Saturday, 4 June 2011

X-Men: First Class.

X-Men: First Class poster.

The first X-Men films have been nothing but a disappointment. They had massive budgets, an all-star cast of top class actors (bar a few) and they were underused and wrongly directed so that their talents were wasted. They couldn't save what was a hugely boring trilogy. The story lines seemed to disappear, film by film and by X-Men: The Last Stand I'd had enough of the series. I still can't escape these atrocities now. They're constantly on TV which speaks for itself. They clearly bring in a lot of viewers. That doesn't make them good though. For example, About a Boy is always on TV and that's one of the worst films in the world.

Plot: In 1963, Charles Xavier starts up a school and later a team, for humans with superhuman abilities. Among them is Erik Lensherr, his best friend... and future arch-enemy.

Matthew Vaughn was asked to direct The Last Stand but turned it down to make Stardust. A so-so move. Vaughn claimed that it wouldn't be him directing as it already had a cast, a story line and needed no real direction. He said that if he ever wanted to do an X-Men film that he would reinvent the series. He stuck to his guns and got the backing to create yet another origin story. He didn't rewrite the origin to fit modern times, he delved back into the '60s to truly recreate the series. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) a walking man with long hair and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) as Xavier's partner in good. Before their famous aliases as Professor X and Magneto. Before the X-Men academy and before Magneto's attempt at exterminating the human race.

The X-Men have always taken the risk of not truly developing their characters by doing team films, with the exception of Wolverine's origin (terrible). The character development in this is staggering but sometimes a little rushed. It's great to see some unusual and unfamiliar characters in this one. For example, the only real characters (bar the main two) from the quadrilogy are Mystique and Beast. This gives some freedom of selection with mutants like the kick-ass devil-esque Azazel; the uncontrolled powerful teen of Havoc; the geeky screamer, Banshee and others.

Vaughn was vocal about his time-constraints and how he was rushing and had no time to "tweak" his creation to perfection, like he had hoped. He spoke about how he wanted to reshoot some scenes and I think I know which scenes. Michael Fassbender is a brilliant actor but in this, his Irish accent slipped out - one more than one occasion. In fact, it seems like it spills out during the bar scene when he's speaking German. This isn't the only thing that suffers from the tight time constraints.

Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, Rose Byrne, January Jones and Jennifer Lawrence. Directed by Matthew Vaughn.

You can see that some of the CGI is poor. There were errors where it could have done with some more post-production treatment and truly polished and fine tuned. As CGI goes - against a blockbuster counterpart - it looks much less impressive than Thor. Although, from the Green Lantern adverts, it looks a little more impressive than that but I'll hold off judgement on that.

What is very impressive with this creation is the fact that is set in the '60s and it is very believable as this - even the landscapes and architecture. The main story line is set in 1963 and deals with a fictional twist on the Cuban missile crisis. An interesting choice but it works. Sebastian Shaw is the villain (Kevin Bacon) and he is being hunted for revenge by an enraged Erik Lehnsherr. Sebastian Shaw is a mutant Nazi who murdered Erik's mother and then experimented on him and strengthened his innate power.

The story begins with a flashback to 1944 where it shows Shaw and Lehnsherr's first encounter in a concentration camp. It then travels to the home of a twelve year-old Charles Xavier who is startled by a noise in the kitchen. This is the first encounter with Raven (Mystique) who is later played by Jennifer Lawrence. He accepts her for who she is as he is a mutant too and with his outlandish optimism and general glee (that TV programme as forever tainted that word for me) invites her to stay as he knew he "wasn't the only one".

There's a blatant cameo but unfortunately - unlike the others and other Marvel films - there is no post-credit scene.

Back to 1963 and Sebastian Shaw is manipulating the American government and Soviet Union into doing what he wants to cause a global crisis and a possible self-annihilation of the human race. Charles and Erik are both adults now and are a paradox in their principles yet they unite via sexy CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) who witnesses mutants toying with Colonel Hendry (Glenn Morshower) in some sexy lingerie. This is to bring down a common enemy: Shaw. There's more to it though. It shows the beginning of a great friendship which ends with their opposing views becoming enemies. It's the classic friend-turned-enemy concept. They are hired as sort-of mutant division of the CIA using Hank McCoy's technology to find other mutants and recruit them (a funny cameo ensues ushering the first "fuck" of an X-Men film) to create a mutant army (more of a gathering) to take out Shaw's mutant army (more a crowd).

Director Matthew Vaughn cited the first two X-Films, Star Trek (2009) and the 1960s Bond films as major influences on this film.

It's blatant that this is a more brutal film but I say it's not brutal enough! It's been whittled down to a 12A and it would stand better as a 15 (down with censorship!) as Azazel could truly show off how he'd love to attack people. The character development is brilliant. Well, the characters that actually get developed. Unfortunately there are some who barely even get a line, never mind a development or a back-story. For example, I'm not sure if Riptide actually has a real line in the film? I know Azazel barely speaks but who needs to speak as a teleporting devil? He's clearly too busy kicking ass. January Jones's telepathic, diamond shapeshifter Emma Frost doesn't even communicate that much.

A telepathic battle between Professor X and Emma Frost was going to be in the film, but upon the release of Inception (2010) the concept was scrapped.

Who needs them to talk when you have an excellent Kevin Bacon playing a truly scary villain. Not only is he scary because of his apathy towards all who aren't mutants but his actual mutant superpower is something that is truly frightening. He's like a cockroach. He can survive anything. A truly terrifying concept.

It's emotional and humorous with great action scenes. Unfortunately, they make Hank McCoy's Beast look like a Disney creation with an especially poorly animated mouth. It doesn't matter anyway as Hoult is completely useless as the nerdy intelligent scientist and even worse as an angry Beast. He truly is the biggest downfall of the film. James McAvoy's acting is outstanding although he does revert to random screaming at times like his terrible performance in crap-fest "Wanted". Michael Fassbender's performance is to be beaten bar his Northen Irish twang. The cast as a whole (bar Nicholas Hoult - can't stand him) is excellent which is the same as the prior X-Men films. The only difference is that this one actually stands up with a good story, believable performances and true friendship which is shattered. It is a great film but it is rushed. I would have preferred a delay to the film so we could see polished CGI and a lengthier film (it is lengthy at two hours and twelve minutes). It is a great film but it is held back from what could have been a true masterpiece. Bring on the rest of the Vaughn's X-Men films.


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