Saturday, June 4, 2011

Reel Thoughts: The X Factor

The new X-Men film is first class all the way. But what did you expect? Starring James McAvoy and the sizzling Michael Fassbender, and directed by Matthew Vaughn (the man who brought us the hugely entertaining Kick-Ass), X-Men: First Class reinvigorates the series by going back to its groovy, swinging roots. Part adventure, part history lesson and all-exciting, Vaughn’s film delves movingly into what made young Holocaust survivor Erik Lehnsherr into the villainous Magneto, played by Sir Ian McKellen previously. McAvoy is a perfect, compassionate counterpoint, as the telepath who would be Patrick Stewart, a.k.a. Professor X.

The story of these friends and future enemies begins in the 40’s, when Erik reveals his mutant power over metal in an attempt to save his parents, and at the same time, young Charles Xavier finds a familiar blue shape-shifter stealing food in the kitchen of his family’s palatial Westchester mansion. Raven, a.k.a. Mystique, played by Jennifer Lawrence of Winter’s Bone fame, who cements her reputation as a strong, committed actress who is ready to assume any role that would have earlier been given to Leelee Sobieski. But if Young Magneto and Junior Professor X are friends, who is their super-villain nemesis? That would be the utterly evil Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), a former Nazi scientist and current mutant collector. The action moves to 1962, where it turns out the Shaw is primed to bring about nuclear war via the Cuban Missile Crisis.

X-Men: First Class echoes J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek prequel in that we are introduced to many characters who will be very important in the X-Men’s future, with enough nodding cameos to tickle fans of the film series. The rest of the cast is impressive, including Nicholas Hoult (A Single Man) as Beast, January Jones as Emma Frost, and Rose Byrne and Oliver Platt as the only good guys in the US Military Complex that will eventually demonize all mutants.

The awesome sixties production design is a character unto itself, even if I doubt miniskirts were all the rage that early. X-Men: First Class truly succeeds in creating human stories amongst the action sequences. Fassbender’s quest for vengeance is a powerful plot, and the mutants’ quest to be accepted for who they are and not be hated and feared for it continues to strike a deep chord with LGBT audiences.

The best thing about X-Men: First Class is that you don’t have to have seen anything that came before to appreciate and follow the plot. In a summer that will be jam-packed with monsters, wizards and superheroes. X-Men: First Class graduates with top honors!

UPDATE: X-Men: First Class is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.


  1. ... I'd rather not recommend it for amateurs ( real ones, i mean!). Given the number of gross errors directly related to the basics of the subject ( people who are born with paranormal powers and/or physiological abnormalities, and their difficulties to live into a society that rejects them). No fan of the original concept can be satisfied with this... Hu! Movie, let's say...
    Mystic, Darwin and Emma are morphing THEIR CLOTES as well as their bodys!! Zero out of ten, Mr Singer: this is not Harry Potter!
    Shaw wants to strike a nuclear holocaust to promote the mutant race! That's so stupid, it speaks for itself!
    Hank is an aviation technician, a biochemeist and he can buil you a Cerebro in a few weeks... That's reed Richard with blue hairs!
    Magneto is full of hatred for humanity because Shaw killed his mommy ( opening scene easy and highly touted!): if it is not simplistic -even insulting!... But Lucas ( Georges!) already done the same to explain Anakin's choice of The Dark Side of The Force. Never silly enough for the masses.
    And what about the immediate disappearance of the ONLY Afro-American of the whole cast? And the instant turnaround ( no more explanations than that!) of that go-go-girl wich seems to have a more marginal life than the others?! If it is not a message as eavy as reactionary, i wonder what it means...
    Finally, note also the total absence of any form of esthetism: just compare the graphic effect of Havock's blasts of energy in the comic and that poor pathetic hulla-hoop performance here. the "queer" looks of the Beast ( he's wearing lipsticks!) and the cheap rendering of Angel's wings ( and flight!)... and i don't even mension Emma's grotesque wardrobe! Oops! Too late, i did!
    Using real facts ( and even archival documents!) to try to make the story more authentic falls into the water facing the pile of illogical facts that dot this blockbuster. Besides, rewriting history IS WRONG! You'll see they'll show the same lack of respect in the sequel and JFK will be their next victim.
    Bold reaction, yes, but i'm sure many fans will live their disappointement as hard as i do for X-Men First Class is a betrayal of everything the comic ever promoted. Please, do yourself a favor and read again the 70's/80's era.
    In addition, it is badly installed ( as skits!), poorly played ( Moïra, Magneto and Emma are terrible!) and without any kind of atmosphere. Nothing to save here but Banshee, flying like a madman in the air, and this beautiful picture of the Blackbird and the submarine, magically suspended between the sky and the sea... Still, it's a bit light for a subject that rich of possibilities.


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