June 3, 2011 by Vinnie Leduc
The fifth installment of Marvel’s hit superhero franchise, X-Men: First Class is in the middle of the pack, not quite as good as the first two and more comparable to the last two. Following Wolverine‘s footsteps, the new X-Men origins film takes its own path of evolution from the franchise tree and emerges with unique DNA that overall is fit enough for survival in theaters this summer.
The prequel’s true superpowers are its impressive character development and its engaging story that loosely ties in the previous films. “Loosely” because it does take some liberties since 20th Century Fox considers First Class a separate spin-off and potentially the beginning of a new trilogy; the absence of a stinger probably indicates that further sequels in this universe are dependent on First Class‘ box office gross. The film weaves its solemn tale into our human history from World War II to the Cold War, but it also incorporates some tongue-in-cheek self references that fans will appreciate.
New mutant additions include Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence and Emmy nominee January Jones, but Lawrence’s earlier scenes with James McAvoy’s Xavier can be painful to watch. Much like Gary Oldman in Kung Fu Panda 2 (review here), Kevin Bacon as the primary antagonist lengthens his list of notable villains played. His Sebastian Shaw and Michael Fassbender’s Magneto scenes are by far the most intense and thrilling to watch, even surpassing some of the film’s mediocre special effects and action.
Speaking of which, the visual effects of First Class look dated and are CGI-heavy in a bad way. It’s as if the technology of the movie went back in time along with the chronology. Despite this and the unexceptional action, great acting and an interesting plot that touches upon themes of societal co-existence and civil rights help First Class graduate as a worthy mutation that develops beyond a mere clone with sequelitis. X-Men: First Class gets 3 out of 5 stars or B- or Good.