Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence
Familiarizing oneself with the origins of a particular comic book franchise is an obvious must if you’re to truly appreciate any corresponding film adaptations. Marvel and the gang have done a pretty bang-up job in giving casual filmgoers and fanboys what they deserve, however going about producing something that chronicles events and information viewers have been privy to for almost a decade seems a bit, well, unnecessary. X-Men: First Class is a prime example of how certain corners of the typical comic book niche need not be explored to death, even if just to redeem the X-Men legacy following a rather lukewarm third entry into the original trilogy.
Looking past the initial discrepancies I had with the film, Matthew Vaughn’s vision of the X-Men universe does carry with it some substantial high notes that weren’t altogether absent throughout the original films, yet not emphasized or embellished upon to the fullest extent. In dealing with the origin of Charles Xavier’s renowned and ever-changing lineup of mutants, the philosophy surrounding the acceptance of these gifted individuals is touched upon to often boring extremes. First Class is peculiarly dialogue-heavy, and in spite of some striking visuals that correspond with the requisite superhero mayhem and the intriguing Cold War setting, the sequences in question do little outside of offering insight into the lives and minds of the two most recognizable parts of the X-Men universe: Professor X and Magneto.
Once again, it’s assumed we’ve familiarized ourselves with most of what’s easily recognizable here thanks to Bryan Singer’s initial entries into the series. Notwithstanding a few (forgettable) characters to satisfy fanboys’ desires to see how faithful Vaughn’s remained to the franchise itself, the film suffers from an inability to make us care for any of them. The initial awe brought about as each fledgling mutant begins to harness their own individual powers wears off quickly, and although the makings of a wholly entertaining Marvel flick are present, Vaughn simply fails to balance sentimentality and flashiness in a way others have.
McAvoy and Fassbender admirably steal the show with enough charisma to fill the Atlantic Ocean, rendering all other members of the supporting cast as mere plot components that stand to serve their purpose and nothing more. Seeing as how Charles and Erik are the film’s intended centerpieces, the reality of it all doesn’t manage to be as upsetting as it should be if all First Class aimed to be was another half-hearted franchise reboot. Kevin Bacon and January Jones make a wonderfully sinister duo, even if Bacon may seem a little out of place here and there, but when it comes down to it, our two leads are easily where a great deal of the film’s general appeal lies outside of the obvious eye-poppingly sleek action-oriented sequences.
Well-received as it may be, Matthew Vaughn’s ambitious go with the X-Men franchise lacks a steady pulse. CGI-infused action sequences aside, the film suffers from chronic pacing issues brought about by a dialogue-heavy script and an uninteresting cast of characters, not to mention an unbearable sense of familiarity that can be attributed to the existence of the original X-Men trilogy. Thanks to a pair of winning leads and just enough general appeal to keep First Class afloat amidst these shortcomings, this origins story manages to establish itself as but a mediocre entry into Marvel’s constantly expanding repetoire.