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article imageOp-Ed: X-Men: First Class best movie of the series Special

By Andrew Ardizzi     Jun 5, 2011 in Entertainment
Comic book films are an interesting animal. Filmmakers have almost always failed to delicately balance paying homage to the source material and making a good movie. In trying, it seems for every good comic book movie there are five terrible ones.
X-Men: First Class is the fifth movie based upon Marvel Comics' X-Men comic book line, and is loosely based on the comic book of the same name, X-Men: First Class. Directed by Matthew Vaughn and starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon and January Jones, the film is a loose adaptation of the comic series originally published between 2006 and 2009 which focused on stories pitting the original five X-Men (Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Angel, and Iceman) and Professor Xavier against Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutants. Although the film shares only the title in common with the source material, the film adaptation addresses the core of what the earliest X-Men comics tried to convey conceptually.
Set amid the early 1960s during the Cuban Missile Crisis, First Class heavily immerses itself into the world of self-discovery. Especially with respect to Fassbender's Lehnsherr and Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique, we find the characters coming to understand and be comfortable with who they are despite their stark differences both in the physical and less obvious sense to that of humankind's greater whole. They are similar, but fundamentally different and because of that they are misunderstood and reviled. Despite that core dynamic of the human condition which lashes out at what it doesn't understand, central to the story are two philosophies in how that fear should be handled: through superiority and dominance, or through compassion and understanding.
This installment of the X-Men movie franchise focuses on the relationship between a young Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr, the men who would later become Professor X and Magneto respectively. Xavier (McAvoy) and Lehnsherr (Fassbender) have a clandestine meeting early in the film where they quickly befriend each other. Although the foundation of their friendship blossoms throughout the film and comes into full bloom by its conclusion, a stark contrast is provided in their motivations rooted in their upbringings which in turn clearly differentiates how they approach both the manifestations of their powers and how they react to the world's perceptions of them.
The movie clearly jars the audience in shifting from scenes of a young Lehnsherr being held in a Jewish concentration camp in Poland as he watches Nazi soldiers drag his mother away, his powers manifesting in the process, and a young Xavier in his comfy family mansion in New York. One man born out of privilege, the other out of strife. In this regard McAvoy and Fassbender turn in tremendous performances of the two characters, simultaneously contrasting each other with their differing visions of the world while harbouring a deep rooted bond of friendship that never wavers. We discover them still finding out who they are as the plot develops, while also seeing the events that shaped them. The two are magic on screen, but it is Fassbender's portrayal of the young Lehnsherr as he transitions into the antagonistic Magneto that steals the movie.
Fassbender is magnetic on-screen as he approaches Lehnsherr with an unmistakable intensity, channeling the rage and resentment of a young boy into the adult Lehnsherr character thus creating a compelling portrayal of the classic X-Men antagonist. The tormented rage and sadness is visible in Fassbender's acting, accompanied with a righteous sense of dignity and purpose synonymous with the character. We can feel his Lehnsherr's torment, perhaps even sympathizing with a character whose scarring we can only imagine. His portrayal borders on genius. Additionally interesting is the character's arc as Lehnsherr becomes Magneto by the movie's end. Despite the pursuit of his "maker" throughout the film, he ultimately becomes his creator and assumes his place across from Xavier as the leader of the mutant superiority movement while espousing the same tone of racial superiority which shaped him in the first place. As the movie concludes though, we come to treat Lehnsherr more as a sympathetic anti-hero than an outright villain.
The rest of the cast is solid. Kevin Bacon, January Jones, Nicholas Hoult and Jennifer Lawrence turn in great performances of their respective characters, while the remaining cast members are good in their supplementary roles in the film. The only truly negative aspect of this film is the roster. Vaughn seems to have pulled a strange array of characters together for his team of young X-Men instead of the original five members long established in the comic books. With Beast as an exception, the remaining young X-Men were not part of the original comics and are much less popular and compelling as characters.
There is very little fundamentally wrong with the film presuming we release it from both the comic book and movie continuity, but for the sake of the comic book fans there are several continuity issues worth mentioning. Beast does not turn blue that quickly. I'm pretty sure Mystique didn't know Charles Xavier at such a young age. Emma Frost shouldn't have her diamond form, nor is she overly British in this film. A certain character shouldn't have met his fate. The movie's version of Angel wasn't introduced until 2001. And obviously, Cyclops not being in the movie is a strict comic book movie continuity violation on par with Deadpool shooting lasers from his eyes in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It's just wrong, but now I'm just nitpicking.
Amazingly though, these minor comic book fan nitpicks are the only glaring issues in the film. Despite them, I feel the movie stands apart from its predecessors while still paying homage to them and the source material in spirit. In doing so it stands on its own as a great movie adaptation of the core concepts of the X-universe, and is arguably the best X-Men movie to this point.
Bonuses: There are two cameo appearances, but why spoil them?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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