One of the things that has established Matthew Vaughn as a director is the singularity of purpose in his films. While the gleefully gruesoaked Kick Ass might not share much in common on the surface with the sweet natured fairy tale like Stardust both are clearly the work of a man who knows what type of movie he is trying to make. Unfortunately this is not something that can be said about X-Men First Class. Which has all the signs of being a film that is being rushed into a theater less than a year after pre production was announced. It’s unsure whether it wants to be a serious piece of alternate history with superheroes ala Watchman, or a Roger Moore era James Bond movie. It’s a shame because it is apparent that Vaughn could have made a cool film out of either of those approaches. But there are times in X-Men First Class where those two films are actively working against each other. It may be possible to make a film in which we have sequences of the villain as a nazi torturer alongside of sequences with the villain in his neato submarine base, but that doesn’t mean it is advisable. While there is more in X-Men First Class that works than doesn’t, it’s not hard to imagine the better film that could have come out of some more planning. Making this Vaughn’s first conditional win.
But lets get back to the good. Vaughn makes full use of his retro stylings, game cast and bigger budget. James MacAvoy, and the Michael Fassbender (currently the only male I am willing to refer to as “dreamy”) both make the most out of their roles. Making them their own while still seeming like the same people that Stewart and McKellan were playing. Kevin Bacon pays off in an ingenious piece of left field casting as the decadent Shaw.
Yet this leads to another of the films schisms, namely that you don’t care at all about The First Class, who all come off as powerfully one dimensional when compared to their elder counterparts. In another film this wouldn’t be a huge deal, but in a film titled X-Men: The First Class it presents a problem. Every time they come on screen I could only wish that I was watching the adventures of nazi killing Magneto again.
The movie is strangely sloppy in all the wrong places, trotting out clichés like the death of the token black guy that I thought had been put out to pasture long ago. Readers, it has been a long time since I have seen a movie character scream “I CAN’T FEEL MY LEGS!!!” unironically (when the aforementioned proclamation went off my brother turned to me and said, “for our dumber audience members…”)
This is one of those annoying reviews where you’re just going to have to take my word that I liked the movie more than it seems I do. For most of its runtime X-Men First Class is a well made action movie with personality and style, which tends to throw it into sharp contrast when the movie becomes not one of those things. Like I said, X-Men First Class is a conditional win, but it feels frustratingly less than what this filmmaking team and cast should be capable of.