Sean K. Cureton

X-Men: Inaccurate First Class

In Movie Reviews: 2011 on June 18, 2011 at 8:56 pm

Theatrical Poster

X-Men: First Class
Directed by Matthew Vaughn
2 out of 4 stars

At the beginning of the new X-Men film, there is a sequence that many fans of this series may recognize from the first X-Men film of 2000. This sequence is set in a Nazi concentration camp in the 40’s, and focuses on how Magneto’s parents were stolen from him by the Nazi campaign, and how this traumatic experience played a large part in shaping Magneto into the villain that he becomes later on in life. This sequence was almost identical to the opening sequence in Bryan Singer’s X-Men, which was a nice way to both pay homage to the best film adapter of this series, while at the same time allowing for a complete reboot of the series without completely forgetting what made the first two films in the series so great.

Unfortunately, from there, the film fails to prove itself to be a worthy successor to the first two films of the series. While this movie was certainly satisfying in its own right, it failed to deliver in more ways than one. For starters, it did not contain the original team that Bryan Singer, who was one of five writers on this film, had promised. Originally when this film was first announced, Singer had said that the idea would be to take the original comic book series, and use that story line almost entirely. In other words, the heroes, or the X-Men, would consist of Professor X, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Beast, Archangel, and Ice Man. However, in the film, the “First Class” contained Professor X, Mystique, Beast, Darwin, Angel(not to be confused with Archangel), Havok, and Banshee. In other words, the writers of X-Men: First Class promised the original X-Men team, which would have been great, and chose to simply not deliver. Instead, they took a couple of characters from the entire comic book series that they liked, and made up a storyline where they were the “First Class.”

Given the fact the “First Class” was so inaccurate, the plot was also obviously not directly inspired by the mythology of the original comic series. Instead of strictly focusing on the rivalry between Professor X and Magneto, which while having been done before would have been interesting given that this movie could have told the story of the start of this rivalry, X-Men: First Class instead chooses to create a plot where the Hellfire Club is the primary adversary to the X-Men. While this decision did allow for great performances from Kevin Bacon as the head of the Hellfire Club, and January Jones as his dangerous seductress, the plot was ultimately too much of a departure from the original comic series, which is what was promised in the first place.

Despite the fact that this film was a disappointment in terms of its connection to the source material, it did offer some of the best character moments this film series has seen since 2003’s X-Men 2: X-Men United. In particular, X-Men: First Class was able to deliver a satisfying portrayal of Beast, who is a part of the actual original X-Men team. Unlike Brett Ratner’s horrid incarnation of the character in 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand, this time around, Beast is given a proper introduction, and more importantly, his origin story is told in full, and for the most part accurately. More importantly, actor Nicholas Hoult, who starred in the wonderful British drama television series Skins, provides a great performance as Beast that was simply not to be found in Kelsey Grammer’s interpretation of the character in 2006.

This film also provides the best story for the X-Men universe since X-Men 2. Set during the 1960’s,(one of the few accuracies from comic to screen in this installment) this film pits the X-Men in a fight to stop Kevin Bacon’s character from starting World War 3, all while trying to figure out just what the X-Men should be all about in the first place, thus the title First Class.

Overall, Matthew Vaughn was able to deliver the best X-Men film since Bryan Singer left the franchise in 2003. That being said, it also was not a great film, in that it did not live up to what was promised. By not focusing on the original comic book team, the “First Class” of this film ends up feeling like a recycled team from the last two X-Men movies, which is not a good thing at all. While the plot was good, it also was held back by the fact that it was not inspired by any of the comic plot lines, but was invented most probably by movie studio execs who wanted to see certain X-Men that had not been put on film before. While X-Men: First Class is definitely better than the last two films in the series, the fact is that almost anything would have been better than Ratner’s fiasco and X-Men Origins: Wolverine’s blandness. Bottom line, Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men could have been worse, but it also could have been better. A lot better.


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