Sunday, 19 June 2011

X-Men: First Class


Dir: Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, Stardust, Layer Cake)
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Bryne, January Jones, Oliver Platt, Kevin Bacon, Caleb Landry Jones, Lucas Till, Edi Gathegi
USA, 2011

Seen: June 11, 2011 at the AMC in ETX

Reason to see: It's on my list of Most Anticipated Films of 2011 (23)

X-Men: First Class just barely scraped into my Most Anticipated Films of 2011 at #23, which is suprizing and our of character for me as I am a fan of the X-Men universe from the films (I loved all but X-Men: The Last Stand), the animated series, the comics and specifically the Dark Phoenix Saga graphic novel. I was initially over the moon excited for X-Men: First Class, especially with the powerhouses of James McAvoy as Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender as Magneto, two actors whom I go out of my way to see their work. Why is the film not higher on my anticipated list? It was the trailer that got me nervous as it hinted at something I never had seen in an X-Man film: gender crap. All the women in the trailer were sexualized and/or not wearing much clothing. How annoying is it that an scifi/action film about mutants with super-power could have gender crap. But I'm sad to say that the trailer in this case did the film justice as all of the major female characters (and a lot of the extras) appear either mostly, the majority of the time or at least once with almost no clothes on. I'm so disappointed with that that I barely care enough about it to review the rest of the film but since I've started I might as well finish!

They pack a heck of a lot into the 2hr 12 minutes of the film, which in theory is structured about the origin of the friendship between Xavier and Magneto. Too bad they don't actually feel like friends,.... at all. I love both James McAvoy (Atonement, Wanted) and Michael Fassbender (Fish Tank, Centurion) and think they are very talented actors but I was not feeling the friendship here at all. This is really hard to take given that it's an origin story and I know it exists from seeing X-Men and X2 where Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan brought it to life. Anyhow, so I wasn't feeling that. We also are in a world on the cusp of the existence of mutants being revealed to the public which sets up Charles as a 'lets work together' side of things along with the goverment including Moira MacTaggert (Rose Bryne), folks that are not keen on working together like Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) and Emma Frost (January Jones) all alongside the setting of the Cuban Missile Crisis. I didn't find much of that interesting as I wasn't invested in any of the characters.

Amidst all the other action and drama, somehow there is time to seek out and recruit a bunch of new mutants to bring them together for the greater good. These characters were one of the only things I enjoyed about the film, because we got some really interesting characters learning to come into their own and some really great performances from promising young actors. In particular I was impressed with Lucas Till who does an amazing job as the tormented and withdrawn Havoc, this is the first I've seen him but I'll certainly keeping my eye on him. I also loved Nicholas Hoult as the brilliant and subtle Hank McKoy, he did a great job here and if you are trying to place him you've likely seen him before in either A Single Man, the UK version "Skins" or as the kid in About a Boy, I've been keeping my eye on him and he just keeps getting more and more impressive. Rounding out the impressive performances is Caleb Landry Jones as the awkward Banshee, and my initial thought was he was great but could be easily typecast, until I remember him playing a very different role in The Last Exorcism, both there and here in X-Men: First Class he delivers very powerful performance and I have a feeling we are going to be seeing many more from him in the future.

Overall, X-Men: First Class is definitely one of the disappointments of the year for me, and it's certainly more so because it's a world I already know and love. There was too much packed into the film and the characters on screen did not feel like the characters I had grown to love and/or love to hate. I can see that they could have been going to the analogy to discuss the idea acceptance or fighting in terms of different-ness, but I'm not biting that bait. I'm not sure where, if anywhere, they will go from here but I likely muse over X-Men, X2 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine and try to forgive & forget this entry in the saga.

Shannon's Overall View:
I was very disappointed in it
I'll probably buy it just due to being a completist
I can only imagine it being liked if you can tune out gender crap

Also see: All 2011 Films Reviewed, Most Anticipated Films of 2011 and All Film Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011


Tom said...

I have never seen any of the X-mens and I'm not at all familiar with their origins.

Would this be a good "intro" movie for me? To get a feel for the X-men universe?


Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

Sure, it's technically an origin story so starting with this film is a good way to go about it. In fact, oddly although I didn't like the portrayal of Xavier and Magneto starting here is a great way to work up!

Tom said...

Thanks! I just listened to the part of your podcast where you review the film!

I'm on a superhero high because this weekend I watched both Green Lantern and Thor and I learned alot about those characters and their origins from the movies.

Andrew Robinson said...

so let me get this straight... you don't like the movie because it didn't have any strong female characters? and those that were there were sexualized?

Let's take a look at the female characters put forward in the film. Frost (January Jones) a woman who uses her sexuality as a weapon to push herself forward in the world and #2 to Bacon (i.e. the man going to take over the world), Moira (Rose Byrne) an agent with the CIA who helps make the X-Men a part of the war effort and tries to be the link from the human and mutant world, and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) a young girl trying to figure out which part of her to be true to, mutant or human since she has the ability to disguise herself as human anytime she pleases.

The sexual nature of the characters are all embedded in the time and reality of the film. It comes with the youthful nature of the women (excepting Frost where she knows what she's doing).

Anyways history has told me this arguement is a losing battle, but honestly I think that's a lame reason to shut yourself off from the movie.

As much as I know you'd love to see a female centric film where women rule the world and the men are the ones in the kitchen fixing dinner I don't know why you keep looking at films set in this time and expect anything else, even though this movie isn't the stereotypical 60s film in that sense I feel.

Just saying.

Paul said...

I have had the blog in my Google Reader for a while now, and usually, I can see where you are coming from comments about "gender crap" in movies (although, still strongly disagree about Star Trek). I may not always agree, but I can see your point.

With this review - and no TIFF coverage - I will now be removing moviemoxie from my subscriptions. I can't disagree more with this review. Especially when X-Men Origins: Wolverine is an infinitely more flawed film (yet listed as an enjoyed film).

Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

Sounds like you've have a super-hero centric weekend Tom! I really enjoyed Thor, though haven't seen Green Lantern yet. Sounds like origins stories are where it's at.

Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

Wow, sounds like I really hit a nerve with this review!

Andrew - I hold to my review with being disappointed in the fact that all the women were sexualized and/or not wearing much clothing. ALL of the them. The four significant female characters all appeared at some point with almost no clothing on. This is unbalanced with the men in the film, where none of the significant male characters appeared either sexualized or with almost no clothing on. If it's embedded in the time and reality of the film, why do we only see this with the women? I see your argument with Emma Frost, who is the strongest in terms of feeling like she is in power when it comes to her choices, but as audience members what we see is voyeuristic. That doesn't feel very empowering to me.

I didn't shut myself off from the film - the film shut me out as an audience member. This is a series that I've grown to love over many years, and until this film I've always felt that I was the target market. But with X-Men: First Class, I'm not the target audience because what they showed didn't feel like X-Men to me on multiple levels, not just the gender stuff but also not capturing the Xavier/Magneto relationship. I have no desire to see gender imbalance on either side, and have never said I wanted to have men in the kitchen.

Paul - With this, and all, of my reviews I aim to share my experience of the film and match up films to their target audiences. I'm not sure what it was about this instance that set your decision off, but I am sorry to see you go. Maybe we'll connect at this years TIFF and chat it out.

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