swing mutants find themselves being used as pawns as the
Cuban Missile crisis mounts. While
Erik Lehnsherr, aka Magneto (Fassbender),
tries to track down the man who terrorised him in a World War II concentration
camp Sebastian Shaw (Bacon), a young
Charles Xavier (McAvoy) is recruited
into the CIA to help them better understand genetic mutations. Along the way paths will cross,
friendships will be made and loyalties to the mutant/human cause will be
tested.

Vaughn and writer Goldman have form in the superhero
genre with Kick Ass. First Class certainly forgoes much of
the black comedy of that break-out hit but replaces it with a gentle sense of
humour. Credit should go to the
creative team for finding a way of bringing an engaging plot to what is
essentially an origin story that we assumed we were all too familiar with. The 60s setting allows for a certain
kitsch charm. Imagine, if you will,
TVs Man Men with a superhero spin and groovy period colourings. There’s plenty of intrigue, involving
all the mutants’ eventual goals, plus a political backdrop, of the Cuban
Missile Crisis, that makes everything fit together like a well lubricated
engine.

At
the heart of this purring machine are the characters. Previous films have
focused far too firmly on fan favourite Wolverine and, although he makes a
fleeting, but brilliant cameo here, the attention is given to previously
unfleshed out characters in the X-Men cannon. Case in point; the relationship between Magneto and Xavier
was only ever hinted at in previous films and here takes centre stage.

In
many ways First Class is like an Ocean’s Eleven, think McAvoy in the Clooney
role and Fassbender in Pitt’s role, with a darker edge, political undertones
and superheroes performing enough set-pieces to replace the brooding cool of
Ocean’s. But this is to undersell
the film. First Class delves into
some otherwise fringe characters of the franchise to date. Raven, aka Mystique, is given a solid
story arc when previously she was nothing more than a slinky blue thing. Jennifer
Lawrence
, again proving to be a highlight of any of her films to date,
brings a cunning blend of sexy sass combined with insecure desperation. Beast (Holt), who was almost a footnote in the original films, here gets
more than his fair share of the story and makes for an interesting ying to
Raven’s yang.

But
the two characters we’re really interested in here are Xavier and Magneto and
it’s them who make First Class enjoyable.
Magneto is no longer the boo-hiss villain of the past. Here, in Fassbender’s frankly hypnotic
presence, he is a dark and fractured character. His anger and rage make him a formidable avenger in his
quest to kill Shaw. Indeed the film
is always at its most engaging when Fassbender is delving into Magneto’s inner
psyche and perfectly illustrates the fairly stark polar flip the character must
go through. One scene in
particular is so reminiscent of an avenging James Bond it’s hard, near
impossible, to see past Fassbender as the natural successor to 007. Xavier meanwhile is no longer the monk
like presence of Patrick Stewart. Instead he’s a bit of a rogue, playful
and flirtatious in McAvoy’s hands he’s an endlessly more likeable character
than his former guise. Indeed for
the first half hour of First Class McAvoy revels in his womanising ways to such
an extent you almost miss it when he goes all-serious on us.

If
there is one let down of the film it’s that the finale is determined to tie
everything in to Bryan Singer’s original X-Men movie. The pity being that there is so much chemistry and spark
between McAvoy and Fassbender it is unfortunate we won’t get more in the
inevitable sequel.

A
fun character drama disguised as a romping good superhero movie X-Men First
Class does everything you want it to and more. Suffice to say these X-Men truly are First Class.

To Buy X-Men: First Class on Triple Play Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital copy Click Here or on DVD Click Here

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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