Review: X-Men: First Class (2011)

first class poster

“Mutation. It is the key to our evolution. It is how we have evolved from a single-cell organism into the dominant species on the planet. This process is slow, normally taking thousands and thousands of years. But every few millennia evolution leaps forward.” 
– Professor Charles Xavier

In a concentration camp in Germany, 1944, young Erik Lehnsherr (Bill Milner) is separated from his Jewish family. In a panic state, he reaches out to them and through some force pulls down the metal gates. Naturally, this piques the interest of Dr Klaus Schmidt (Kevin Bacon), who brings Erik in to study him. Ordering Erik to move a coin, he expects results. When nothing happens, he orders Erik’s mother to be shot before him, which gets the powers going, and he kills the guards and wrecks the room. Erik is a changed man. Back in the states, a young telepathic boy named Charles Xavier (Laurence Belcher) makes the acquaintance of another mutant, a shapeshifter, named Raven Darkhome (Morgan Lily). She moves in with the family and becomes his foster sister.

first class shaw and frost

“We are the children of the atom. Radiation gave birth to mutants. What will kill the humans will only make us stronger.” – Sebastian Shaw

In 1962, Erik (Michael Fassbender) has made it his life’s work to track down Schmidt and kill him for what he did to his mother. Charles (James McAvoy), on the other hand, has made quite the name for himself after having studied genetics. Raven is still with him, though the two seem to be slightly at odds about what mutation means to them. CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) is assigned to follow US Army Colonel Hendry (Glenn Morshower), where she sees him enter the Hellfire Club. There she sees him converse with Schmidt, now known as Sebastian Shaw. With Shaw are his partners, the telepathic Emma Frost (January Jones), teleporter Azazel (Jason Flemyng), and Riptide (Álex González), a mutant who can produce cyclones. He is teleported out of there, and advocates the deployment of nuclear missiles in Turkey. Nobody at the CIA believes Moira, and she decides to take matters into her own hands. She approaches Charles for his advice on mutation, and takes him and Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) with her to discuss matters with the CIA director John McCone (Matt Craven). It does not go the way that she was expecting, and he flips out. Another CIA agent (Oliver Platt), offers that they accompany him to “Division X”, a secret facility with mutants at the core. There they meet Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), a genius scientist.

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“I’ve been at the mercy of men just following orders. Never again.” – Erik Lehnsherr

Charles meets Erik when Shaw has been tracked down (Moira’s people have found him). It seems that Erik has also finally worked out the whereabouts of his nemesis. Charles manages to rescue Erik, who damn nears drowns when attempting to pull Shaw’s submarine out of the ocean. Together they head back to Division X, where Erik meets the team. Hank explains that he has developed a machine called Cerebro, one that cal locate other mutants. Charles uses this machine with his telepathic abilities and tracks down mutants. He and Erik set out across the country to recruit these mutants to join them. They discover Alex “Havok” Summers (Lucas Till), Sean “Banshee” Cassidy (Caleb Landry Jones), Armando “Darwin” Muñoz (Edi Gathegi), Angel Salvadore (Zoë Kravitz). These kids all get together and seem to enjoy themselves, picking their mutant names and dubbing Charles “Professor X” and Erik “Magneto”. Erik sets out on a revenge mission to take down Shaw, with Charles and Moira coming along. However, Shaw is not at the designated meeting place in the USSR, and Erik flips out. Charles ultimately goes to help him, and there they capture Emma Frost. It seems that Shaw is intent on starting World War III. Returning to Division X, they find that the place has been wrecked, Riptide, Azazel, and Shaw had been there, killing everyone but the mutants. They were recruiting, and only Angel left with them. The kids are in shock. Erik gets them set on a path for vengeance, to avenge the death of Darwin, to make things right.

first class charles and erik playing chess

“Are you really so naive as to think that they won’t battle their own extinction? Or is it arrogance?” – Erik Lehnsherr

Shaw has managed to convince the USSR to install missiles in Cuba. Hank is sure that Raven’s DNA contains the cure for their appearances, and develops a cure. Erik, on the other hand, is advocating that they should be proud of being mutants, and encourages Raven to remain in her natural blue form. Charles has a mansion which he uses for them all to move to, somewhere where they can train, master their abilities. Will they be able to stop Shaw? Will Shaw succeed in starting World War III?

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“There’s so much more to you than you know, not just pain and anger. There’s good in you too, and you can harness all that. You have a power that no one can match, not even me.” – Charles Xavier

An 8/10 for X-Men: First Class. This is really a favourite of mine, something I have fun with all the time. I think it was incredibly well put together and that a wonderful cast was chosen to represent the younger mutants we have come to know and love over the years. James McAvoy is a phenomenal younger Charles Xavier, and I cannot fault his performance. I liked how he managed to bring it though (especially watching him with Raven), that he was preaching something but not necessarily always practising it in his youth. He talks about being proud of being a mutant, but is always encouraging Raven to hide herself. McAvoy is an incredibly talented actor, and this was just another place he shone. Then there is Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr, and I thought that he was also just fantastic as a young, powerful and incredibly embittered man on a revenge mission of note. Kevin Bacon was entertaining as Shaw, and really was just an evil dude. I liked the effects of this movie, the back story for all the characters as well as who was cast to play them now. I liked the progression of the plot, it construed the story nicely and wasn’t too jumbled. I thoroughly enjoyed Hugh Jackman’s cameo as Wolverine in here, had me laughing. Watching Charles and Erik develop and begin their fantastic friendship was awesome. They were both at opposing ends in their beliefs, but friends down at the core of it all with an immense amount of respect for each other. Jennifer Lawrence is also a pretty cool younger Raven, and I thought she did that rather well, handling Raven’s confusion about being a mutant as well as where/how she fits in to society. A wonderful addition to the franchise, and definitely a much needed breath of fresh air.

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23 thoughts on “Review: X-Men: First Class (2011)

  1. theipc says:

    Dearest JB,

    This wasn’t my favorite movie or anything but I thought it was very well directed and put together. You and me, I know we’re pretty close but I think we’re going to get even closer over DOFP. I just LOVED that movie.

    Your Biggest Admirer,

    PSC

    Like

    • Zoë says:

      Dear and Kind PSC,

      I loved this movie, and I am glad you can see it was well put together and all that, despite not being your favourite. Oh yes, we can bond over DoFP!! Quicksilver just thrilled me… it was a freaking amazing film! YAY!

      Your Youngest Admirer,

      JB

      Like

  2. CMrok93 says:

    It was a prequel that definitely wiped most of the taste from the last two movies out of mouths. Then this latest one comes and totally kicks its ass. Good review Zoe.

    Like

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