X-men: First Class - 5 out of 5
After sitting through X3: The Last Stand and X-men Origins: Wolverine I wrote off the entire X-men franchise and felt there was no way they could dig themselves out of the grave they dug. I've never been a fan of Wolverine because of how generic his character is and add to the fact a Black Eyed Pea was in the movie, piss poor special effects, bad acting, shitty story and the fact the movie took place in the 70's but there were flat screen monitors and modern technology all over the place (I half expected Wolvie to pull out a cell phone at one point and Google Map his way to the secret Weapon X lab) and you have a recipe for a very disappointing film. To compound the failure that was Wolverine is the fact it's first 15 minutes are amazing and Ryan Reynolds stealing the show as Deadpool really made me reconsider the preconcieved notion I had walking in. However, after the first 15 ends, the shit begins to rise as the toilet that is X-men Origins backs up.
X3 was an unapologetic piece of crap that Brett Ratner had the nerve to declare that by making it he had somehow saved the franchise but when you have Vinnie Jones in a muscle suit destroying the character of The Juggernaut and the film's only saving grace is getting the fanboy moment when you hear Beast say, "Oh my stars and garters," you once again have another shitty recipe involving the iconic mutant team from Marvel that would have been far better for the world if it wasn't made. I'm sorry Ratner, but the true savior for the X-franchise is X-men: First Class.
When I first heard they were doing a prequel to the X-men films, the bad taste left in my mouth from the previous two prevailed over the memories of the entertaining first one and the 2nd one that can only be described as an atom bomb of awesome with an aftershock of epic. However, after watching the first trailer, I was sold and planned on giving it a chance--however, I was fooled before, so I still remained skeptical and was about to pass on it when it was in the theaters. So, a day comes after its release and I'm bored as hell and have some extra cash in my pocket, so I decided to hit my local cinema. After hitting it and hurting my fist pretty bad on the hard, hard concrete wall, I decided that it would be better to enter the building, buy a ticket and some popcorn and watch the movie. Right away, the movie blew me away.
All the bad flavor from X3 and Wolverine was washed away and even Hugh Jackman was able to redeem himself with a kick-ass Wolvie cameo that, in it's 15 seconds it was on screen, totally destroyed the entire Wolverine film. The movie acts not as a reboot to the series but taking the franchise to the beginning, long before the first film. We get to see Erik Lehnsherr (a.k.a Magneto, played by Michael Fassbender) in the concentration camp learning his abilities and his quest for revenge on the Nazis who took his family. We see a young (with a full head of hair) Charles Xavier (played by James McAvoy) honing his skills in telepathy and through a chance encounter, these two men meet and one of the greatest and most dynamic relationships in literature and cinema is created. The two men work together to create a covert team of mutants out to protect the world that fears and hates their existence. Their main target? A group of powerful mutants lead by Sebastian Shaw out to start World War III and, after the ashes have settled from the battle, mutants can stand victorious and rule the world.
The film takes the X-men franchise in a new direction as things get dark--really dark. I thought it was hardcore when Wolverine killed that intruder in the early moments of X2 but when you see what Magneto and Sebastian Shaw are capable of in this movie, all words will be taken from your mouth and you'll barely be able to utter a Keanu Reeves-quality "Whoa." But despite the darker tone, the film does offer some lighter moments, especially when it comes to training the X-men recruits--which includes Banshee, who I was very excited to see in a live-action format.
The film is action pack all the while delivering a tremendous story with stupendous actors who felt like they were designed in a laboratory specifically for their part. One low point is the fact January Jones (from Mad Men and who decided her stage name should sound like a porn star rather than a serious actress) but her portrayal of Emma Frost (The White Queen) isn't bad enough to destroy this movie--especially when you have the awesome Oliver Platt in it and, most surprising, Kevin Bacon stealing the film as Shaw. But one of my favorite aspects of the film--and one of my favorite things about the X-men comic (which hasn't been able to rekindle it's epic feel it had in the late 90's) is the relationship between Professor X and Magneto.
Normally here I would add a witty or sarcastic comment about the pic I've uploaded but Magneto just looks like a bad ass.
The other films showed us that Charles and Erik are the best of friends and the bitterest of enemies but, in my opinion, having Wolverine in the films diminished the emphasis that could have been placed on this dynamic. But I guess pleasing the frat boys who worship Logan was more important even though they don't realize that Wolvie is a one trick pony and that trick got old before the animated series was cancelled. Honestly, if I was an X-men and Wolverine pulled his "I'm-not-going-to-be-apart-of-this-mission-because-I'm-a-generic-brooding-character," I would stop giving him the attention he is dying for because I would realize, like every time we flew out on the Black Bird and fought Apocalypse, Mr. Sinister or the Sentinels that when the chips were down, he would come in and save the day because he's an attention whore and has to make an entrance. Also, Wolvie isn't as tough as you think he is. Sure he can heal fast but if Nightcrawler decides to teleport in, grab Wolvie by his sideburns and 'port out of there, head in hand, the game is over.
My rant about Logan aside, placing a heavier emphasis on Charles and Erik's relationship made for a more emotional and deeper story. This is greatly illustrated towards the end of the film where their conflicting philosophies bring them to physical blows and when one interferes and something far worse occurs to Charles, we see the compassion and love Magneto has for the man who embodies both his BFF and most hated enemy. Watching McAvoy and Fassbender as these two iconic characters and the scenes they share together is enough to justify a rental or even a purchase of this film!
After the debacle that was the previous to X-titles, it was a breath of fresh mutant air to see the franchise once again be treated with respect after Brett Ratner's one night stand. The A-hole didn't even leave cab fair after it was all over. Tremendous action, unbelievable special effects, perfect acting and a dark, emotional story consumes you and once again adds legitimacy to a franchise that seemed to be losing its mind.