X-Men: First Class (2011)

X Men First Class

  • A solid, though imperfect addition to the X-Men universe, First Class is a quality action adventure.
  • It is anchored by two compelling characters, Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) and Charles Xavier (James McAvoy). Neither is three dimensional and both could have used more treatment, but they are fitting leads for a superhero drama.
  • Just as Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) is a fitting villain. He too could have used additional development, but his mutation facilitates interesting action, and his philosophy is rife with enough truth that it is never boring.
  • Though it is repetitive. Shaw is a more militant version of Magneto from the original X-Men movies, and we have heard most of his arguments before, many of them multiple times.
  • A problem that is further compounded by most of First Class’s conversations between Erik and Xavier. They too are reminiscent of previous films.
  • In that way, while First Class is always entertaining, it doesn’t advance the X-Men mythology. Mostly, it repeats it.
  • The film also under-utilizes important secondary characters. Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and the rest of the young mutants are wasted. Yes, each receives a side plot, but all of them are rushed and fail to register, especially Mystique’s. Her decision to side with Erik despite lengthy friendship with Charles might have made for gripping drama and intense emotion, but the filmmakers don’t focus on her enough. So it doesn’t.
  • First Class simply has too many characters. Fewer mutants would have meant more character development of those present, which would have produced more emotional resonance.
  • For all of that, this prequel accomplishes its objectives. It shows the origin of Professor X and Magneto’s adversarial friendship, how X’s school for mutants began, and so forth.
  • Plus, it cleverly incorporates mutants into the Cuban Missile Crisis.
  • And includes some exceptional visual effects, especially when Magneto lifts a submarine out of the ocean.
  • The action sequences are strong. The battle on the beach stands out, as does Erik’s assassination of three men in a bar.
  • All of the actors are terrific, as well, especially Michael Fassbender and Kevin Bacon.
  • Which is to say X-Men: First Class mightn’t be perfect, but it is good. And one of the better films in its franchise.
  • Final Grade: B-
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29 thoughts on “X-Men: First Class (2011)

  1. Nice review. More or less, we agreed on the film. I gave it a B and you a B-.

    I enjoyed it a bit more, but your negatives are valid. There are too many characters, (was I the only person that hated the CIA agent played by Rose Byrne? Don’t know what people see in her), and it doesn’t break real new ground. I personally would have liked to see a bit more action.

    But this did revitalize the franchise, and did what it probably aimed to do.

    • I think Byrne’s performance was good, but he character is blah. She isn’t developed well enough for me to like or dislike her. In my opinion, she just exists.

      And I agree on the rest, more or less.

  2. I loved the film. Not sure if I would give it a higher review or not, but it was fun as hell. Cannot remember how well development the characters are, but eh, maybe that says something!

  3. I had a ton of fun with this film. I would likely agree with your score, but I cannot remember how good or bad the character development was. Eh…maybe that says something!

  4. Excellent review. I must say that this one impressed the hell out of me, I was not expecting it to be such a solid entry, but it worked. Fewer mutants may very well have helped the film a bit more, but this was a good one!

  5. I thought I’d hate this as I thought the X-Men series ran out of steam after Bryan Singer left, but remember being pleasantly surprised by it. Agree there are too many characters, but I guess it’s driven by the need for toys and spin off movies and the like. Or is this a spin off movie in itself? I’ve never really been sure.

    • It does have a bit of “spin-off” feel to it, given that the other X-Men flicks primarily focus on Wolverine, and here he has just a brief comedy. And, actually, the whole reason I hadn’t seen this one before last week is I gave up on the X-Men after the miserable-ness that was X-Men 3. I only decided to given them another shot when this one received such positive reviews. But it still wasn’t high on my priority list until Days of Future Past was announced.

      So I’m with you; First Class surprises me, too.

  6. I really enjoy First Class! McAvoy and Fassbender were definitely excellent choices, and I think the film as a whole is a fair bit of fun. Not perfect, maybe (I’d probably give it a B+), but after than X-Men: The Last Stand, I was more than happy to embrace this. Lol.

  7. I remember finding this film very sexist. the main female charater is in her underware within the first 5 mins and the others are all is various states of undress throughout (i’d make an exception for mystic as that’s the charater, but the rest are just silly)

    • I wouldn’t go quite so far as calling it sexist, because Byrne and Lawrence’s characters are both sympathetic. And the latter gets some, though not enough, development.

      Still, I do agree the movie goes too far in having women expose body parts. I didn’t mention that flaw in the review, but that doesn’t mean I think you’re wrong.

  8. I skipped this at the time it came out because I took notice that it didn’t feature any of the ‘normal’ X Men we were presented with in 1 and 2. . . funny now looking back on it that it features such talents as Fassbender and McAvoy. I guess back in ’11 I wasn’t into movie critiquing so much so what did I know? lol

    Based on your good review I’m much more keen on checking it out now, despite it’s slight rehash of the original story

    • I skipped it, too, because I was done with the X-Men franchise after the awful third movie. But this got enough positive buzz for re-vitalizing the series and has enough people excited for the Days of Future Past that I decided to finally give it a shot. I’m glad I did. It is quite good, even if it has its share of missteps.

  9. Yes, I agree! The 2 leads are exceptional; little character dev. As an X-Men fan, was quietly impressed by this, but not sure about DoFP. btw, Hugh Jackman’s brief but hilarious cameo is way better than the 2 Wolverine spin-offs put together! Cheers!

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