Since the sequel is in the making and there are already some rumours leaked out about it I figured it would be a great time to re-watch X-Men: First Class. Especially since I do feel I overrated this movie when it came out in 2011, so now it is time to look at it from a new perspective.
The movie was not a coincidental success, I agree that much. Matthew Vaughn is a talented director, I adore Stardust, Kick-Ass not so much, but he can make a good movie if he wants to.
First Class is unique in a way that it took an interesting turn away from the other X-Men movies in terms of characterization and this, I believe, has proved to be both an improvement and a decline. The trilogy’s biggest mistake was that it tried to do an ensemble cast, which X-Men usually is about, and failed. First Class puts the focus on the relationship of Professor X and Magneto instead; and manages to depict their friendship and eventual fall-out brilliantly; however, it ignores the other characters even more than the previous films.
Another interesting aspect is that while the mutants have been a sort of metaphor for various minority groups for a long time, the movie itself falls flat in the portrayal of such characters. For instance, the only non-white characters are either evil or dead by the end, and do not tell me that the blue Mystique or Beast count in this matter. It is especially obvious in the case of Darwin whose power is about surviving literally anything that happens to him and he still somehow manages to die from a simple plasma blast.
I was particularly confused by the fact that for what purpose they put Azazel, Mystique’s canonical love interest from the comic books, in the movie while they continued the nonsensical Magneto-Mystique relationship from the trilogy, thus not allowing Raven to explore her issues by herself but instead having her seeking men’s approval, three different ones in fact, throughout the whole story. Also by doing this they completely erased her bisexuality, which, in the 21st century, especially in the case of X-Men – the whole thing being about oppression and such – seems like a cop out and, in addition to the previously mentioned things, makes the whole film look hypocritical in connection with the issues it is trying to represent. Do not even get me started on Emma Frost; she is my absolute favourite character in the comics, and it was a pain to see her reduced to a mere lackey, not to mention that she, similarly to Darwin, had to be depowered too to show just how strong the protagonists are.
However, this review would not be fair without mentioning the positive attributes which made First Class the only movie I actually went to see twice in the cinema. It is visually stunning, the soundtrack is phenomenal, the costumes, although not very 60s style but still gorgeous (I am extremely glad that they went back to the yellow-blue uniforms and made them actually look cool), and despite it lacking in many areas, it brought the best out of the central theme, which is Magneto’s friendship with and eventual betrayal of Charles, in such a short period of time. I admit I was a bit bothered by how it contrasted the childhood of the two protagonists, because although growing up in a concentration camp overshadows almost everything, we must not forget that the young Charles grew up with an abusive step-father and an alcoholic mother, which was not emphasised in the movie at all, but otherwise his backstory was build up nicely and served as a unique twist to add to Charles’ “spoiled rich young man” character.
Since they had to cram a lot of things in the movie the ending turned out to be a mess, which I hope they can somewhat remedy in the sequel. They wanted to set Magneto on the antagonist path so badly in the first movie that a lot of the characterization in the end did not make sense.
All in all First Class is a pretty good movie; in fact, it is the best X-Men movie out there. To be honest it is kind of a guilty pleasure for me because I am aware how bad it is at certain parts but I still enjoy it every time I watch it; I even bought it on DVD.
By: Lili Szendrei