Still a few days away, but Major Spoilerite Antonio Sanciolo, who runs a movie theater, took a look at X-Men: First Class, and had this to say.

The best thing possible that I can point out at the beginning of this review, is that this film is not as bad as X-Men: The Last Stand, which I posit as the actual worst superhero film ever made( in light of its huge budget and the pedigree of many of its actors). How much better is First Class than X3? Ghost-Rider better? Daredevil better? Batman Begins better? Read on to find out…

X-Men: First Class strives to tell how telepath, Charles Xavier, and anguished spoon-bender, Erik Lehnsherr, collaborate with the American government and form a team of similarly powerful youths to help prevent the inevitable onset of a thermonuclear war as brought about by the evil energy absorbing mutant, Sebastian Shaw, who was once a Nazi scientist named Klaus Schmidt.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that in attempting to tell the above story, director Matthew Vaughn rides heavily on the coat-tails of the previous x-men film, but this comes at the cost of his film’s own portrayal. From the opening scene which has been completely lifted from the first X-Men film, to several throwaway lines and cameos; these moments quickly emerge as the highlights of the piece, making the regular narrative shallow and monotonous.

Similarly greyscale is the films setting within the mid 1950’s through to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Whilst the colour grading is drab and desaturated, one of the biggest problems is the roundabout way in which historical accuracy is addressed: Millionaires and decorated officers in their forties and fifties meet in a cabalistic high-rollers lounge and yet they are listening to jangling mod guitar rock; the good guys fly around in a modified SR-71 Blackbird (one that inexplicably hovers) despite still being in a conceptual phase at the time of the film’s setting; and the fashion depicted ranges from anywhere between the 1940’s through to the late 1970’s. Whilst the whole film has a 60’s feel it is as though it is depicted by a 13 year old weaving a tale out of 50 years of pop culture references.

When it comes to the characters within the field, it is very important to point out the Americanization of the film. This is not Len Wein’s Giant Size X-Men, with colourful characters hailing from every corner of the globe. Instead every character, Charles and Erik notwithstanding, talks with the General American accent, even British actors like Nicholas Hoult in his portrayal of Hank McCoy, gives a very neutral depiction of what could be a challenging, fun and outrageous character. Every direction taken seems to have been the safe one, and with a film of this background and tradition, it needs anything but “safety” to lift it above the mass media saturation that precedes it.

The acting itself is not poor but fails to truly position the viewer behind any particular character’s plight. Michael Fassbender certainly suits the part of Erik, a plaything of the Nazis seeking retribution for his mother’s murder, but his rage is not palpable enough for the correct pathos and contrast to James McAvoy as Charles. McAvoy probably fits his role the best, playing the smugness and assuredness of a naively intelligent telepathic man to a tee. His bluster and confidence as he recruits his team is indicative of the inevitable pride before the fall and the payout is rewarding to an extent. Of the team itself, there is no sufficient background to the characters. We are given Banshee played by a Texan with an indecipherable accent, Mystique-by-numbers, a very bland Havok, the aforementioned Beast who is characterized best in his human form as, once transformed, looks like an extra from a supernatural TV production like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The only team-members who show the diversity and alternate appeal that one would expect from a film about genetic mutation are Edi Gathegi as Darwin and Zoe Kravitz as Angel. One of which is redshirted early in the piece whilst the other defects to campy villain Sebastian Shaw’s camp.

Kevin Bacon’s Shaw is the moustache-less moustache-twirler of the piece, bringing about a nuclear war that he sees only mutants surviving. His secret Hellfire Club is really only an opportunity for the director Matthew Vaughn to get Rose Byrne and January Jones onscreen in lingerie and like many story elements in the film was wasted on the superficial. Instead he spends most of the film cavorting around in his fancy submarine with his three sole henchmen; January Jones as the diamantine telepath Emma Frost, Jason Flemyng as the demonic teleporter Nightcrawler Azazel, and Alex Gonzalez as the tornado wielding Riptide. They make an entirely unintimidating and uncaptivating threat. Accordingly, the film draws more entertainment from the Mystique-centric love subplot and the x-men training regime montage than anything else.

X-Men: First Class offers a product that ticks all the boxes as far as superhero film elements and tropes go, yet leaves the viewer unfulfilled. Whilst it admirably tries to establish a world within which the modern-day x-men operate, it is undermined but that very same reality that exists today in comic-books, Saturday morning cartoons, feature movies and derivative television content like Heroes and No Ordinary Family. Ultimately even the uninitiated know what they’re in for when they see the word “X-Men”, and there’s far too many examples of the job done better to hold this up against. This film is worth seeing if not only for the sake that this is trying to do something different with its setting and dynamic, but that it has some fun special effects and a terrific franchise-redeeming cameo at the beginning of the second act.

