Jun 04 2011

X-Men: First Class was surprisingly good

Published by at 2:19 am under Comic Book Movies,Movie Review

  • It’s less action-heavy than previous X-Men movies.  That’s fortunate, because the action is largely derivative of previous X-Men movies.
  • The character-building is surprisingly good.  I think 2-3 more minor characters like Havok, Darwin, Angel, Riptide (the unnamed tornado villain), Banshee and Moira the CIA agent/love interest could have been removed so that there was more development time for the others, but to the writers’ credit I think each of them had at least one worthwhile moment besides Angel.
  • I feel Beast and Xavier are a lot more interesting here than they were in the previous movies.  Wolverine’s cameo was hilarious and the Magneto-Xavier relationship was good but rushed.  (I don’t think Magneto interacts enough with Xavier that he would be as shaken up about losing him as he was).
  • The cast was generally competent.  However, Kevin Bacon (the lead villain) is notoriously inept.  A few of his scenes were unintentionally funny.  Besides Emma Frost, the ladies were notably not bad, particularly compared to previous superhero disasters (e.g. Jessica Alba and Halle Berry).  However, all of the ladies got small roles.
  • There were several female characters (Mystique, Emma Frost, Moira the love interest and Angel) but, besides Mystique, I thought the writers didn’t accomplish much with them.  The Moira-Xavier romance was half-hearted.  I think it would have helped to eliminate Angel and use that time to develop Moira and/or Mystique.  Also, the movie failed the Bechdel test.  (At least two named women must have at least one conversation about anything besides a man).
  • Spoiler: The black guy is the only protagonist to die?  He barely got enough screen-time to say his name!  (Still, he’s less awful than the jive comic relief in Transformers).
  • The political propaganda was a bit less heavyhanded than usual, mainly because the U.S. military is a potential genocidal villain and not a current genocidal villain yet.  (That’s pretty much as politically evenhanded as the X-Men series gets).   Also, there’s a likable CIA agent and a CIA supervisor that is not totally evil, whereas the military was pretty consistently portrayed as some combination of evil and/or useless.  (For example, Xavier implicitly compares U.S. soldiers to Nazis “just following orders”).   However, I’m inclined to give the screenwriters a pass on making the CIA bosses grossly sexist because that strikes me as plausible for this time period.
  • Besides Mystique, the nonhuman-looking characters looked surprisingly goofy.  Beast and Azazel (Nightcrawler’s dad) looked like extras on a Sy-Fy production.  Yeah, if my dad looked like Azazel, I’d probably join the circus to get out of the house.
  • I noticed two one fairly minor plot hole.  There’s a scene where the characters are staring at incoming missiles and Azazel can teleport himself and others.  Hey, maybe instead of staring at your impending death, Azazel, maybe you can warp everybody to safety like (SPOILER) you did after the missiles were disabled?  Just saying…

22 responses so far

22 Responses to “X-Men: First Class was surprisingly good”

  1. Wingson 04 Jun 2011 at 11:03 am

    I’m going to see this on Sunday, and decent reviews have lifted my spirits.

    (Though Thor being good as well has also helped.)

    – Wings

  2. Goaton 04 Jun 2011 at 11:11 am

    It was okay, I’d give it 2.5 stars. It had a bit too many characters and I would have liked more Charles/Erik interaction but I liked that it balanced prequel and reboot pretty well. My only big complaint was that !SPOILER! was that Magneto looked ridiculous in that costume in the end.

  3. B. Macon 04 Jun 2011 at 11:12 am

    Yeah, I’m at around 3 stars out of 4.

    I don’t think I’m brave enough to see Thor. I’m cautiously looking forward to Green Lantern.

  4. Mikeon 04 Jun 2011 at 9:41 pm

    I thought it was a good movie…not a great movie. X2 was the best in the franchise by far. Though, the few things that irked me were the rather lame wirework fight scenes. It felt like the characters were just stationary with fans blowing their hair to make it look like they were flying. And Mystique’s makeup didn’t look right on Jennifer Lawrence; it was clearly a reuse of Rebecca Romijn’s.

