X-Men: First Class
X-Men: First Class 2011
X-Men: First Class is an interesting idea for a movie. It’s not exactly a prequel since it eschews several elements of the sequels that came before it, but it’s not exactly an entire reboot either because it pulls several parts of its history and future directly from the other movies. It was another late movie for me, something I need to stop doing so much. It’s also one of the rare instances that I actually rented the movie on bluray. I love getting the chance to bust out the bluray player, but I tend to watch most movies either streaming or on the computer’s DVD player, it’s all hooked up to the same monitor though. First Class looked fantastic, even though it did have a few slight hiccoughs due to it being a rental. I guess blurays are scratch resistant, but not completely scratch-proof. It’s a great place to jump into the current continuity of X-Men.
The movie starts out with a retread of the opening scene in the original X-Men movie of Magneto as a young boy being separated from his mother by the Nazi’s when his magnetic powers come to light. It’s truncated, but it follows pretty much the exact same beats as the original. I think it’s a bit of an odd choice for the movie, it’s shorter and has less of an impact than the original. So if you’re seeing it for the first time, it’s not quite as resonant as it could be, but if you’re familiar with it, then it’s like watching a substandard copy. It does add more to the moment with an additional scene introducing Kevin Bacon as the main villain of the movie and showing Magneto unleash much more of his potential at an early age. The second half of the scene is a much better start to the movie and does a better job of setting up Magneto to be a future villain.
Kevin Bacon plays Sebastian Shaw, leader of the Hellfire Club and main antagonist of the movie. He also served in Nazi Germany and other various places though he remains young due to his powers. He has the ability to absorb energy and unleash it in generally the same form as he receives it. He is a great villain in this movie and makes a believable impact on Magneto, fueling his desire for revenge while also ingraining into him the beliefs that he will eventually become infamous for. The rest of his group wasn’t quite as interesting. I never got a handle on Emma Frost, she felt rather boring, bland, and I really did not like the look they chose for her diamond form. It just looked too special effect-y. Riptide is just a piece of windy muscle, I don’t remember them ever mentioning his name or any speaking lines from him. Azazel is mostly the same, although he does get to look a lot more badass being essentially the villainous version of Nightcrawler with zero personality. There’s a ton of characters in this movie and I know they can’t all have lots of screen time for development, but I would have liked to have seen more from this rogue’s gallery. And hopefully they will get more development in the sequel.
Of course while the villains are important, it’s the heroes that are more important, and while this movie ignores the traditional original class of X-Men except for Beast and of course Xavier, they are all rather interesting choices. I said in my last post that Mystique was essentially one of my favorite mutants even though she didn’t make my top 5 list as she was never really an X-Men, at least not in any X-Men stories that I’m familiar with. I think she is a great character in this movie, you get much more of a sense of her as a person than you do in any other X-Men movie. Darwin was an interesting choice, though he didn’t get a whole lot of screen time and his final scene was kind of a letdown. Banshee was a fun choice, he could be seen as a rather silly character, but they handled him quite well. They did get rid of his Scottish accent, which didn’t bother me too much. In many of the fan versions, or even in the TV Movie Generation X, the accents stand out in a bad way more often than their original intent which is to introduce diversity. I didn’t mind the fact that they were all turned into generic Americans. There was also Beast and Havok who I thought were pretty good characters, though I thought certain parts of their characters could have been handled differently which I’ll go into more detail in a little bit.
One of the best things about this movie was the relationship between Charles and Erik. They’ve always said that they used to be old friends, but it was good to see how their friendship really developed. It was great to see them so often playing chess together, or even the fact that there was a chessboard somewhere in frame even if they weren’t playing it at the time. They had somewhat mismatched personalities that fit together in a great way. My only problem was that it felt too short lived. The movie takes place in what feels like a matter of months, yet based on everything I’ve heard about their friendship, it seemed like it should have taken place over the course of several years.
There were a lot of changes to the continuity of the X-Men I’m familiar with, some of them may have been for the better, and others may have been for the worse. As I just mentioned, I wasn’t fond of how quickly they got through the origin of Magneto. In The Last Stand, we see Charles and Erik who look like a young Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan, but also much older than James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, recruiting a young Jean Grey. It made more sense in that movie because it felt like they had been working together for years, like they were already old friends. I also thought that the introduction of the helmet came too early, but I have to admit that it was a useful plot device. Then there’s the switching out of a young Cyclops for his brother Havok. Cyclops was in the original first class of X-Men along with Iceman, Marvel Girl (Jean Grey), and Angel (the one with actual Angel wings, not the pixie winged version in this movie). This change I don’t have as much of a problem with, because Havok is a more interesting fit for this movie. His power is one that needs to learn control, something that Cyclops has still never learned. For Cyclops, his power is always on, it’s only diffused by his glasses. That, and this way the actor doesn’t always have to be saddled with a pair of sunglasses. Beast also had his mutation changed slightly, he originally gained his full mutation at puberty like most mutants. In this movie it is only his feet that are beast-like. But in his search for a cure for his physical deformity, he instead changes his appearance to the one we know and love. I also liked all the little nods to the original movies, like Rebecca Romijn’s and Hugh Jackman’s brief cameos, Mystique’s look, the X-jet’s look, and the jokes about Xavier’s eventual hair loss. Even with all the changes, it’s a pretty good start to a new series of movies, and I’m looking forward to what direction these movies head from here. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.