I give X-Men: First Class 2.5 stars out of 5.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Antonio Sancilo is from Australia.

The Author

Guest

Guest

Previous post

HeroesCon'11: Image Comics announces show schedule

Next post

SNEAK PEEK: Mystic #1

23 Comments

  1. brainypirate
    June 1, 2011 at 12:20 pm — Reply

    I liked the review that said it was really a James Bond film that just happens to have superpowers.

  2. eric
    June 1, 2011 at 12:48 pm — Reply

    I am glad to stand up and say I will not be seeing this piece of crap and I hope it gets flushed down the toilet quickly. Another Marvel flop for them.

    • June 1, 2011 at 6:36 pm — Reply

      Then you really will miss out.

      • Antonio Sanciolo
        June 1, 2011 at 7:53 pm — Reply

        Yes, do your local cinema a favour and go see it. I gave it 50%, which is like a pass; it is worth the ticket fare.

    • b003
      June 1, 2011 at 8:33 pm — Reply

      I am glad to stand up and say I will not be seeing this piece of crap and I hope it gets flushed down the toilet quickly. Another Marvel flop for them.

      True that! But the Xombies will pour enough money into it to make another stinker. The should just show Generation X again.

  3. June 1, 2011 at 1:30 pm — Reply

    I wasn’t too excited to see this in the theaters, but I was going to make a date of it with the wife hoping it would at least be good. From this, it seems more like a “wait for Redbox to get it” movie. Dissapointing

  4. Andrew H.
    June 1, 2011 at 1:50 pm — Reply

    I am glad to stand up and say that I will be there this Saturday.

  5. June 1, 2011 at 3:04 pm — Reply

    I can’t really speak to the films quality until I actually see it (which I will this weekend), but seeing as how this movie is currently sitting on a 98% approval rating on rotten tomatoes, I’m pretty confident that it’s gotta bring the goods.

      • Antonio Sanciolo
        June 1, 2011 at 11:09 pm — Reply

        Man, you are “The Julian”, so I say this with nothing but respect for Spoilerite Numero Uno:

        IGN is owned by Newscorp… Newscorp’s arguably biggest holding is Fox who released this film. My tinfoil hat notwithstanding, there’s no way newscorp would allow a shitty review on their own site that cater’s to their product’s key demographic.

        • June 2, 2011 at 12:30 am — Reply

          Wow. Um. Where do I start?

          Firstly, IGN is one of the most well respected sources for opinions on games, movies, comics, geek gear, etc. The wouldn’t have gotten that way if they were a company that only expressed their honest opinion when corporate told them they could.

          Secondly, in the article I linked they do a pretty good job of bad mouthing X-Men United, calling it “lacking the finesse of the first two, instead falling back on forgettable action sequences and, honestly, it overdosed on superheroes and villains.”

          Furthermore, in their review of X-Men Origins Wolverine, they call it a movie that, “has its moments, but it’s ultimately a by-the-numbers tale that will leave you feeling ambivalent about it and the prospect of any future X-men Films.”

          Now, if Fox would allow them to put these less-than-stellar remarks about one of their highest grossing franchises, why wouldn’t they allow it for X-Men First Class?

          If someone on a news site expresses an opinion, it’s because they have one, not because they have marching orders from the boss.

          To say these guys are just a bunch of corrupt money-hat grubbing writers that would stoop so low as to compromise their opinion and journalistic integrity for the sake of their corporate conglomerate’s image is just ridiculous and, not to put too fine a point on it, kind of ignorant of the way journalists work.

          It’s fine to have a dissenting opinion, but don’t insinuate that the only reason someone else is praising something is because they’re getting paid to.

          • Antonio Sanciolo
            June 2, 2011 at 12:42 am — Reply

            I hear you, man, and whilst I completely respect the integrity of the journos at IGN, you gotta agree there are corporate incentives to posting the most glowing review of your parent company’s product even if it comes at the expense of previous products.

            I’m also very wary of a “Review” with little to no critical content.

          • Antonio Sanciolo
            June 2, 2011 at 12:46 am — Reply

            For what it’s worth, IGN are admitting to toeing the company line by putting this article forward as an editorial and not a review.

  6. TaZ
    June 1, 2011 at 3:21 pm — Reply

    Based on that review I’ll be waiting on it to come out on Showtime or HBO to watch it for free.

    • Andrew H.
      June 1, 2011 at 3:28 pm — Reply

      Yes, disregard the 98% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Out of 50 reviews there so far, it’s 49 positive to 1 negative.

