Saturday, August 4, 2012

Retro Review: 5.5 For and 5 Against "X-Men: First Class"

I really do wish I could see more movies in an actual movie theatre. But, now that I have some premium tier channels again, I'm happy to be catching up on quite a few movies I missed in theaters: The Thing (2011); Scream 4; Conan the Barbarian (2011); Horrible Bosses. The first three were just awful, though  Horrible Bosses' mashup of 9 to 5 and Strangers on a Train meet The Three Stooges was ridiculous, but funny as hell with stellar performances all around. So good, that I have to admit that I did not hate Jennifer Aniston in a movie for the first time, ever. She is actually quite hilarious in this movie, as are Kevin Spacey; Colin Farrell; Jason Sudiekis; Charlie Day; Jaime Foxx and the still-adorable Jason Bateman. A modern madcap comedy for grown-ups. Watch the trailer here.

Tonight, I finally got to see Matthew Vaughn's Superhero origin prequel X-Men: First Class. I'll tell you right now that I liked it a lot. I'm not surprised, Vaughn has made two other films I really like (one of which I adore); Kick-Ass and the perfect fantasy Stardust. It has a mostly terrific cast and it beautifully sets up a lot of what we know about the X-Men from the first three films, as well as what put the events of those films into motion. Anyway, since I was up very late last night, I promised myself not to be tonight. So here (as always with a nod to Sean) are 

5.5 For and 5 Against: X-Men: First Class


5. Four writers doesn't usually mean an intelligent script, but with Vaughn one of them, the alt-history plot which hinged on the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 was so clever. It probably helped that Singer was one of the producers and co-wrote the story.

5.5. Cameos galore! So many awesome appearances from genre and franchise favs in dozens of cameos!

4. Rose Byrne, playing plucky CIA Agent Moira McTaggert. I love Byrne in everything I've seen her do (especially "Damages") and thought she did quite well with what she was given. And just for the straight boys, she's down to her 1962 lacy undies within seconds of her first appearance, in order to get into a private party at a Vegas casino.

3. The visuals! First Class features some of the best special effects in the franchise. The attack on Langly and the finale were nothing short of spectacular. The period costumes by Sammy Sheldon and Chris Seagers' production design are dead on.
2. Kevin Bacon as an ageless, mad-scientist energy mutant was half Bond villain and all perverse and disturbing as hell. Everybody loves Bacon. (Mmmmm... Unexplained bacon...). Bacon rocks the evil in this movie!

1. One simply cannot take one's eyes away from Michael Fassbender - he is literally fascinating to watch and he once again owns an entire film. If for no other reason, see it for his performance. No one portrays pain and anguish quite like Fassbender. The man's wheels always appear to be turning and his face and body language always say why he's saying what he's actually saying.


5. Nicolas Hoult's weird-ass baby alien face. Is he almost-not-quite-cute-triangular-headed, or is just me? I guess he makes a cute-ish zombie in the upcoming Warm Bodies. He just just looks odd here, though I guess he's supposed to, in order to like his transformation into Beast. I found him much more attractive blue and hairy, but maybe that's just a bear thing... (Did someone just say TMI?)

4. James McAvoy came very close, but just missed it for me. I wish I knew why. It just wasn't all there, if that makes any sense. He wasn't bad, but I guess he just wouldn't have been my first choice (and please don't ask who is - I don't know).

3. January Jones. Yawn. The whole thing. The character; her abilities; the performance - all terrible, terrible, terrible. Yawn.

2. Shaw's (Bacon) lame motive for starting WWIII. Who the hell wants to be the Emperor of a destroyed planet?

1. As with McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence would not have been my first choice for a young Mystique. A lovely young woman, Lawrence doesn't wear the 'real' Mystique costume nearly as well as Rebecca Romijn and it was actually distracting. Maybe it's the hair? Ugh. She just didn't work for me, here. Again, don't ask why who I would have cast instead. 

Most certainly better than Brett Ratner's X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but almost as good as X2, X-Men: First Class is certainly worth seeing, if you haven't already. I know that I'll really try to see the as-of-this-writing unofficially titled sequel in a theater, especially knowing that Vaughn is once again directing. ***1/2 (Three and a Half Out of Four Stars).

BTW - did you catch the X-Men reference in the Horrible Bosses trailer?

More, anon.


Dan O. said...

This was a fun film that could have been terribly over-stuffed with too many characters and too many sub-plots that didn't mean anything. However, it's told straight-forwardly enough and with plenty of action to hold anybody over. Good review Prospero.

Prospero said...

Thanks, Dan O.!