Saturday, June 4, 2011

"X-Men: First Class" review: pitch-perfect, slickly cool and spectacular!

Right out of the gate: THIS is what we loved about Bryan Singer's first two X-Men movies! A comic book action movie with heart, soul, emotional depth, and in the case of this finely crafted prequel, perfect and respectful connectivity to the previous films. THIS is how the "Star Wars" prequels SHOULD have gone down!

As the movie opens, we are greeted by the opening sequence from the original "X-Men", painstakingly recreated shot-for-shot, showing a very young Erik Lencher being separated from his parents in a concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. I was very impressed by the fact that they were so incredibly faithful to connecting this to Singer's other films. They could have easily done a facsimile that splintered off in tone a bit, but that's certainly not what Singer and director Matthew Vaughn were even considering.

Arriving in 1962, we find two young men who will soon become fast friends and eventual, eternal opposites. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are perfectly cast as the young Charles Xavier and Erik Lencher. They play off each other wonderfully against a world about to be altered by the Cuban missile crisis. Xavier is suavely intelligent, using his unique abilities to probe the early stages and intricacies of mutation, while Lencher exudes James Bond coolness as he tracks down Nazis who have escaped retribution, post-WWII.

The search for other mutants brings them to a hilarious cameo and the forming of Xavier's 'First Class'. But along the way there are perfectly toned insights into how some future enemies were once heavily connected. Not through blood relation, but just by being one's 'brother' or 'sister' in a sense.

There are some purists out there who will balk at the re-writing of the history of "X-Men" First Class" in it's original comic format. It goes without saying that I completely respect this per my tirades in the past about mucking with canon, etc. Having dabbled in X-Men comics from time to time in the 80's, I was never completely tied down to any one interpretation, and of course LOVE the Singer incarnation of the most iconic X-Men team.

That being said, this First Class team mixes it up quite a bit from the colored page, introducing a number of mutants who've appeared in other stages of the X-Men run...and I was completely fine with that from my perspective. Again, with utter respect for those who do take issue.

This movie is set brilliantly in the early 1960's with it's stylish lincoln automobiles and period suits, dresses and hairstyles. But the great thing is they keep the characters connectable and not too intrenched in the time period. Even though the era as depicted here has a James Bond coolness throughout in it's gadgetry, weapons and tactics that lends fittingly to the fantastical.

The costumes are perfectly period, yet at times modern in design. The classic yellow and black (here a dark hue of blue) jumpsuits are functional upgrades from the comic's iconic look. The effects are top notch and the music is thrilling. I would have thought Bryan Singer would bring composer John Ottman back to the franchise, but it definitely makes more sense to have a fresh musical voice for this first of hopefully a trilogy of movies. This go-around, Henry Jackman whose mentor is none other than Hans Zimmer.

A trilogy seems to be practically in the bag after the incredible 89% on the Rotten Tomato meter. Incredibly strong reviews going hand in hand by moviegoer bliss is what will keep this movie in people's minds throughout the summer. One could note that this is almost like a prequel with a reboot cleverly rolled in...yet done RIGHT! There are so many places this tale of the early years can go now! With Singer and Vaughn at the helm, an incredibly satisfying, very emotional and action packed ride has begun!

The moment the credits rolled, Rebecca and I looked at each and said 'we definitely have to see this again very soon!'


At June 7, 2011 at 4:39 AM, Anonymous Allen said...

Cool, can't wait!

My only concern for the future is the soft box office and any new director(s) that might step in.


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