Sunday, December 11, 2011

DVD Review: X-Men First Class

****1/2 (out of 5 stars)
                How can something be so flawless yet not be perfect?  Ponder that for a moment.
                Ever since Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man hit it big in 2002, multiplexes have been flooded with any comic book character studios can get their hands on.  And now, nine & a half years later, some studios have decided that now is the time to restart the flimsy franchises after the success of the fantastic Christopher Nolan “Dark Knight” series, to be concluded next summer.  Also, next summer will be re-boots of Superman & Spiderman.  This past summer, the world got the Matthew Vaughn’s take on the X-Men.
                As a major fan of the two Bryan Singer films, I was worried.  Worried Vaughn would be less the talented Singer and closer to the hack Brett Ratner, who in 2006 created the abomination named “X-Men: The Last Stand”.  The opening scenes of “First Class” are similar to those of Singer’s original: Magneto’s origin.  The worry meter was through the roof.  Was this going to be Gus Van Sant’s “Psycho” all over again?  Luckily, an hour in, the worry meter had completely disappeared.
                X-Men: First Class is that rare big budget, blockbuster that actually tries to be something more than dumb eye candy.  Watching the story unfold and listening to the dialogue showed me that care was taken and time was used wisely in writing the screenplay.  But, most impressively, the visual effects are not wasted as loud and overblown spectacle like most similar movies.  My favorite moment is the sacrifice made by one of the characters about 2/3 of the way in the movie.  In the hands of most directors, the character would have been killed in extravagant fashion.  But Vaughn makes the decision to end this character’s life in a fashion that allows the audience to feel emotional.  Also, each era in which the movie takes place, the look resembles movies from that time.
                With all this love I am spreading for this movie, why not five stars?  Well, to put it simply, there is nothing in the movie that is spectacular.  The chemistry between McAvoy & Fassbender as the future Prof. X & Magneto is effective but only adequate.  None of the performances, from Kevin Bacon’s Sebastian Shaw to Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique to January Jones’ Emma Frost, ever reach great status.  Some love visual effects spectacles will be disappointed for the first hour.
                In the end, though, when the harshest thing you can say about a movie is there is nothing outstanding about it, you know something went right.  Matthew Vaughn, with this & Kick Ass on his resume, has proven that he has more talent in his right pinky finger than Michael Bay & Zack Snyder.  Can’t wait to see what he does next.

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