    And the plot hole you noticed: Mystique did see both Sebastian Shaw and his helmet. She was present when he murdered Darwin. Though, she didn’t see him wearing the outfit he wore when he was on the submarine. I guess it was a wardrobe malfunction…

  5. Phoenixon 05 Jun 2011 at 9:05 am

    Haven’t seen the film yet, but it seems odd that Shaw would wear a helmet. If my power is to absorb kinetic energy and convert it to physical power, I’m not putting on padding unless I can’t control my power.

    Also, since we’re bringing up the other movies, I was disappointed in their decision to try to force X3 into following the the comic in killing Jean Grey when they had other options. To me, Jean killing Scott and Xavier were private (in-the-family) matters that they could’ve dealt with internally. She was troubled and not in her right mind. She didn’t do anymore over-the-line stuff till the end. I remember sitting there watching the final confrontation, thinking, “If they’re still going to kill her off, they’re going to have to have her take out a lot more people to justify it.” Sure enough, then the cannon fodder popped up for her to cast away to the wind. My problem with this was that the more certain way to stop Jean would’ve been for Wolverine to have marched up to her with X3’s version of Leech, presenting her with a new BFF. Even using the kid in the classic fastball special would’ve been acceptable. I would’ve even accepted that he was only able to lessen her awesome power rather than negate it, but they should’ve at least tried. Not doing so was just lazy. Considering that the negation of mutant powers was the focus of the main storyline, using the boy as a leash for Jean should’ve been obvious. As much as the story was changed from “The Dark Phoenix Saga”, anyway, there was no reason to force the conclusion the way they did.

  6. Goaton 05 Jun 2011 at 11:33 am

    Go see Thor B.Mac, it’s a good one.

  7. NicKennyon 05 Jun 2011 at 3:05 pm

    I like the way B. Mac started with X-Men: First Class was surprisingly good and then listed all the bad parts of the movie. I liked Moira, Havok and Banshee. Angel and Riptide could have been cut, Riptide in particular, he didn’t have a single line and everything that he did within the movie could have been accomplished by another character. The Eric/Charles relationship worked even though it was rushed as Charles was the first person to me anything to Eric since the death of his mother. Azazael did look kind of weird, people born looking like that have to turn out evil.

    However, despite not knowing anything about the xmen outside the movies, the plot continuity errors irked me. Moira should be old by X3, Emma Frost appearing younger in Wolverine then in First Class, *Spoiler* cerebro created by Beast. etc.

    Did anyone else expect Darwin to come back during the movie?

    Kept laughing due to Michael Fassenbender’s massivly Irish accent. So much for being a German Jew.

  8. B. Macon 05 Jun 2011 at 3:55 pm

    “I like the way B. Mac started with X-Men: First Class was surprisingly good and then listed all the bad parts of the movie…” There were some things I thought were well-executed (particularly the writing for the main characters) and some things I didn’t (mainly the action and some recurring concerns with the X-Men series, like cast size and politics). I care more about the writing more than the action, so impressing me on that front went a long, long way.

    I liked it more than any of the previous X-Men movies, for what that’s worth. (Literally the only thing I liked about the first three movies was the White House scene, which was pretty ****ing incredible).

    When they showed Darwin’s death, the villain says “Adapt to that,” and Darwin tries to. My initial guess was that they were just retconning Colossus’ origins and alternate identity. (After all, Darwin did have some skin-hardening powers). Nope, just a black guy first to die.

    Another character later says “We can’t even bury him,” and I assumed that was because the film was too tight on space to spend 2+ minutes on a funeral scene and because funeral scenes usually suck. Also, because the writers didn’t want to spend much time on a character that was mostly extraneous. I think the lesson for would-be black superheroes is that you will survive much longer if you get someone hawt to play you.

  9. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 05 Jun 2011 at 7:18 pm

    I saw it last night. I thought it was amazing. The first three X-Men movies were okay, and I loved Wolverine (and no, not because of Hugh Jackman. Characters like young Xavier or Loki from Thor appeal more to me XD)

    I’ve also seen Thor, and I really enjoyed that. I’m kinda looking forward to Green Lantern, but I’m prepared for it to suck.

