Thursday, 9 June 2011

X-Men: First Class

I haven't seen any of the previous X-Men films, so I can't generate an opinion on them. Although, from what I hear, they have been getting increasingly worse. So, for this opening paragraph, I'll state what my mate (who wants to be a film critic when he's older) said about them. X-Men is revolutionary. It sparked the return of superhero films, mainly Spider-man, and was a fantastic film. X2 is considered to be as good as or better than the original. However, then Last Stand came along, and aimed primarily to be about the battles and explosions, instead of the story and characters. Then there's X-Men Origins: Wolverine; ridiculously clich├ęd and just plain boring. So, can First Class be considered an improvement, or a further decline?
"X-Men: First Class" tells the story of how the characters came to each other, and how the story all began. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) can read minds. He meets a young girl called Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) who can change her shape and appearance, although she is originally blue. Meanwhile in Poland, Erik Lehnsherr discovers he can bend and manipulate metal with his mind, and plans revenge on a Nazi after he killed his mother. Years later, they meet up, and Xavier forms a team of mutants to take down other mutants who are planning on using their powers and abilities for wrong purposes. This could lead to World War III, and Erik/Magneto is starting to let his anger take control of him. Can Xavier put an end to the war before he loses his team?
Bloody Hell. These are the words I said as the lights came back on in the cinema. What a film this is. "X-Men: First Class" contains tonnes of action, and it's riddled with special effects, yet it never lets them take over the story or the characters, and the result is a knock out. There's so much here that I can praise, and hardly anything that I can moan about. The big question is where to begin?
I suppose I should start with the action. Director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) has here illustrated his ability to hold the viewers attention. He doesn't let it get stale but having a solid 2 hour explosive war, but he doesn't let it get boring by having 2 hours of talk. He mixes it up, we start with the story, and then we get a dose of action. Then we go back to the story, learn some more, then a battle. Then the story...etc. This means the film stays fresh, and doesn't get boring. When the action scenes are happening, though, they’re terrific. The effects are astonishing, as they should be, such as when Magneto pulls a submarine out of the water, and flies it across the beach. It's pretty exhilarating.
I liked the plot, as well. It wasn't overly complicated, but it had the perfect amount of depth. Easy to follow, yet still containing its mysteries and secrets. It all resolves in a heart-pounding action sequence towards the end of the film, and the plot is neatly wrapped up by then. However, it leaves it open for a sequel. This is more of a reboot than a prequel, and this is a good thing, because Vaughn can add elements and take away parts, in his series now. And, from this movie, that's a blessing. 
The acting was solid all round. McAvoy is fantastic here, I've see him in other stuff (such as Wanted) but this was his best performance to date. Michael Fassbender is also good as Magneto; he gave a good deal of emotion, mainly anger, and made for a good character. I thought Jennifer Lawrence was brilliant as Raven/Mystique, I never doubted her anyway, after Winter's Bone. These were the best three in my opinion, although Kevin Bacon did make for an excellent villain.
Now, the characters. This was the best aspect for me. Each character is very well defined, and has their own little story. Despite the action, we never lose the characters. They're always there, and they remain likeable and interesting throughout. The main theme of the film is that the mutants are just like ordinary people, and this is shown in an easily un-noticeable scene. One mutant, Azazel (Jason Flemyng) can teleport, and he picks up agents, teleports to the sky, and drops them. He does this whilst the mutants are in a room. They see the people falling, and one lands directly in front of them. In any other superhero film, the characters would've stood there dramatically looking out at it. Not here. Here, the mutants flinch. Angel and Mystique even scream, and look away. This is the emotion that Vaughn was trying to get across, and believe me, it works.
All of this makes for a very solid 2 hours. The film never drags, and it fits nicely into its running time. As I said earlier, I haven't seen any previous X-Men films, but you don't need to. The characters are defined for us, and it's like its own film. There's a fair deal of comedy as well, the main laugh coming from a cameo of Wolverine. All in all, this X-Men has me hooked, and I'll likely be checking out the others. If they're anything like this, I'm in for a good time.
To Summarise: "X-Men: First Class" is the rare action blockbuster that chucks in great action of special effects, but never loses its strong characters or story; hats off to its solid cast and excellent direction. 

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