X-Men First Class (2011) – By Duane L. Martin

Let’s face it, most of us have seen the X-Men movies. Whether you’ve seen some, most or all, they’re a very well known franchise. Well this film takes the franchise back to its humble beginnings. Back when Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) was a child and found a hungry Raven, a.k.a. Mystique, rifling through the family refrigerator and told her she could stay with them and would never be hungry again. From then on, and into their twenties, the two were like brother and sister. Charles, the dashing, womanizing college man who had just earned his degree in biology with a focus on mutations, and Raven, the doting sister who had secretly fallen in love with her adoptive brother, only to find that while he loved her as a sister, he didn’t think of her in a romantic way at all, which was probably the first wedge that started to form between them.

Then we see the horrific childhood experiences of Erik Lehnsherr, a.k.a. Magneto (Michael Fassbender). The Nazis took he and his family to one of the camps and separated him. The torment of watching them being taken away was the first time he really showed his power, though at that point, he could only display it when he was angry. He was taken to a Nazi scientist named Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) for further study. When he was unable to display his power, his mother was brought in and shot in front of him to prod him into displaying it. Later, Charles discovers Erik, who is now a Nazi Hunter, and helps him to hone his powers and to control them. The two become the best of friends, but by 1962, Sebastian Shaw, now an incredibly power mutant in his own right, has a team of mutants of his own and is working to cause a global nuclear war by instigating the Cuban Missile Crisis so that the age of man will end, and the age of the mutants can truly begin. With the help of a friendly CIA agent (Rose Byrne), a sympathetic official known as The Man in Black (Oliver Platt), a government scientist named Hank McCoy, who himself is a mutant and would eventually come to be known as Beast, and the help of the first incarnation of the super computer Cerebro, Charles uses his powers to help them find and recruit as many mutants as they can to train them and to help them stop Sebastian and his diabolical plans. Will they succeed? You’ll have to watch the film to find out.

I’ll just get this out of the way right now, because it’s going to be mentioned anyway. This X-Men movie suffers from the same issue that the others in the franchise have. That issue is that there are too many characters with too many varying powers to allow you to really get in depth and connect with the vast majority of the cast. There are a few exceptions to this of course. The film delves into the relationship between Charles and Raven quite a bit, and also on the development of the friendship between Charles and Erik. It also gives a lot of background on how the X-Men came into being, how Charles lost his ability to walk, the split between Charles and Erik, the fact that the Russians originally made Magneto’s helmet for Sebastian Shaw and it was originally black, not red, how Beast turned fully into beast after testing a syrum on himself that was supposed to suppress the physical aspects of his mutation while leaving his powers in tact, etc…. There’s a lot of really great background stuff going on in this film, and while there is an ever present use of CGI to show off all the varying mutant powers, in this particular film, the characters aren’t drowned out by the effects.

Kevin Bacon really surprised me in this film. I’ve long known he was a great actor. I believe my first ever experience seeing Kevin Bacon on the screen was in Red Dawn, and I’ve seen him in tons of things since. I wasn’t really sure at the beginning how he’d fit into this type of a film, but in fact, he not only fit into it perfectly, but his character and the way he played it had a style that made the evil inside even more intense. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender we both pretty amazing as well in their roles, as both actors brought out the human side of their characters in a way that really made you feel for them.

The CGI was what you’d expect. There were lots of great mutant powers, and it seems like in every X-Men film, they come up with a whole array of new ones. It all looked great, and generally typical of what you’d expect to see. There is a character I’d like to make note of here, not because of her power, but because of who played her. One of the mutants that Charles and Erik recruit is a stripper called Angel Salvadore, played by Zoe Kravitz. Does that name sound familiar? I’m sure the last name does at least. She’s the first born daughter of guitarist Lenny Kravitz and actress Lisa Bonet…and she’s 23 now!!! What the hell is up with that? I feel insanely old just saying it! How old do you all feel now?

Anyway, this particular X-Men film is one of the best, if not THE best one in the franchise, and if you haven’t seen it, you’ll definitely want to, and if you own the others, this one is a must have for your video library, and I strongly suggest getting the blu-ray copy if you’re blu-ray capable, because it looks amazing. The blu-ray is a 2-disc set with the movie and special features on the blu-ray and a digital copy of the film on disc 2. The special features on the blu-ray release are as follows:

  • X Marks the Spot Viewing Mode
  • Cerebro: Mutant Tracker (Mutant Database)
  • Children of the Atom Multi-Part Documentary
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes
  • Composer’s Isolated Score
  • BD Live behind the scenes extras.

The DVD release only has the special feature Children of the Atom: Second Genesis and Band of Brothers.

All in all it’s a great film, and if you’d like to pick up a copy for yourself, you can buy it from Amazon on DVD and blu-ray, or pick it up from any of the other usual outlets.