X-Men: First Class review – an action-packed, emotional sucker-punch
Last week I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of X-Men: First Class. So is it a worthy prequel to the multi-million dollar grossing X-Men series?
About the film
X-Men: First Class charts the epic beginning of the X-Men saga, before Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr took the names Professor X and Magneto and became arch enemies.
In this sixties-set prequel, they work together with other mutants (some familiar, some new), to stop the greatest threat the world has ever known. In the process, a rift between them opens, beginning the eternal war between Magneto’s Brotherhood and Professor X’s X-Men…
Watch the trailer
Warning: possible spoilers below
Attention to detail
The first thing you’ll notice is that this film looks completely different to the other X-Men films – it uses the styling of its mid-sixties setting to great effect, from the slick interior of the Hellfire Club to Emma Frost’s stunning 60s outfits and the use of contemporary news footage rooting the film in real world events – the attention to detail is perfect.
Even the way the characters relate to each other is obviously from another age: James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier is stuffy, plummy, and upper-class laddish. You half expect him to join the Bullingdon Club before inviting a young deb back to his rooms to polish his brogues.
As in the other films, at the heart of the story is the relationship between Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr, and their differing world views. The film follows the two men as they grow up, discovering their unusual abilities – in Lehnsherr’s case, a brutal lesson in using his powers from Kevin Bacon’s Nazi officer – and in Xavier’s case, a startling first encounter with another mutant in his home.
The two men are quickly thrown together to fight the sinister Sebastian Shaw and the looming prospect of World War III. During their quest to save the world, they quickly find their ideals diverge, leading to Erik’s transformation into Magneto – and then into tragedy for both of them.
As an ‘origins’ story, it’s well paced and explained – the film doesn’t get too bogged down in exposition – it just gets on with the story, taking you along for the ride.
And what a ride – the action set-pieces are stunning, and the period detail fantastic, but it’s the emotional content of the film that really hits you – as relationships are forged, and others fall apart against the backdrop of a rapidly changing world.
Witness the transformation of Raven Darkholme from Charles Xavier’s adopted sister, afraid of her appearance – to the blue and proud Mystique, and the devastating transformation of Hank McCoy into the Beast.
Kevin Bacon gives a stand-out performance as the icy, sinister head of the Hellfire Club, Sebastian Shaw, who has no qualms about killing anyone who gets in his way. His second in command – the aloof Emma Frost who can turn her flesh to diamonds at a moment’s notice – is played with cool detachment by Mad Men’s January Jones – and is the perfect foil for Bacon (see what I did there?).
As can be expected, the action builds throughout the film to the final sequence – a white-knuckle set piece on the coast of Cuba that’s both visually stunning and emotionally devastating, setting the scene for what will hopefully be a series of prequels.
First Class images
Win an amazing super power trip to New York with X-Men: First Class
To celebrate the release of X-Men: First Class – only in cinemas from 1st June 2011 – we’ve got an amazing super-power trip to New York to give away.
X-Men: First Class – only in cinemas from 1st June 2011
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