(Photo: Bad Hat Harry Productions)
Summary: A prequel to the X-Men franchise. The beginnings of Professor Xavier, Magneto, Mystique and others are detailed in the Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass , Stardust) -directed flick.
Review: With the exception of 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men is one of the few comic book franchises that got it right since the first film was released in 2000. For the most part, the movies didn't stray too far from the comics and the casting wasn't painful—with the exception of complaints of Halle Berry as Storm, a rant I always disagreed with. But even Halle grew on the fans. That said, this highly anticipated prequel, X-Men: First Class, managed to tarnish the franchise even more than Wolverine.
X-Men is an easy plot that will forever fit for its time: an oppressed group who is considered dangerous and threatening is demanding equal rights at any costs. Therefore, it's a shocker that anyone could demolish this nearly foolproof plot. Gone is the investment you had in likable characters like Storm or the original Professor X. Now we have annoying teens that seem plucked out of Gossip Girl with a stiff and loaded plot. It’s the life of the young and restless mutants in the sixties.
Every prequel needs a certain amount of setup. However, X-Men: First Class overloads the viewer with unnecessary backstory and abandons the eye-popping action and unforgettable fighting scenes that the series is known for. A militant Magneto is seeking to avenge his mother's death, Mystique doesn't feel pretty and wants a man, Professor X is a privileged college kid turned professor who develops “mutant identity.” In addition, Professor X and Magneto have an emotional “bromance.” To make First Class even more laborious, all of this takes place during the Cold War and the Cuban missile crisis. Plus, as if the mutants are in a game of the Amazing Race, their travels include Auschwitz, New York, Argentina, Las Vegas, Miami, Russia, Westchester, New York and more.
In the last 30 minutes there is a somewhat enjoyable final battle, which is extremely anti-climactic considering you waited for some classic X-Men action for over an hour.
The allure of X-Men will always be those crafty mutant powers, which is still fun to watch, but we only get it in spurts. The most interesting character was the icy Emma Frost (January Jones); she was telepathic and could morph into diamonds. Frost wasn’t overdosed with backstory and the film finally clicked when she was on screen. We can’t forget the “Where’s Waldo?” of films, Kevin Bacon, who plays Sebastian Shaw, a villain who can manipulate kinetic energy. On the other end, there is Zoë Kravitz in a small role as Angel. She has dragon-fly wings and can spit fire, which seemed like something out of a Dungeons and Dragons video game.
I doubt X-Men: First Class will satisfy the critical and loyal fans of the comic and movies. Maybe they should've waited a couple decades to do a prequel like Star Wars. In prequels, we already know the outcome so the journey must be a thrill ride; First Class was another flavorless superhero flick.
Side note: What is an X-Men film without Storm? I know Storm is from Africa, but considering the film had endless locations like Poland, Argentina and even the ocean, couldn't Professor X make a trip to the motherland?
X-Men: First Class is in theaters today.