    And don’t get me started on how much I am looking forward to The Avengers, because I will stand here and rant excitedly all day.

    Sat watching First Class though, I was able to say some of the dialogue along with the characters because they either said cliche things, or I just got lucky. I even managed to get “adapt to that” correct.

    Sweet. What if I’m a mutant? 😀

  10. B. Macon 05 Jun 2011 at 7:31 pm

    “I’m kinda looking forward to Green Lantern, but I’m prepared for it to suck.” I think that’s a prudent concern. I feel like there are more ways to blow a more exotic story and GL is one of the more exotic superheroes to get filmed. (For one thing, I think the writing is more difficult. I think a reasonably inept screenwriter could crank out a 2 star Spiderman script, but I could envision enough ways to screw up GL that I am not willing to take 2 stars for granted*).

    Then again, Hollywood can find ways to blow even the least exotic heroes. Case in point: The 1990 Captain America disaster.

  11. SpazTazon 06 Jun 2011 at 3:21 pm

    I saw Xmen First Class last thursday and I liked, even though it had some faults in it.

    Like ,who built Cerebro, first they say Charles and Eric and then they say Beast??, okay…Or the really suckish German by Kevin Bacon, I lived in Germany for a couple of years and dude, I didn’t even understand jack shit of it…But then again, it is a pretty tough language to learn. And Charles was paralyzed in 1962 ish and in X Men Origins he was walking, so that didn’t really ad up at all.

    I was a little dissapointed when Darwin died so soon in the movie…I liked to see him in some action first or something, I dunno know.

    but I liked the rest of it, how Eric got such hatred for humans and a possible way of how William Stryker got his problems with mutants from his father.

    When Charles and Mystique exposed themselves to the CIA, there was a agent Stryker who was thinking of his son William.

    All in all, a good movie, despite some errors. Definatley worth watching it.

  12. Comicbookguy117on 06 Jun 2011 at 8:06 pm

    How good was X-men: First Class! Personally I think it’s the best X-movie to date…hands down. Also, and this may shock a lot of people, but it has surpassed The Dark Knight as the greatest comic book adaptation so far. I mean don’t get me wrong I loved the Dark Knight, it was absolute perfection. But the X-men universe has always fascinated me. Plus I loved seeing those mutations used so beautifully. I mean those powers were amazing to behold. I agree with every review that stated this movie is how superhero movies should be handled.

  13. B. Macon 06 Jun 2011 at 9:10 pm

    Off the top of my head, my top tier of superhero movies would probably look something like Dark Knight, Iron Man 2, Scott Pilgrim, Spiderman 2, Kickass and The Incredibles.

    First Class was effective–I don’t think I’ve ever seen Xavier or Beast this interesting before–but I feel it fell short of elite in several major ways. For example, I think DK, Spiderman 2 and probably Scott Pilgrim had much more interesting villains. I think it helped that DK and Spiderman 2 focused on a smaller cast of villains.

    First Class’ writing was good, but I don’t think there’s anything there I’ll remember a week later. In contrast, Scott Pilgrim, Kickass, The Incredibles and Iron Man 2 are so well-written that I can remember at least a few scenes in some detail even though it’s been more than a year since I’ve seen them.

    Finally, I thought that all of the above movies (but especially Kickass and Scott Pilgrim) had much more memorable action scenes than First Class. “F*** this, I’m getting the bazooka.”

  14. Wingson 08 Jun 2011 at 12:16 pm

    “Okay, this song goes out to that guy who keep’s yelling from the balcony. It’s called ‘We Hate You, Please Die.'”

    “Sweet! Love this one.”

    Scott Pilgrim is definitely on my highest tier of movies, as is the Incredibles*.

    I did like First Class better than most of the past X-Men movies (Lack of Wolverine helped – he’s okay, but why must he be everywhere). Mainly as it didn’t go straight to the neverending-action-cliches route**.

    *Actually, pretty much anything by Pixar is on that tier. Except maybe Cars, but that’s as it’s “merely a good movie, as opposed to an AMAZING movie”.

    **Dammit, movies, if you want me to care about this guy who’s about to get his head shot off, then ACTUALLY TRY TO MAKE ME!

