Some call this a brilliant franchise reboot, while others might say that it's the star of this summer thus far. I say that X-Men: First Class is a blockbuster mutant, one that sports the hybrid powers of a commercial box office cash cow, an entertaining spectacle, and a good film. Dramatically fueled by some great cast performance, X-Men: First Class makes sure that the message of being different and proud to be, gets across firmly.
X-Men: First Class charts the epic beginning of the X-Men saga, and reveals a secret history of famous global events. Before mutants had revealed themselves to the world, and before Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time. Not archenemies, they were instead at first the closest of friends, working together with other Mutants (some familiar, some new), to stop Armageddon. In the process, a grave rift between them opened, which began the eternal war between Magneto's Brotherhood and Professor X's X-Men.
Usually from the first frame of the film, you'd know through some insane gut feeling if it'd be a good film. X-Men: First Class is one such film that sends good vibes as it begins in 1944's Poland during World War II. The first chapter of a young Erik Lehnsherr who is able to bend metal gates when emotionally charged, especially of grievance and anger.
That very Erik, as most of us know it, will eventually become Magneto.
Erik is well portrayed by Michael Fassbender who exudes a charismatic demeanour of a classic British spy/gentleman. In aid of simplifying that, think of him as a good resemblance to a young 007 - James Bond.
Daniel Craig should be worried.
Everything points towards that, with the Cold War setting and a offshore stand-off between the US and the Soviet Union in Cuban waters, two of the greatest powers in history. There's an innuendo hint at the real-life Cuban Missile Crisis as they used it to create tension, although not to suggest factual evidence.
Wait, or did mutants actually had a part in it?
That is very much so in the first two thirds of the film when Erik befriends a young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), who manages to inspire him to goodness that enlightened his magnetic potentials. True focus comes from somewhere between anger and serenity, that sentence alone underlined the core virtues and wise maturity of a young Professor X.
Much like how Charles is the glue to all the mutants featured in this film, Director Matthew Vaughn (of Kick-Ass fame) did an exceptional job and inspired us that blockbusters aren't just a measure of blatant bang-bang-booms and exorbitant senseless sequences. In maintaining a great momentum and pace throughout the 132 minute blockbuster, he confiscated the entirety of the audience's attention span of interest and never giving back until the credit roll.
There's a much desired focus on the story and character development (credits to a big team of story and screenwriters), which in my opinion is the greatest strength of the film that gives it a worthy edge over so many blockbusters that have revolved around the weary tried-and-tested formula. The dialogues were kept witty and at times amusing, which is uncommon of the one-liners often abused by summer blockbusters. Keep in mind that this is another Marvel superhero adaptation, so my expectations prior to the screening was somewhat along the line of a loud routine entertainment.
I was so wrong about it.
There's spectacular action when called for, but never saturated and overboard. Just what'll suffice and contribute to plot plausibility. For that, Vaughn gains my admiration and respect when most other blockbusters have the pressure of installing intentional crowd-pleasing plot devices with the "more is more" mentality when it's really just senseless overkill.
All the action you'll find are very nicely coated by stellar visual effects (by the likes of Weta Digital) and scored by Henry Jackman's influential music. I'd also like to add that the score played a critical role in veiling this film with the intended serious overtone and gave it the right feel that also helps with setting the right rhythm. Think along the line of how music gave Avatar its atmospheric life and how it also made Inception feel so grand and mysterious. Production values are very high indeed, especially when you can expect a naval confrontation between an American fleet and a Soviet fleet disturbed by the play of mutants.
Not all of the sideline mutant characters enjoyed adequate limelight in an attempt to avoid the overcrowding disruptive effect on the plot, but Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), and Emma Frost (January Jones) were given some and they made good of the opportunity. Some even offered the audience great eye-candy that doesn't feel forced upon.
Before you'd begin to think that nobody remembers the bad guy, there's Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw (also the nightmare nemesis of Erik's ill-fated childhood) who really resembles an ambitious Hitler with menace. Memorable and rather short-lived in my opinion, but there's no doubt about Bacon's performance here (we're talking about a veteran here, afterall).
So there's a great cast, good star performance, alluring story, gripping pace, pleasant eye-candy, high production value, beautiful visual effects, and appealing action sequences. That doesn't sound like a blockbuster, it's a mutated form of it.
Mutant and proud.
Mutant and proud.
Oh and that's not all, also do watch out for a crude brief cameo by a key familiarity.
(Premiere Screening courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Singapore)