To date we have had four instalments in the X-Men franchise, the three X movies and Hugh Jackman?s Wolverine film. With all that on-screen history in place, can First Class fit it to the continuity? Vaughn?s movie side-steps these problems by taking us back to the formation of the X-Men, telling the twin tales of Professor X and Magneto, and re-writing the origin story for a new generation. This is a classic James Bond movie, hidden under a layer of SciFi and X-genes.
The re-casting of the two leads works particularly well, as do the younger incarnations of Mystique, Beast and Havok. Less successful are young Banshee and the ?lesser known? Angel, Darwin and Azazel. Banshee comes across as a failed Ron Weasley clone, while Azazel makes great use of Nightcrawler?s special FX, but has none of his charm, impact or interest.
The movie itself, takes elements of the classic comic storyline The Hellfire Club, updating the Sebastian Shaw character and Emma Frost?s ?White Queen? to the level of big bads. Kevin Bacon does an admirable job as Shaw (and I am told by my German fianc? that his German is pretty darn good, which makes a change for Hollywood!), but Emma Frost never sets the screen alight. She fails to ooze the sexuality and arrogance that the comic book character has, and while January Jones is certainly a good-looking woman, she doesn?t really fit the image we all have of Miss Frost?close, but no diamond-tipped cigar.
The movie itself is a joyride, never taking too long over the exposition, getting on with the action. It is chock full of lovely set-pieces and some great cameos. The mixture of character arc and OTT Armageddon plot works well, and the reinvention of the Prof X/Magneto backstory is well handled.
But the film does have a tendency to trip up. From Emma Frost?s diamond form suddenly being able to be damaged/cracked (something that is impossible in the comics), to confusion over what can and can?t be controlled by Magneto. For those who have come new to the X-Men, these things make no difference. It is just a shame that for such a lovingly crafted movie, these small points are missed.
The big finale, while including some spectacular scenes, suffers from the same limitation that so many modern films and TV shows suffer from?that of the HD Bluray experience showing up the CG effects. In the big set-pieces you suddenly lose realism, as the CGI is thrust in your face and the impressive HD image shows up every matte line and missed shadow. It is not terrible, but still there needs a better connection between the production process and the viewing experience.
The ending does bring a wonderful cameo from Michael Ironside (he?s rock!) and an interesting take on who caused Prof X to lose the use of his legs. As endings go, it is a lovely setup for further films.
The Bluray is a strong package at a decent price. The image is superb and the audio is blisteringly good. A few extras adorn the disc, but still less than you might expect. It seems BD?s still use more of their capacity for a better film experience, and I can?t say I mind. DVDs were starting to have far too much additional material, much of it terribly produced. I am enjoying these ?less-is-more? BD releases.
All in all, X-Men First Class is a great film for home viewing. Be warned it does include scenes and dialogue suited for older children upwards, there are a few bits you might not want your younger kids to see/hear (a brilliant Wolverine cameo being the highlight). In my opinion First Class joins X-Men 2 at the top of the class for brilliant movies. X-Men 1 was a bit of fun but light on anything more substantial, and X3 was entertainingly distracting. Wolverine passed the time but missed the point of who and what Wolverine is entirely (baring the superb opening montage) and as usual Liev Schreiber out-acted his own leading-man.
Well worth a watch?so grab some popcorn and a drink and sit back and enjoy.