Film Review: X-Men: First Class

X-Men: First Class is the best of the X-Men film franchise to date, delivering some emotional punches and excellent ties to the original trilogy. At the very least it matches X2.

I don’t want to give much of the plot away, so I’ll try to stick with what’s shown in the trailer. Essentially, this is the true origin story of the X-Men team. The Cuban Missile crisis becomes the backdrop for this film, which provides a great grounding for the story. Starting with the same opening scene as the first X-Men film, we get more of Magneto’s (Michael Fassbender) backstory, a deeper context for his anger and life-long vendetta against normal humans. Likewise, we see how Charles Xavier, a.k.a. Professor X (James McAvoy) begins his crusade to bring mutants together to aid humanity and gain society’s acceptance.

Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), Magneto’s childhood tormentor, has allied with the Hellfire Club (its first appearance in the film series) in order to help orchestrate the outbreak of World War III through the tensions between the USSR and the USA, centered on Cuba. Magneto’s determination to kill him, and Xavier’s commitment to stopping him make them allies, and a strong bond forms between them, making their inevitable parting of the ways all the more painful.

Some excellent nods to the original series occur, along with a good deal of new information. Xavier and Raven, a.k.a. Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), have a unique relationship that sheds new light on her eventual alignment with Magneto when he forms the Brotherhood of Mutants. The forming of the X-Men shows Beast’s transformation, as well as some all new additions to the lineup (including the nonchronological addition of Alex Summers, a.k.a. Havok, who is supposed to be Scott Summers‘, a.k.a Cyclops’, younger brother, which wouldn’t really work, assuming that Cyclops is in his thirties in the early 2000s). I’ve always thought that Emma Frost (January Jones) should be in this series, and was happy to see more of Beast (who was all but ignored in the previous films, like Gambit and a few others).

James McAvoy does Patrick Stewart justice here. He plays it just a little more light-hearted at first, before realizing what he’s about to get himself into. I almost forgot that he’s supposed to be in a wheelchair, which is a sobering reminder. He has a great rapport with Michael Fassbender, who depicts a fully wounded man, one broken from the start. Their courses seem to be aligned, though their methods remain vastly different. This becomes all the more heart-wrenching when they must eventually divide. Jennifer Lawrence really plays Mystique earnestly, reinforcing her loyalty to Magneto in the future of the series. I thought that January Jones played it a little flat, given Emma Frost’s propensity for emotion, but she looked the part at least. Overall the

The themes of the series and the comics–prejudice, awkwardness, growing up, relationships between unlike parties–remain fully intact and are accentuated through the juxtaposition between the implied eventual conflict between humans and mutants and the conflict between the Soviets and the Americans at present. We really gain solid grounding for everything that is going to happen, while also opening the door for a new trilogy (an opportunity of which the studio should avail itself).

Many people, including myself, thought it was a little odd that the original series did not attempt to work in the tradition yellow suits from the comics. We all know spandex does not always work. However, they really pull it off here–making the suits functional, like pilot jumpsuits. It’s not gaudy or overdone, and I’m happy that made it in. There are also a few cameos that really set this film in the same world as the originals, if anyone thought that this was a reboot. It felt like the 60s, through and through, much like a Bond film in many ways, with the style and the secrecy and a madman gearing to blow up the world (literally). I thought it added a great feel to the film’s atmosphere.

The effects were outstanding. If nothing else, the recent Marvel films have done an amazing job with the visuals. I’m continually blown away by the seamless interweaving of digital and practical effects. Also, Michael Kamen’s original X-Men theme was not left out, but was incorporated nicely by Henry Jackman throughout the film.

See the film, then watch the original trilogy, as I’m going to, and keep an eye out for the close connections between them. I really enjoyed it, and I hope there’s more to come!

P.S. Another point of discontinuity with the original trilogy. In the first film, Xavier said he was 17 when he first met Lehnsherr. Maybe they ran into each other in a pub?

4.5 out of 5 stars


68 thoughts on “Film Review: X-Men: First Class

    • I don’t think that I could describe it as gratuitously grotesque. If you’ve seen the previous X-Men films, this is on par. I really enjoyed it. There is the same consideration regarding Mystique’s “outfit” with Emma Frost’s, though Frost’s is not as revealing.

  1. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. Out of all the supposed blockbusters this summer this is one I want to see. I’m also looking forward to Super 8 and Cowboys & Aliens.

    I was hoping this film would do the series justice and from what you say it has. For Mikalee I would say whenever I am in doubt taking neighborhood kids (despite what their parents might say) to movies I use Kids-In-Mind Movie Reviews. It really breaks the movie down for you. If Rave Reader doesn’t mind, here is the link. (

  2. Absolutely. That’s a great idea. I recommend as well. It’s Christian-based, but they do a great job discussing all aspects, to keep parents informed.

    • True. I just wish he’d made the cut in the actual lineup, rather than an afterthought in the other, subpar film. I need to watch that one again just to be sure of my opinion. I’ve only seen it once, and I was unimpressed, aside from the opening credits, which are among the best I’ve seen in awhile.

