X-Men: First Class (2011)
When it comes to prequels in cinema, the success rate has been very low plus there aren’t enough examples of great prequels to justify their existence in the first place. All of that started changing when Christopher Nolan initiated the reboot revolution with Batman Begins, which was later successfully adopted by other derailing franchises like James Bond, Planet of the Apes, etc. Even the X-Men film series required a restart for many complained that the sequels had turned it all the more confusing & dumb and thus came up the idea for X-Men: First Class. And thanks to its brilliant production team, this motion picture joins the rare & elite list of prequels that just works.
Truth be told, I haven’t seen any of the previous films of the X-Men franchise. They never interested me for no particular reason whatsoever & I’m not very much into comic-book adaptations anyway barring few exceptions. The reason I went for X-Men: First Class was that it was being marketed as a reboot of the franchise & also stated that one doesn’t need to have any knowledge of the previous X-Men films in order to understand it. Plus, the glowing reception it garnered at its time of release only fuelled my desire to check it out just to see if the fresh start is going to interest me or not. And not only did X-Men: First Class turned out to be a brilliant film but also one of the finest origin stories ever presented on the screen for any comic book hero.
Narrating the origin story of the many significant characters in X-Men universe, X-Men: First Class mainly concerns the close friendship between Charles Xavier & Erik Lehnsherr before they turned into archenemies and adopted the names of Professor X & Magneto, respectively. Set in the 1960s during the Cuban missile crisis which almost put the entire world on the verge of a Nuclear Armageddon, the film begins with the introduction of these two individuals who are discovering their powers for the first time & who later unite along with other mutants (both familiar & new) to save the world from a looming war threat, which was staged by Sebastian Shaw, formerly known as Dr. Schmidt; an evil Nazi scientist who exploited the telekinetic powers of Erik at a concentration camp & now heads his own pack of mutants.
Coming fresh from the unexpected critical & commercial success of Kick-Ass, director Matthew Vaughn brings an entirely fresh approach & style to the X-Men universe in almost all filmmaking departments and succeeds in balancing its quality action with impressive storytelling, all without ever letting down the entertainment factor. The screenplay places equal emphasis on the character development of both its leading characters while also properly introducing the other mutants featured in the film & its setting in the real world environment provides the whole story a much more authentic feel. Tightly edited from start to finish, the film looks absolutely fantastic, thanks to its vibrant cinematography & state-of-the-art visual effects & it sounds fantastic too, thanks to excellent use of sound. And I’ve nothing but praise for Henry Jackman’s sensational score which only amplified the emotional response from its viewers as desired.
Coming to the performances, the best thing about X-Men: First Class is that the entire cast is pretty well-rounded & each member is very convincing in their given roles. James McAvoy plays Charles Xavier aka Professor X; the telepathic leader & founder of the X-Men while Michael Fassbender is in as Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto; a Holocaust surviving mutant with the ability to generate & control magnetic fields, and the performance as well as chemistry between these two men is what makes this film work so well. Kevin Bacon plays the main antagonist Sebastian Shaw with finesse & Rose Byrne plays a CIA agent who is friends with both Charles & Erik. Other fine performances include Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, January Jones as Emma Frost, Nicholas Hoult as Beast, Caleb Landry Jones as Banshee & many other mutants. Plus, there is a single scene cameo by Hugh Jackman reprising his role as Wolverine which just might turn out to be the most memorable moment in the whole film.
Since I have neither seen any of the preceding chapters nor read the comic books, I have no idea how it fares when evaluated on the basis of following its source material but the one thing I’m sure of is that X-Men: First Class is one hell of an entertainer that gets most things right as far as its on-screen adaptation goes & has every ingredient to amaze not only the faithful fans of the franchise but also newcomers like me. On an overall scale, X-Men: First Class marks X-Men franchise’s spectacular return to form & it’ll be interesting to see what path it will choose from here. Benefiting greatly from its brilliant direction, strong script, magnetic performances from McAvoy & Fassbender, terrific visual effects, tight editing & a wonderful score, X-Men: First Class comes out as a highly potent package that guarantees a cinematic experience which is surely going to entertain & astonish its viewers in more ways than one. Therefore, go watch it if you still haven’t. As for the upcoming sequel, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Just Bring It!