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Monday, June 6, 2011

Movie Review: X-Men: First Class (2011)

Growing up, have you ever wished you had superpowers? Maybe you wanted to fly like a bird, or be the strongest man on earth, or to be able to read people's minds or maybe turn invisible so no one can catch you doing naughty things.

Well unfortunately, I am 99.99% sure that we are not going to gain any of those powers in our lifetime. And that is why there will always be movies like X-Men to clue us in on what life would be like if we DID have all sorts of weird powers.

But first, a review of the cineplex. For this movie we went to GSC @ Tropicana City. We watch movies there pretty often, like the time we watched The Adjustment Bureau. We sat in the first row and I swore never to do it again because it left us with strained necks. This time we were in the 3rd row, and thankfully it was still far enough from the screen. We agreed that that was the limit though; second or first row would not have been comfortable anymore. If anyone plans on watching a movie there, do take note.

Oh and about halfway through the show, the film stopped screening! Basically we had nothing to watch for about 5-10 minutes, just staring at a black screen. I was afraid if it came back on it would have skipped all the parts we missed, but thankfully it resumed from where it had stopped. Still, it's the first time I've experienced something like that, and it was very off-putting. I'm beginning to feel like my trips to the movie are jinxed...


X-Men: First Class is meant to be a prequel to all the other X-Men shows before it. Set in the 1960s, the movie begins by telling the story of a young boy named Erik, who is separated from his parents by the Nazis during World War 2. At the same time, there is another young boy in America by the name of Charles Xavier, who grows up in a very rich family but with very little parental guidance. One night he catches a girl called Raven trying to steal food from his kitchen, and after he sees that she's as young as him, he decides to take care of her and they become best friends.

Charles Xavier is of course none other than Professor X, and Raven is the shape-shifting Mystique. As they grow up together, Charles furthers his studies into the human genome, while at the same time goes looking for other mutants with special abilities. Erik also grows up, but his view on life has been distorted by the torture put on him by the Nazis and his quest for vengeance against the doctor who killed his mother. It is that quest to find the doctor that brings him and Charles to the same place, where they meet for the first time and form a powerful partnership.

Good versus grey.
But even as they work together to track down other like-minded mutants in the world, are they able to stop other evil mutants from starting World War 3? And will they be able to compromise on their idealogies for mutants in a human world?


I've always been indifferent to the X-Men series: I'm not the most hardcore fan but I do know a thing or two about them. Of course, my favourite mutant has always been Wolverine...even though he is one of the most useless ones that only has claws coming out of his hands and facial hair like a bear. Somehow the cool-ness of Wolverine was such an attraction, especially when played by Hugh Jackman. Unfortunately Wolverine isn't featured in this movie, except for a short cameo by Jackman in the beginning. (Rebecca Romijn also makes a cameo in her old role as Mystique.)

In their glorious heydays... L-R: Banshee, Magneto, Mystique, agent Moira, Beast, Professor X & Havok

One thing that I thoroughly enjoyed about this movie was being able to see the more popular mutants in their younger days. For the casual comic follower like me, the only familiar version of Professor X is the bald guy stuck in a wheelchair. And Magneto is this old man. And Beast is blue and hairy. Well, there's none of that in this movie, and only at the end do we get to see how these characters became the way they were in the other X-Men movies.

This ensemble doesn't possess any big-ticket stars that will pull in the movie crowds; however, it more than holds its own. James McAvoy (of Pride & Prejudice) takes on the huge role of being a young Professor X. It's great to see the wise professor in the making, but also very refreshing because McAvoy's boyish charm balances youth and maturity very well (Who would've thought Professor Xavier had used a corny pick-up line or two in his younger day? And drank beer!?).

Once you go blue, you never go back.

Jennifer Lawrence, one of this year's Oscar Best Actress nominees, was expectedly good as the conflicted Raven/Mystique. Similarly good was the bashful Nicholas Hoult as Hank/The Beast, the scientist who was able to build all sorts of things out of nothing. Both yearned for a semblance of normality in their life, to just be accepted.

Nope, the Beast as we all know him, wasn't always blue & hairy.
And who knew there was attraction at first sight between Mystique and Beast?

Clockwise from top left: The young mutants; Havok, Angel, Darwin & Banshee

Of course, not all the mutants are those featured in other movies. First Class features a host of young actors playing the parts of lesser-known mutants such as the flying screaming Banshee (played by Caleb Landry Jones), Havok who discharges energy and looks like he's hula-hooping while doing it (played by Lucas Till), Darwin (played by Edi Gathegi) who reacts to situations around him to survive, and Angel (played by Zoe Kravitz) who's some mutant bug who can fly and spit fire.

Coming to terms with being mutants.

All are relatively fresh and interesting faces to the big screen, so it was a different experience compared to having big stars like Halle Berry in previous X-Mens'. Many people were taking particular note of Zoe Kravitz, because she happens to be the daughter of singer Lenny Kravitz, if any of you can still remember him!

Impressive scenes.

In terms of scenery and effects, the movie is awesome, of course. It helps that Professor X inherited tons of money and a huge mansion with a great view. With mutant powers that can create tornados, bend metal and suck energy, you know you're definitely in for a special effects fest. The best part obviously comes during the climax, and trust me this is one movie where you will know when the climax has arrived! It has that edge-of-you-seat feeling to it, even though everyone knows what's going to happen. 

And of course, we also have the villainous band of mutants, led by Sebastian Shaw (played by Kevin Bacon).

Kevin Bacon as the mastermind behind the Hellfire club.

The Hellfire Club of Mutants, from top to bottom: Emma Frost, Riptide & Azazel

Like every other mega villain, Shaw has his own mutant sidekicks at his beck & call, including the Hellboy looking Azazel who teleports you away to faraway places and then stabs you with his devil's tail. Scary.

For guys, there's no Halle Berry unfortunately (boo!), but there is a (very) silver lining in the form of January Jones, who plays the uber-sexy Frost who seems to be Shaw's right-hand woman, a mutant with the ability to turn into diamond and read minds (yay!). Wendy thought she looked really old, and though that might be slightly true, I still think she's completely worth ogling over. Rose Byrne is also in the movie playing the character of CIA agent Moira McTaggert, but she isn't portrayed in any alluring ways so there isn't much to see about her.

Irish rose, Rose Byrne as the tough Agent Moira McTaggert

For girls, well, I'm no expert, but I think the best looking guy in the movie is probably Michael Fassbender, who plays Magneto. All girls love a brooding young man with a troubled past do they not? And Fassbender also possesses the charm that could sweep many a woman off their feet if needed to. Fassbender was enigmatic on screen, at times overshadowing McAvoy, and tackled the role of a young Magneto with ease. This guy is one to watch.

Magneto commanding magnetic force fields.

So to sum up this very long review; X-Men: First Class starts off slow, but reaches a very exciting climactic ending. This is apparently slated to be the first movie in a trilogy, and the producers are even looking to Batman for inspiration - the first Batman movie was so-so because it had to introduce the characters, but by Dark Knight the whole movie could be devoted to ridding-evil and we all know how THAT turned out. So let's hope that the First Class series can pull off a similar feat soon!

More X-Men to come?
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