Sunday, June 12, 2011

Movie Review: X-Men First Class

After eagerly anticipating the new X-Men movie from Marvel Entertainment for months now, I finally saw it yesterday morning. I was pretty impressed overall. (My experience could be slightly tinged with bias, as I took my brother along and had a great time just bonding with him.)

I didn't grow up a Marvel comics fanatic, but have always enjoyed reading and watching the X-Men series. The whole idea of a new species of humanity arising, with special powers like telepathy and element manipulation, is just fantastic and...believable. Haven't each one of us at some point wished we had superpowers? The X-Men series allows us to visualize these fantasies -- I know I always wanted Ice Man's abilities to freeze anything and transform into an ice crystal. With this in mind, I liked all the post-2000 X-Men movies filmed. This is especially true for the first 2 (X-Men, and X2: X-Men United) because they were a good balance of character development/demonstration, and action. X3: Last Stand was marred by the fact that (spoiler alert!) Professional X was killed within the first 10 minutes of the film; the creation of Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine was a tad over-the-top.

Going back to the movie in review, I was eager to see the younger versions of Professor X and Magneto. And the movie delivered in this aspect. The directors did a very good job, in my opinion, to stay true to the comic iterations in introducing these two main characters in the series. Some significant changes were made obviously to segment the story into a movie -- and potentially a new trilogy. For instance, the villain of the movie is (spoiler alert!) not Magneto; instead, it is another mutant named Sebastian Shaw. Shaw exists in the Marvel story but is not depicted as the evil that brings Professor X and Magneto together for the first time, nor the predecessor to Magneto in ideology.

The number of characters introduced in the film was both a good and a bad. The good was that the movie directors dedicated a minute or two to focusing on the special powers of each character, as well as their origins. It was also a pleasant surprise to see some of the characters introduced: I would not have expected Havok, Bashee, and least of all Darwin to be introduced in this film. I am partly glad to see the new film focus on characters either not revealed, or sparingly shown, in the previous trilogy plus one. That being said, the bad is that the new characters are too many -- and sometimes very unimpressive. I particularly disliked the appearance of the cyclone-generating mutant and the hooker-turned-x-men-turned-brotherhood-of-mutants lady. Just the ability to fly and acid-sprouting? Reminds me of Reptile from the Mortal Kombat series. I was appalled by the death of Darwin by early in the movie series, since he possessed a very interesting mutant power. Why couldn't have (spoiler alert!) Havok have been killed instead?

All of the action scenes were generally very good. I liked the individuals casted for the roles of Professional X and Magneto, as they channeled their characters well. There were definitely "wow" moments in the film: pretty much whenever Magneto used his powers to attack others. This was especially true for his single-handed attack on the Soviet compound, the levitation of the nuclear submarine from the ocean depths, and the stopping of all missiles and subsequent attempt to "give them back" to the aggressors. In contrast to the first Iron Man movie, there was plenty of action scenes in this film.

Overall, I'd rank this film pretty high: 8/10. I would definitely recommend even if you remotely like the X-Men series, or seen the previous movies.

UPDATE (07/15/2011): I've been considering the character development of Magneto lately and the more I think about it, the more I like what the directors did to portray him in this film. Whereas in the previous renditions Magneto is portrayed as this evil villain bent on destroying homosapiens, we see in X-Men First Class the origins of this hatred. The truth is that we can empathize with his feelings -- living in the concentration camps, having your mother murdered before your very eyes, and being targeted by those whom you just helped. Maybe the genius behind the directing is to depict the dark side of humanity: hate, jealousy, and brutish-ness. Considering Magneto's perspective and past experiences, one should not be surprised at the end, when he seeks to destroy all the naval units using their own munitions. The climax is his retort to Professor Xavier's plead that "[the soldiers] are just following order" -- "I've been at the mercy of men following orders. Never again."

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