X-Men: First Class – Big Budget, Big Thrills, Big Stakes

X-Men: First Class – Big Budget, Big Thrills, Big Stakes

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  1. The budget is big, the thrills are big, and the stakes are even bigger:  nuclear war.  Twentieth Century FOX’s 2011 tentpole film X-Men:  First Class is the 5th installment of the Marvel-based superhero franchise and it is, by far, the best despite not being nominated for any Oscars or Golden Globes.  First Class is directed by Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, 2010) who is new to the franchise.  It also brings a lot of young, fresh talent in the acting department who get the joy of playing classic characters such as Charles Xavier, Magneto, and more. 

    What is it about?

    As the title suggests, this film is about the first class of mutants at Charles Xavier’s school.  During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Charles (James McAvoy) first brings his team of mutants together because he needs help to stop Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) from starting World War Three.  Shaw wants to cause nuclear war because he believes that all mutants will become the targets of non-mutants and will end up being wiped out.  Nuclear war will destroy the humans and allow the mutants survive; thus, moving evolution forward in a postive way to better the human race.  He thinks he is doing a good thing.

    Charles saves troubled Erik Lensherr’s (Michael Fassbender) life and befriends him.  Erik, who will eventually become Magneto, finally learns how to control his ability to control metal (through Charles’ coaching) and becomes a powerful asset to the mutants in their fight against Shaw.  While the film chronicles the origins of many of the mutants you know and love including Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), and others; the real story is the building and eventual breakdown of Charles and Erik’s friendship.  

    Obviously, Shaw does not succeed decimating the Earth with nuclear war because this is the beginning to a story that we already know continues.  But it is a very interesting look at how the lines between the "good" mutants and the "bad" mutants are drawn up early on as they shape everything else that happens in the X-Men story.

    Is it any good?

    There is so much done right in this film that could be written about for days… but here are the highlights.

    First, the way the story ties in with World War II and the Cuban Missile Crisis is flawless.  With a team of 6 total writers for the story and screenplay, you should be able to expect a strong story.  Especially when those writers have worked on projects such as Up In The Air (2009) "Fringe" (TV series), Kick-Ass (2010), and others.  While watching the film, it’s not hard to start believing that a mutant named Sebastian Shaw actually caused the Cuban Missile Crisis in real life but was stopped by a rag-tag team of young mutants that have a lot of personal issues with each other… or something like that.

    Secondly, Sebastian Shaw is a fantastic villain.  The thing that makes a strong villain is that he thinks he is right.  Those villains you see in many superhero movies that want to take over the world just because they are evil… they are quite lame (there really isn’t a better word to describe them).  Shaw, however, feels like his plan is what’s best for his people:  the mutants.  It also helps that Kevin Bacon gives a wonderfully scary performance as Shaw.

    Finally, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are amazing.  They both show spectacular character arcs and demonstrate their acting range proving that they can do action, drama, and even bromance (which takes a special skill as an actor).  The rest of the young cast is great as well; most notably, Jennifer Lawrence, who had already been nominated for an Oscar (Winter’s Bone, 2010) before taking a turn as Mystique.  And, of course, after this big budget juggernaut, she went on to star in the even bigger Hunger Games trilogy.  The girl can act!

    Nolan’s Grade:  A+

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