First Class demonstrates how the X-Men are not really superheroes. The X-Men comics focus more on what it is to be different, the prejudice that can come with that and how it forces people to do evil things or act in ways that are deemed evil. That is usually when the X-Men, led by Professor X, get themselves involved. First Class is a great example of this. It strays far from the original X-Men movie which focuses much more on the superhero dynamic, although does touch on the idea of being “different.”
In a series that had lost its way, going back to the beginning of the series and focusing on what made it such a success in the first place was a bold but obvious decision. At a time in Hollywood when the word reboot is a quick fix to almost all franchise errors, it was a fresh approach to do a prequel, even if this movie offered the option of resetting everything and starting again.
The choices of characters were great. Professor X and Magneto were always going to play key roles but to place a lot of emphasis on Mystique and Beast as well, means we get a fresh approach to some of the more well-known characters. Moving away from characters like Wolverine also freed this film from any association with past errors and gave it an identity of its own.
That identity is a smart, story-driven movie which is more about how people deal with powers than actually hero vs. villain. In fact, the villain is the weakest part of the story. Kevin Bacon leads a great cast of villains but they never get to stretch their legs as much as I would have liked; being used more as a device to give the new heroes something to do rather than the key protagonist of the movie.
The villain role is more ably filled by the fantastic Michael Fassbender. Both him and James McAvoy play their roles perfectly, really representing the iconic friends/enemies that will become Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. That is not the only cast that impress. Jennifer Lawrence has become a superstar since First Class was released and her performance in this movie demonstrates why. The same could be said for Beast, played by Nicholas Hoult, who between him and Lawrence, have to do a lot of the emotional heavy-lifting in the movie.
I said in my original review for the movie how I felt the ending, setting up the positions for the characters that we are more familiar with, felt rushed. Having seen it again, this doesn’t feel the case as much and I can understand the desire to bring the characters to this point. The reason for Professor X being in a wheelchair still feels disappointing and could be such a better explanation.
Overall, First Class is an example of all the best elements of the X-Men. It is about the powers and their effects on people’s actions and views rather than the constant and familiar struggle between good and evil. The casting is great, perfectly capturing each character they are portraying. It’s just a shame that the villains, who are equally as impressive, feel surplus to the movie and more of a device than an actual key part of the film.
Rating – 4
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)