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DVD Review: X-Men: First Class

September 9, 2011

X-Men: First Class – A 20th Century Fox Release

http://www.x-menfirstclassmovie.com/

DVD Release Date: September 9th, 2011

Rated PG for violence, language may offend, not recommended for young children

Running time: 131 minutes

Matthew Vaughn (dir.)

Ashley Edward Miller (screenplay)

Zack Stentz (screenplay)

Jane Goldman (screenplay)

Matthew Vaughn (screenplay)

Henry Jackman (music)

James McAvoy as Charles Xavier

Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto

Jennifer Lawrence as Raven/Mystique

Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw

Rose Byrne as Moira MacTaggert

January Jones as Emma Frost

Our reviews below:

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X-Men: First Class DVD Review By John C.

*** (out of 4)

Expertly directed by Matthew Vaughn, X-Men: First Class shows us the often complex story of how Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) came to lead his now famous band of mutants back in 1962.  Growing up with the sometimes blue Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), as well as his own abilities to read minds, Charles has dedicated his life to studying genetic mutations.  But when the evil Sebastien Shaw (Kevin Bacon) threatens nuclear meltdown, Charles and his close friend Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) recruit a group of various mutants to save the world.  But themes of betrayal and revenge are not far behind, and even more psychologically engaging is how Erik came to be Xavier’s greatest nemesis, Magneto.

As the back stories of some of the cheesier mutants are revealed, the midsection of X-Men: First Class arguably gets a touch too light and complicated for its own good.  But it’s all in the name of providing some good superhero fun, with the bulk of this origin story showing us the rise of those who will come to be known as Professor X and Magneto.  This part of it is quite nicely done, with the stylishly cool look of the film often appropriately steeped in Cold War paranoia.  A strong entry into the preexisting Marvel franchise, X-Men: First Class is a prequel that provides a thoroughly entertaining superhero movie for those wanting a plot to go along with the impressive action sequences.

The Blu-ray includes ten digital comic books, numerous ‘behind the scenes’ featurettes as well as an interactive mutant database.

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X-Men: First Class DVD Review by Erin V.  

***1/2 (out of 4)

Introducing us to Charles Xavier/Professor X (James McAvoy), and Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender), X-Men: First Class starts with a flashback to when they are both kids – in New York and Poland respectively.

Both mutants, Xavier can read minds, and Erik has the ability to manipulate anything magnetic.  When we meet them as adults in 1962, Erik is determined to find the people – and in particular Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) – who were responsible for his mother’s death in the concentration camps, while Xavier is leading a fairly ‘normal’ life in the US, having just graduated as a professor at University and living with his shapeshifting younger sister Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence).

Their lives cross when Xavier gets asked by a CIA operative (Rose Byrne) to help them capture Shaw who they’ve discovered is also a mutant and trying to start WWIII between the US and Russia (note that the film takes place during the Cold War era).  Figuring that the only way to stop Shaw and the other mutants he has at his disposal is to fight fire with fire, they hire Xavier to help recruit others like him (including Erik) to help stop this new threat.

An origin story of sorts, there is a lot to like here.  We do get introduced to a lot of characters – at times it seems like a few too many, but that is a minor complaint.  There is also a fair amount in terms of story to follow, as both sides have individuals who walk a fine line between allegiance and double-crossing (actually one of the things that is interesting to watch).  But although the script gets a little bit long at times, it’s all worth it for the payoff – handed to us as a very well-done final act showdown.  There are also fun – if a little silly at times – training montages in the middle.

The whole cast does a great job carrying the roles though, especially the two leads (McAvoy and Fassbender), playing the in some ways similar, yet polar opposite characters who’ll ultimately go down very different paths.  One of the best of the X-Men films, for fans of the comics or the cast, this one is well worth a watch – and holds up just as well, if not better, on second-viewing.

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X-Men: First Class DVD Review By Nicole

*** (out of 4)

X-Men: First Class is a well made introduction to some of the mutants.  Set in 1962, this movie focuses mainly on Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and the reason for their rivalries.  The two mutants are on a mission to stop villain Sebastien Shaw (Kevin Bacon), each for different reasons.  Shaw, along with mutant minion Emma Frost (January Jones), wish to start a nuclear war.  So Xavier recruits a group of teenage mutants, encouraging them to use their powers to stop the Cold War from becoming WWIII.

