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Review: X-men: First Class

22nd July 2011

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Magneto and Professor X are back. This time in the forms of Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy, respectively, in Matthew Vaughn’s prequel to the films of the popular comic book franchise.

Beginning with a recount of Erik Lensherr’s experiences as a young boy in the concentration camps during the Second World War, the film quickly introduce the audience not only to the film’s main villain Sebastian Shaw, but also to a major recurring theme throughout the film: the oppression of those who are different.

The rest of the film mostly takes place in 1962, where Charles Xavier and Erik meet for the first time, as the CIA requires mutants’ help to stop a forthcoming nuclear war between the States and Russia. As the two find other mutants to help them with their cause, they develop a friendship, despite their ideological differences on the subject of human-mutant relations: Charles believes they will all one day be able to live in peace with each other, but Erik – who has experienced firsthand how fear can turn people against a race – believes humans will turn against them, when they realise what superior powers they posses. 

With this premise, X-Men: First Class does not disappoint: it is an entertaining film, with multiple references to the other films – Hugh Jackman, for one, making a cameo as Wolverine – and a tightly written, fast-paced script. However, due to the multiple plots to follow, some of the minor characters fall flat, as they do not receive enough screen-time to become fully-fledged.

Nonetheless, this is a rare film in that it is a blockbuster, which has something to say. The many references and parallels to the Second World War and the Holocaust is expertly used to especially develop the character of Erik, and it not only provides the audience with a plausible cause as to why Erik Lensherr eventually becomes Magneto, but also to why Erik and Charles’ friendship was genuine, if not still doomed from the start.

James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender both prove to be great choice of casting, in that they have managed to take two characters, who could easily have become cliché and one-note, and made them not only believable, but also relatable. Also important to note, is the chilling performances of Kevin Bacon and January Jones as Shaw and his assistant Emma Frost.

The film will certainly bring satisfaction to the veteran fans of the X-Men films, as this prequel provides the answers to things such as why Professor X ended up in a wheelchair and where Magneto got his helmet from, but it can also be watched by those not previously introduced to the franchise, as both the characters and the main part of the mythology is introduced within the first half hour of the film. 

X-Men: First Class is thus all-in-all a better-than-the-average blockbuster, which not only provides nice special effects and big battles, but also insight into the human nature. Some of the minor character may fall flat, but the main ones are superbly portrayed, and the film succeeds where many other films based on comic books do not. It makes the viewer take the superhero seriously, even in all his costume and code-name glory.


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