Thursday, September 1, 2011

In short: X-Men: First Class (2011)

After the insults to my beloved X-Men that were Brett Rattner's third X-Men "film" and whatever that Wolverine abomination was supposed to be, I had a hard time giving anything this particular studio would do with one of my favourite universes in pop culture the benefit of the doubt, and dithered about seeing this prequel pretty long and hard.

So it did come as a bit of a surprise to myself that I loved pretty much everything about First Class (with its particularly bland version of Emma Frost as the major exception, but Bryan Singer's X-Men films had a particularly bland Storm, and were still pretty darn great), even the self-conscious winking in the direction of its predecessors and the comics, and John Dykstra's sometimes surprisingly weak special effects.

What makes me a very happy X-Men fanboy about the film is that Matthew Vaughn and/or the script actually got what - at least Chris Claremont's X-Men - are all about (hint for Brett Rattner: it's not being shit), and kept the many changes he made to the film's characters and relations well inside the emotional and ideological parameters of the comics.

I was particularly delighted by Michael Fassbender's Magneto, who is allowed all the complexity, bad-assery and fragility he had at the height of Claremont's run on the comic. Vaughn plays fair with Magneto's and Xavier's respective positions, too, which adds an actual moral tension below the comic book ones.

Of course, there might be a bit too much blockbuster characterization shorthand as shown in the somewhat broad way the film treats most of the rest of its characters for some viewers, and some of the film's big speeches might sound a bit mechanical to the same people, but I found myself experiencing these elements of the film as tonally appropriately close to the comics I still love and pretty entertainingly old-fashioned in a mainstream cinema world where one-liners rule.

For me, First Class is a movie fun and dumb and clever and playful enough to nearly make up for what Fox did to the Phoenix Saga, the sort of film that made me run, not walk to my Essential X-Men books (who can afford colour reprints or singles?), smiling happily.


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