I just got back from watching "X-Men: First Class", and it was really, really good. Thing is, the original three movies were mostly Wolverine movies with the X-Men as a supporting cast, this movie doesn't have that as an issue, it is really its own thing.
In a Wolverine movie the focus is on the mysterious past, controlling his violence to fight for a good cause, not just a cause, it is more of a personal story that relates to Wolverine, which is fine, he is a really cool character and appeals to that side of people who are tired of suppressing anger and want to knife a bitch, and since he remembers very little of his past he is in many ways a blank slate on which the audience can project, and he can serve as the audience mouth piece for questions like: what is a mutant, who is Cyclops, where are the bad guys? This movie does not have Wolverine as a protagonist, mostly because the character had been fully explored by "X-2", with "X-3" and "Origins" being unable to offer anything more to the character (seriously now, they could have not had him in the third movie, and it would have been better for it, and his own movie did nothing but over explain everything we learned in 2, so why bother?)
|Oh... Yeah... That...|
This movie, so freed from Wolverine gets to actually talk about the pathos and message of the X-Men. This movie has actual debate and conversation between Magneto and Prof X over the role of mutants in society, how minorities are treated, and why there is a conflict between the characters. The actors playing Charles and Eric are awesome in their roles, and the first third of the movie where they are established, and the last third when their conflict comes to a head is dynamite (the middle third is about the side characters more and I'll get to that).
|Hey look, they are playing chess, just like they do in the first three movies.|
Nothing was wrong with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen's performances in the first three, they played the supporting roles they were given very well, but they were not the main characters, in "First Class" they are and the full depths of who they are and why they fight can be explored. It goes a long way to show why things are the way they are for the other movies.
I mentioned that the middle third of the movie is about the supporting cast, sadly most don't get enough development, so little than when one of the team dies, I sort of shrugged, when another changes sides, I shrugged. but I will give it this: they told the entire story of "X3" is about 15 minutes with more emotional impact and intelligence than that movie did. The idea of a cure, the reasons why someone would want it, and violent self hatred which drives the creation of such a thing. I don't think there are any weak actors, just smaller roles, and those that get the lime light do a lot with it.
I found some of the characters to be interesting departures from the comic, the main big bad, Sebastian Shaw seems to actually be both that character, and the character of Mister Sinister, as he has a lot of mad scientist vibes; I really like the way they portrayed his powers, it is weird and awesome, whatever artist came up with that deserves a cupcake party.
|This movie has it all. And Kevin Bacon.|
The only complaint I have with this movie is the subtext... There isn't any. While the idea of mutation = Homosexuality had been hinted at cleverly in "X-2", this movie flat out has the words, "They didn't ask, so I didn't tell". Not to mention the phrase, "If you aren't with me, then that means you are against me." I get it! You really do not have to hit me across the face with it. (Whisper: it is more clever when you let the audience figure it out for themselves, yeah they might get it wrong, but if they come to the realization themselves, they are more likely to agree with you, rather than complain about being preached at.)
Overall, I would say it is a 4 out of 5 star movie. The very strong ending means that a "Second Class" is likely, and I do hope the good guys get some girl members, the bad guy ranks are 3 of 7 in that regard, and the only good female get mind wiped at the end to keep the government from attacking, which is a shame cause she was awesome. This might not seem like an issue, but X-men is regarded highly for its diversity of heroes and if all the good guys are white men by the end of the movie, and the bad guys have a good mix, it makes them a hell of a lot more sympathetic.
|The setting is also good, like "Mad Men" meets "X-Men", Mad-X-Men.|