  7. brenton8090
    June 1, 2011 at 5:10 pm — Reply

    If it’s playing at the drive-in with Pirates or Hangover or something, it would be worth the $7. But not otherwise. Seems like it’s better than 3 and Wolverine, but worse than 1 and 2. Sad.

  8. June 1, 2011 at 6:27 pm — Reply

    I’ve just seen it in the UK and this review is just utterly wrong. It’s pitch perfect. The tone is spot on. The setting is spot on. The characterisation is perfect as Xavier has an assured/cockiness that is absolutely believable and correct for the character. It’s a touching, funny, action packed, wonderful film.McAvoy. The aforementioned cameo is utterly brilliant.

    I have to say, I know your mileage may vary but this read like a review by someone who wanted the film to suck. It has so many good points that this review has ignored. It’s not perfect by any means but it is bloody good.

    • Antonio Sanciolo
      June 1, 2011 at 8:02 pm — Reply

      For mine, it was more of a case that I wanted the film to be much better than what it was. I went in expecting X-Men 2 or Spiderman 2 and instead got what I got. But whereas I’d give X3 1 and a half stars, I gave First Class higher because it deserved it. Like I tried to explain in the review; the film can’t just stand alone, it has to be measured as part of a larger body of work, especially as the inclusion of Hugh Jackman and various other throwaways (like the young mutants we see when cerebro is first used) ruin any chances of this film existing as a reboot or standalone.

      Accordingly I’ll always hold X2 at around a 4 star rating, the first X-Men film I’d put between 3 and 3-and-a-half stars, so logically my appreciate of this film, which I thought did not surpass either X1 or X2 would be lower than that. Just wanted to justify my review process and assure you that I enjoyed many aspects of the film; just like the character of “Darwin” though, they were not utilised to their full potential, which is kind of bittersweet when unlocking one’s potential is kind a of a major subplot here!

    • HunterDan
      June 11, 2011 at 11:21 pm — Reply

      I agree with Aubreii

  9. Mit
    June 2, 2011 at 5:10 am — Reply

    I’ve just seen it and i agree with you, Antonio, somewhat disappointing considering i was so excited to see it but definitely worth seeing it at the cinema. Coming from a stylist background, i cringed for most of the film with their wardrobe, hair and makeup. I also found the score to be uninspiring. I’d be happy to see it again.

  10. Lou
    June 3, 2011 at 3:00 am — Reply

    Well, I just got back from seeing a midnight showing on Thursday night. I am a life-long comics and movie fan, my 13 year old son is too, my wife doesn’t read comics, and only sees action movies when we drag her along. We all enjoyed it. Yes, you can nitpick it to death. You can pull at all the loose threads of comic continuity. You can complain about the depiction of 1962 America. But as far as just seeing a comic book movie, we all liked it. It made sense with its own continuity. It explored the arc of Xavier’s growth into the icon we all know, as well as Magneto’s. Some characters were underused, but what movie doesn’t have that? Just leave your preconceptions at the door, and enjoy the movie for what it is.

  11. Damascus
    June 6, 2011 at 11:16 pm — Reply

    It’s so weird, if you don’t go see the movie and it tanks (which it didn’t, not great but still a good start) then there could be two likely outcomes that I can see, they’ll a) listen to the fans constant bitching about what should have been done (usually before ever actually seeing the movie – I’m guilty of that too about this movie even) and then make the next comic book movie exactly as is “should” be, or b) not risk their hundred million dollars on a movie which even the most diehard fans won’t go see on some kind of principle and we’ll be stuck with Fast and the Furious parts 6-10 and smirky shirtless Matthew McConaughey movies instead, or maybe some more sparkly vampires since their fans will watch whatever’s brought to the screen regardless whether it’s any good. I think the second is more likely.

    It’s a good reason why I don’t base my opinions on these things, I’ll read them occasionally but I actually want to watch comic characters turned into movie properties, especially the more obscure ones, but it’s not likely to happen too often if they don’t see anybody wanting to see it. I get that not everybody will be happy, and damnit if it doesn’t seem that nobody will be happy EVER, but instead of spitting venom (for those who do and especially those who do without seeing it first) just say, “Eh, not really for me, but whatev’s”.

    I love all my fellow Comic nerds, but our general attitudes toward things piss me off to no end. I don’t escape this by any stretch of the imagination, and I’m not arguing for the movie either, it looks alright I guess (wish they’d have not named it “First Class” though), but I haven’t seen it yet.

    Oh well though, that’s about as worked up as I can get over something like this, mild irritation.

  12. June 9, 2011 at 9:45 am — Reply

    We are going to have to thoroughly agree to disagree. I thought it was terrific.

You know you have something to say, say it in the comment section