  15. bigtoe88on 09 Jun 2011 at 9:51 pm

    Another review said it passed the Bechdel Test

  16. Luna Jamniaon 09 Jun 2011 at 10:04 pm

    Oh yes! I LOVED Wolverine’s cameo. 🙂
    I had trouble with the timeline though, because in Origins when Xavier first ‘showed up’, he could walk and he was so much older. In First Class, however, he loses the ability to walk when he’s very young.
    Or maybe it’s all just fine and it’s one of those very obvious things I’m missing.

  17. Castilleon 09 Jun 2011 at 10:18 pm

    I really liked this new X-men movie! Only thing is, I wish they maybe would’ve done a bit more with Darwin. Please don’t introduce characters only to kill them off 15 minutes later. Its kind of sad if a superhero gets killed off without a proper fight sequence. I heard also that they’re planning to make this into some kind of trilogy. I really don’t know how I feel about that.

  18. Luna Jamniaon 09 Jun 2011 at 10:39 pm

    I was hoping they’d continue the Origins movies. I’d like to see Magneto, Mystique, and … that dude with the blades.

  19. herojockon 09 Jun 2011 at 10:57 pm

    Hey B.Mac I’ve not yet seen the film, but regarding the scene where’ Xavier infelicitously makes an comparison of U.S. soldiers to Nazis “just following orders,”’. I’ve only seen a little clip and perhaps I’m not seeing it in context. It is where [[SPOILERS]] Xavier is on the beach trying to reason with Eric/Magneto by justifying the soldiers actions because they are just following orders from higher authority. I am surprised you thought that came across silly. Of course the situation, the reasoning, moral justification and so is not of the exact nature of the Nazi soldiers.

    But it has some truth in it surely. The navy personal on that boat are carrying out superior orders to kill innocent people (again I’ve not seen the film, but I presume the X-men team to be innocent), by their commanders who are motivated by their prejudice. Although this is obviously ignoring the complex issue of international law on war crimes for example. But then they are mutants, the law doesn’t apply to them? (dramatic music) which is crazy because most governments wouldn’t sanction wanton destruction of animals like Chimps using their military. But anyway…

    Drifted off, it sounds like a decent film so i’ll have go and see it.

    Thanks for the review!

  20. B. Macon 10 Jun 2011 at 6:59 am

    “The navy personnel on that boat are carrying out superior orders to kill innocent people (again I’ve not seen the film, but I presume the X-men team to be innocent), by their commanders who are motivated by their prejudice.” Hmm, maybe that’s the problem for me. The movie is attributing distinctly unsavory behavior to the Navy that I don’t think is believable–ahem, they’re acting like Nazis. In contrast, the unsavory behavior of the CIA (the snide sexism) actually DOES feel plausible for this time period, so that didn’t bother me as much.

    PS/UPDATE: Another area where I thought the writing felt unrealistic to me in this regard was when a CIA leader protested that firing the missiles would kill his agent and a general brushed him off with a nefariously cold line about collateral damage. (I think something like “I’m sorry, Jim, there’s no other way” would be more realistic–I don’t think anyone who talked about killing American operatives in anything but apologetic terms would last long as a general).

    “Another review said it passed the Bechdel Test.” I don’t remember any lines delivered by a woman to a woman. If there were any, there were exceedingly few.

  21. B. Macon 10 Jun 2011 at 7:07 am

    Yeah, I think there was a continuity issue with the age where Xavier lost his ability to walk. Personally, it didn’t occur to me while watching First Class (perhaps because the other movie was a repressed memory), so I don’t mind it much.

  22. herojockon 10 Jun 2011 at 7:30 am

    Oh okay I see your point B.Mac and perhaps the film failed to communicate what I thought was the real historical parallel. I never interpreted Xavier was arguing the navy personal themselves are like Nazi’s. Simply that they would defend their actions on the basis they were simply carrying out ”superior orders”. This just happened to be an argument some Nazi Germans used during and after the war. An argument that is still used today unfortunately. Obviously saying that to a powerful and enraged holocaust survivor moments from death again was a foolish mistake.

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