X-Men: First Class introduces not only Magneto and Professor Xavier, as well as Emma Frost/White Queen, but also the blue feathered Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones), Havok (Lucas Hill) and devilish villain Azazel (Jason Flemyng), who is also Nightcrawler’s father.

X-Men: First Class is a fun and exciting superhero flick.  Yet at the same time this movies makes the viewer think about how exceptional people are perceived in society, as well as exploring the different perceptions exceptional people have of themselves.  The acting and character development is good and the special effects are cool.  Both new and veteran fans of the Marvel franchise are sure to love X-Men: First Class.

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X-Men: First Class DVD Review By Maureen

*** (out of 4)

You don’t have to be a regular reader of the Marvel X-Men comics to enjoy this movie, X-Men: First Class.  The story works as a prequel and introduction to some of the many mutant characters and their origins.  Opening in wartime Germany, we first meet young Erik in a concentration camp being taunted by evil Sebastien Shaw (Kevin Bacon).  With such a dark first scene, the lighter mood of Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) in England with his blue girl roommate Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is welcomed.

Flash forward to the 1960s Cold War era and grown up Erik/Magneto (Michael Fassbender) seeking revenge of Sebastien Shaw.  Meanwhile, Professor Xavier has become an expert on genetic mutations and ends up working with the CIA to group together teenaged mutants so their unique powers and abilities can be used to avert a nuclear war.

The characters, both good and bad, all have just the right amount of a comic book feel to them.  Some of the costumes and special effects are impressive, including January Jones as Emma Frost, others are somewhat cheesy.  But overall, there is enough story and action to make the film an entertaining stand-alone movie highlighting some of Marvel’s more interesting characters, with the underlying message that different is okay.  Despite being a little long at over two hours, X-Men: First Class is a lot of fun.

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X-Men: First Class DVD Review By Tony

*** (out of 4)

X-Men: First Class is a prequel to the X-Men series. As in the original film, we first see young Erik (Bill Milner) using his mutant power to open a concentration camp fence, attracting the attention of Dr. Schmidt (Kevin Bacon). By shooting Erik’s mother in front of him, Schmidt sees how anger can unleash Erik’s power, and spends his time in the camp training him. At about the same time, young Charles Xavier (Laurence Belcher) discovers a blue shape-shifting girl in his parents’ Westchester castle who is adopted as his sister Raven.

It is now 1962. To avenge his mother, Erik (Michael Fassbender) is hunting for Schmidt, now called Sebastian Shaw, a mutant able to stay young by safely absorbing energy from explosions or nuclear reactors. He has three mutant minions. Emma Frost (January Jones) is a telepath (mind reader) who can turn herself to crystal to block other telepaths. Azazel is a red devil with a long lethal tail and the gift (like Star Trek) of instant teleporting. Riptide can whip up instant mini tornadoes with a wave of his hands. These powers are enlisted to persuade a high-ranking American general to have nuclear missiles placed in Turkey and his Soviet counterpart to ship theirs to Cuba.

This is observed by CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne), but her warnings are ignored until she can produce mutants of her own. She finds the telepath Charles (James McAvoy) and Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) at a college where Charles lectures on genetics. Back at the CIA they meet Hank (Nicholas Hoult), an ape-footed genius who can build anything, including a stealth jump jet and geodesic telepathic observatory from which Charles can detect other mutants. Angel (Zoë Kravitz) is a fire-spitting exotic dancer with gossamer wings. Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones) can break glass, echo locate and even fly using his voice. Havok (Lucas Till) is a human projected energy weapon who just needs help with his aim. Erik also joins Charles in an uneasy alliance to stop Shaw from triggering a world war that could wipe out normal humanity.

X-Men: First Class does everything a good prequel should, setting up the series with a back story that is a lot of fun on its own. The good cast plays it mostly straight, and the special effects strike a good balance between impressive and campy. The rivalry between Charles and Erik is well-developed, and Kevin Bacon makes a good comic book villain with the bonus of apparent fluency in several languages. I enjoyed the attention to detail, particularly the 60s style reminiscent of spy films of the time, with room-filling computers sporting flashing lights and huge tape drives, and B/W TV sets with JFK in his distinctive Boston accent discussing the missile crisis in “Cuber.” Fans will not be disappointed.

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Consensus:  With strong performances from a cast headed by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as well as stylish direction from Matthew Vaughn, X-Men: First Class is a nicely done origin story and a strong addition to the Marvel franchise.  *** (Out of 4)

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