      • I was really excited to see Wolverine because I had enjoyed the other movies so much – I’m wondering if that is part of why it was a letdown. There were definitely things I liked, but it was not on the level of the others. It almost felt like they were focused on packing in the characters and action, with less focus on story. It wasn’t a bad story, but it felt a little rambling to me. I would recommend watching it again, though, as it was better the second time around (maybe because I knew what to expect). I had to watch it again because I just couldn’t get past the fact that I hadn’t loved one of the X-men films. I still like it the least, but it does grow on you.

        With that in mind, I was not excited about this new film. You’ve made me want to see it now!

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  4. Great review. I’m curious about X-Men, but since I’m so used to seeing Patrick Stewart as Captin Picard, that always distracts me. Maybe Frist Class would give me the ability to get used to the world without that distraction.

    • I understand how you feel about only seeing Patrick Stewart as Picard. I grew up watching him there, too. He’s a brilliant actor, and I think you’ll be just fine seeing him as Xavier. He’s great at everything he does.

  5. I saw the movie this past weekend and it was AMAZING!! I really enjoy watching the different movies over the years. I also really liked how they gave us the background information on how everything began. This may be one of the favorite ones so far, along with Wolverine!!

  6. I’m not that much into prequels… I even find that whole Star Wars prequels thing a bit weird… anyways, seriously good looking cast on this one. I have seen the previews… looks like a fun movie. Love your blog by the way!

  7. Congrats on being FP’ed! Unfortunately, I do not share your enthusiasm for this movie. I have seen it twice now. Sure, it is a great movie for those who are not obsessed with the X-men comics, but for us die-hard Fanboys/Fangirls, I just felt sad after watching it. At least Magneto is amazing in it.

  8. For what it’s worth, I loved this movie. I know that they can’t really have all the facts lined up straight, granted that they already made the later years into films, so I can excuse the chronological mess up of Scott’s younger brother. This movie is aimed towards the mass market, so while it’s not all action and comic book styled, it can also appease the fans of the originals. Very much worth seeing!

  9. Loved it! In my review I added the groovy sixties split screen shots al a I Spy and the go-go boots with white leather minidress. Not to mention Frost’s big platinum hair — I knew her!

  10. Great review! I have to admit when I first saw the title I was thinking “oh here we go, someone’s not happy with the film” but glad I read it to discover you enjoyed it!
    I just saw the film yesterday and was happy with how they brought the story full circle, even if they were missing a few elements or characters from the comic.
    Like you the only character I wasn’t too fond of was Emma frost played by January Jones, but hey – you take what you can get!

  11. really? i thought it was terrible writing. only part i liked was the beginning 30 seconds and then the bar scene in argentina…

  12. Great review. My sentiments exactly.
    I also loved all the sixties details, graphics and music.
    The relationship between Erik and Charles was lovely and more complex than I expected, played by two incredible actors.
    Ah, but I missed Patrick Stewart. Sigh.

  13. I have not seen the movie yet but reading your review makes it sound more interesting that the rest of the X-men movies.

    thanks for the review!

  14. Don’t forget people next month is (Captain America). Great and upcoming movies coming out this summer. oh! and also, (Transformers 3).

    Is anyone excited for (Captain America)?

    ~Charlie Z

  15. Great review! I have been hesitant as to whether or not I want to see this one (I found the previous venture quite tragic, albeit mildly entertaining) but now, you have made my mind up! A summer blockbuster it is! 🙂

  16. Great blog. I saw the movie the day it came to the theater and I LOVED IT. My fiance has never seen any of the other movies and now he’s looking forward to seeing all of them. I will be watching them again too.

  17. Pingback: Film Review: X-Men: First Class | Surf Monkey

  18. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! The review’s really solid, has me looking forward to checking it out when I can pull myself away from WordPress!

    Do you think they’re going to use this as a reboot, and use the current cast in future movies? Or was this meant to be a one-off?

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  23. I really want to see this film. X-Men always come out with something amazing. The trailer on YouTube just smashes it. 🙂

  24. Top notch movie. I’ve been a fan of X-Men for a long time and have welcomed the modern remakes. I’ve always liked the underlying discrimination theme, it sheds a big light on our own society what with racism, homophobia, sexism and social inequalities.

    A great movie with multiple layers of meaning.

  25. Pingback: Film Review: X2: X-Men United « Elementary, My Dear Reader

  26. Pingback: Film Review: X-Men: First Class (via Elementary, My Dear Reader) | Ado Feck

  27. Pingback: X-Men: First Class « Fish Avenue

  28. Great review of X-men. I thought the movie was great. The movie was really character driven rather than senseless CGI. The last action scene was the best part of the movie.

  29. Pingback: Film Review: X-Men: First Class (via Elementary, My Dear Reader) « I.Am.Anne

  30. Pingback: Film Review: X-Men: First Class (via Elementary, My Dear Reader) « toppagenews

  31. Pingback: Film Review: X-Men: First Class (via Elementary, My Dear Reader) « toppagenews

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