This is a film. And I am going to spoil it. If you wish to see this film someday, I suggest you go no further.
After the horror of X-Men 3, this film is very much a breath of fresh air. In fact, I think this might be the best X-Men film in terms of how it works as a film. Meaning, if I were to choose out of the X-Men films a representation of what good filmmaking can do, then I would pick this movie. But that’s only out of the X-Men films, which really doesn’t say much.
I feel that First Class would have been a better prequel if the characters in the original trilogy were more clearly defined. There’s not much of First Class’s Charles Xavier that I see in the original films’s Charles Xavier, and the same goes for Mystique and Beast. The only exception to that is Magneto, whose character traits I could recognize in both films, and he was by far the best character in First Class in terms of being a prequel character.
On their own, though, the characters are much better than the ones in the original movies, even if their superpowers aren’t quite as cool. Even though the movie was total shit I still enjoyed seeing Jean Grey wreak havoc on the world in The Last Stand, and Wolverine is always very much a badass, even if he is put in the spotlight too much. I’ll talk about the prequel cast vs. the original cast more in my next review, but the prequel cast is much more complex, even if the superpowers are kind of lame.
I especially like what they did with Mystique. I didn’t at first, but now I think it adds a very interesting dimension to her character, as well as makes The Last Stand all the more reprehensible. Seeing the relationship Mystique formed with both Charles and Magneto makes Magneto’s casual dismissal of her in The Last Stand even more terrible than it was on its own. But I digress.
The reason I didn’t like all this characterization for Mystique at first was because we don’t see enough of her personality in the original films to have any context with which to witness this character’s growth. But I realize now that may be the point. First Class does what the original X-Men films didn’t do – actual characterization. And, after seeing this movie, I love what they did with her character. Plus, Jennifer Lawrence = yes.
The casting is very good, too, especially in the case of Magneto. If I were to look at the old Magneto and wonder what he was like in his younger days, the Magneto in First Class would probably be very close. One thing I wish they had done more of, however, was establish a stronger friendship between Magneto and Charles. In the original films, it was hinted that the two had been great friends divided by opposing goals. I still felt a great divide between them in First Class, and I would have liked to see them closer. In addition, I would have liked to see Mystique establish a clearer, more defined relationship with Magneto.
First Class’s other problem is that besides Charles, Mystique, and Xavier, the other characters are rather boring. I wasn’t a fan of Emma Frost, and I can’t even remember anybody else’s name. Oh, Beast was fine. He was cool. But not as much as the first three I mentioned.
All in all, First Class is definitely the best movie in the franchise so far. But I do wish they hadn’t ruined the original cast’s chance at a good movie. Despite the lack of characterization, I do think the original cast has a lot of potential, in particular the whole Jean Grey/Phoenix thing, which they should have explored WAY more than they did (see Confused Matthew’s review for the reason why). But there’s no denying that this prequel film is by far the smoothest in the series.