Saturday, June 4, 2011

Movie Review: X-Men: First Class

To download to the audio version, right click here and choose "save as..." or "save link as..."

To listen, press the play button on the player below

Two weeks ago there was only one new movie to rule the weekend and this week there is only one new release, but will it rule the weekend coming after the long Memorial Day weekend releases. X-Men: First Class comes into the weekend with formitable foes including Thor, Captain Jack Sparrow, a furry panda and three guys trying to figure out what happened during their overnight bender. The mutants learned how to control their powers and be worthy adversaries!

X-Men: First Class Movie standup
Some people call this a reboot of the series and some people are calling it just a pure and simple prequel. I would agree with both. First off, it is a prequel. It brings us back to the day when a young Charles Xavier, Raven, and Erik Lehnsherr are first discovering their powers. Charles and Raven at the Xavier estate and Erik at the hands of the Nazis. These few moments in the life of each one sets them on a path that will both bring together and then divide them. Jump ahead from the 1940s to the 1960s where we meet up with the adult versions of Xavier (James McAvoy), Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) and Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender). These paths end up crossing in what is the real story of what caused the Cuban Missile Crisis, wink. In a sense, the movie is a reboot taking characters that we've already met and using them to tell their individual stories from their earlier lives. But because they are not telling us the same story again, is it truly a reboot?

Part of the fun of the summer movie season is the big block buster movies that spend a lot of money on special effects and effects that look good. This movie delivers on multiple detail levels whether it's the alterations they've made for locations to add extra features, tweaks to the appearances of objects or, for this movie specifically, the mutant powers which come alive before our eyes. The blue skin of Mystique or Beast along with his blue skin and additional fur or watching Angel's wings come from resting form to wings that can lift her aloft like a pixie are examples for the blending of art and science to make a believable story.

Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon...sorry no six degree of separation jokes here) feels that the mutants are the next stage of evolution brought about by the nuclear age causing the changes within the DNA of a human. Bryan Singer who directed and wrote the original X-Men and X2 ended up providing the story for First Class. Singer in his story tied actual history, that of the Cuban Missile Crisis to the formation of Professor X's X-Men and Magneto's Brotherhood of Mutants. Shaw's idea is to force the USSR and the USA to use their nukes against each other thinking they would take out the bad guy being of course, the other guy while not knowing the truly bad guy, Shaw, was the puppet master pulling the strings.

The movie runs 132 minutes and it's needed. Over the course of the movie introductions to about a dozen or so different mutants are covered. Along the way, if you've seen any of the previous movies, you'll be going "oh...that's why" or "ahhhh" as little pieces of the X-men universe, personas, devices, tie-ins or future mutants are put forth, some just as little nuggets, to be discovered or explained. By the time the movie ends you'll be left wanting for more.

The only part of the movie that was weak to me was the development of the relationship between Charles and Erik. Erik was a man with a chip on his shoulder with a task to accomplish due to his Nazi captors. It's understandable after being tourtured. Charles had the pampered life of privilege. When the two team up to accomplish an extremely difficult task, yeah, they are friendly. But in the end, when Charles says, "Killing will not bring you peace." to which Erik responds "Peace was never an option." you just know that no good will come from it. As the two "friends" diverge and Mystique chooses Magneto, she comments how Charles can never fully understand since his power is not betrayed by his appearance. She has a good point.

Now comes the question will they do a sequel of the prequel, or will they jump to somewhere else in the time line of the X-Men universe. We'll just have to wait and see. If they can keep the writing and action on par with this movie, I'll be there to buy a ticket as this was better than both X-Men: The Last Stand and the X-Men Origins: Wolverine movies.

The movie is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some sexual content including brief partial nudity and language. I was hoping there would be an Easter egg that would tie some part of the X-Men universe into the upcoming Avengers movie but you don't have to wait to the end as one wasn't given.

Movie Monkey Show badge
The Movie Monkey

To subscribe to the audio podcast of the reviews via iTunes click here. Audio versions are released the following Wednesday.