DVDSleuth.com is your source for daily DVD news and reviews.
X-Men: First Class (2011)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/9/2011
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/11/2011
I don't care who you are, change is never easy. Be it positive or negative, a step backwards or evolution, adjustments can be difficult. It seems that every time I review a movie based on a comic, I complain about changes made in the adaptation. I can't help it, if it worked once, it will work again, so why change things. From my first glimpses of X-Men: First Class, I had forebodings about the movie as it was clearly messing with the stories that I knew so well. Why, oh why does Marvel keep letting Hollywood do this to their best characters? Was I wrong to pre-judge this movie?
X-Men: First Class opens in 1944 as young Erik (Bill Milner) sees his parents dragged away to a concentration camp by the Nazis. German scientist Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) recognizes Erik's talents with controlling metal objects and in attempts to manipulate the boy enrages him instead. Meanwhile, in Westchester, New York, a young Charles Xavier (Laurence Belcher) meets Raven AKA Mystique (Morgan Lily), and they find a common bond in the fact that they are both mutants. The story then leaps forward to 1962. Xavier (James McAvoy) is now a student in England and Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) has accompanied him there. CIA agent Moria MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) has been investigating the possibility that mutants exist and she approaches Xavier for help. At the same time, Erik is hunting Nazis, seeking revenge. Knowing that Shaw is pushing the Russians towards war with the U.S., Xavier and Moira go to intercept him, and there they meet Erik. Erik agrees to work with Xavier to stop Shaw. They decide to recruit young mutants to work with them. They travel the globe and find Havok (Lucas Till), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Darwin (Edi Gathegi), Angel (Zoe Kravitz) (But, not the Angel that we saw in X-Men: The Last Stand), and Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones). The plan is to train these students to control their powers so that they can one day help. However, Shaw's plan has instigated the Cuban Missile Crisis and Xavier's young students are pressed into action.
In case you weren't aware, X-Men: First Class doesn't follow the continuity created by the original X-Men (which then became The Uncanny X-Men) comics. Instead, it was inspired by a comic series debuted in 2006. That knowledge doesn't change the fact that I disapprove of the changes in narrative history and characters. The idea of going back and exploring the creation of the original X-Men is a great concept and they could have easily used Stan Lee's first stories to do so.
OK, now that I've logged my protest, let me say X-Men: First Class is a really good movie which differs so much from the original Marvel continuity that it becomes its own entity. Thanks to the timeframe and the globe-trotting nature of the movie, this feels more like a James Bond film than a comic book movie. Setting the movie in 1962 isn't just a gimmick -- the movie uses this to create a Marvel universe which we haven't seen since the comic books of that era. This is clearly set in the 60s, as we get the fashions and technology of that time. However, the movie never takes this approach too far and thus avoids an Austin Powers feel. This approach is taken a step further by bringing real historical events into play. Having the X-Men intervene in the Cuban Missile Crisis is a brilliant idea and it echoes the way in which Stan Lee incorporate the political climate of the early 60s into his stories. Is it far-fetched? Sure, but this sort of re-imagining of history can be fun and it brings a new layer to the film.
These elements aside, no matter how much this doesn't feel like an X-Men movie, it is an X-Men movie and the mutant action here is pretty good. Bryan Singer, director of the first two X-Men movies, worked behind the scenes on this film and his hand can be felt in the way that the action scenes are approached. But, make no mistake, this is Matthew Vaughan's film. Following Stardust and Kick-Ass, and now X-Men: First Class, there is no doubt that Vaughan is a talented director. Given his past movies, it's no surprise that Vaughan does a great job with the action scenes and the multiple set-pieces here never disappoint. But, he also does a great job of building the story so that when the inevitable "how did they become villains?" conclusion arrives, it touches us. Still, the death of a particular character during the third act may be the coolest and most well-edited shot of the year.
I'm big enough to admit when I was wrong, but can you blame me. Following the bungle which was X-Men: The Last Stand and the disappointing X-Men Origins: Wolverine, plus the fact that it looked as if they were completely messing up the story, I expected nothing from X-Men: First Class. What I found was a very well-made movie which somehow re-wrote the mythology without insulting it.
X-Men: First Class lets us know that Xavier is using his powers by having McAvoy put his fingers on his temples...constantly on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is incredibly sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source material. Close examination of the image shows some video noise, but at a regular viewing distance, it's not notable. The colors look excellent, both the pastels and darker hues, and the image is never too dark or bright. The level of detail is very good, and the depth, most notably in the finale, is nice. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.4 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. We must start by talking about the subwoofer effects, which are awesome, most notably during the finale. The movie contains many scenes where unseen forces are being used and this bass rumble lets us know that something is about to happen. The stereo effects are nicely done as well, as they are detailed and show good separation. The surround sound effects are no slouch either, as most every action scene deliver rear channel action to help envelope us in the action.
The X-Men: First Class Blu-ray Disc contains numerous extras. "X Marks the Spot" can be chosen as "Movie Mode" which offers picture-in-picture and branching segments, or the eight segments which make up this feature, and which run about 20 minutes, can be viewed individually. These segments examine specific scenes and show us how they were shot through on-set footage and interviews. "Cerebro: Mutant Tracker" is an interactive feature which allows the viewer to see clips and read bios on various mutants, including characters which are not in X-Men: First Class. "Children of the Atom" (69 minutes) is an in-depth making of featurette which is broken up into seven segments which focus on the development of the movie, the selection of characters, special effects makeup & character design, costuming, production design, visual effects, and the score. The Disc contains thirteen DELTED SCENES which run about 14 minutes. Some of these are completely new, while others are extended versions of scenes from the movie. All of these scenes are brief, but there are a few gems here, and I don't know why they didn't leave the dog in the final cut. The final extra is the ISOLATED SCORE, which is in 5.1 sound.
Review Copyright 2011 by Mike Long