X-Men: First Class - DVD Review

'considering just how many cooks the screenplay had it's a wonder there's still so much ripe dialogue contained within'

Director Matthew Vaughn does a fantastic job bringing an individual style to X-Men: First Class, which sees it at least try, on several occasions, to mark itself out from the superhero herd. Two scenes in particular see Vaughn doing something a bit different; Beast's (Nicholas Hoult) transformation is seen from the character's eye-view, accentuating the standard X-Men theme of difference and, in particular, how to address and cope with it. A key scene towards the end of the film involving Eric (Michael Fassbender) and a coin is also notable, Vaughn taking time out from the standard conflict narrative to produce a bit of a shock, particularly amongst younger viewers.

At a script level, X-Men: First Class is one of those screenplays that looks like it has been produced by committee. Sheldon Turner and Bryan Singer have story credits whilst Vaughn, screenwriting partner Jane Goldman, Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz are all credited with scripting contributions. Considering just how many cooks it had it's a wonder there's still so much ripe dialogue contained within. An early scene of Charles Xavier chatting various people up in a bar is painful, whilst the scene where the young mutants choose their names is chalkboard-draggingly awkward. 'We should all pick code names, I want to be Mystique', says Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), like a child advance-reserving her favourite toy.

At one-hundred and thirty-two minutes, the film takes its time to tell its story but does come up with a well-worked narrative that provides several distinct acts, each of which are different but none-the-less rather pleasant. The first and middle thirds, concerned with the mutants individually and then with the assembling of the team, are the best, Vaughn keeping the pace fast and the limited action joyful. As the middle third turns towards the finale though, it feels like we get a bit bogged down. Character interactions become obvious and clichéd and action scenes become more and more drawn out. It's hardly the build-up the climactic battle required.

There's also probably too much here for Vaughn to deal with, even within that expanded runtime. Certain characters - Moira (Rose Byrne), The Man In Black (Oliver Platt), Angel (Zoë Kravitz), to name but a few - get absolutely no meaningful backstory or development, save a couple of throwaway lines. Even the main relationship (Eric and Charles) doesn't seem to get the time it needs or deserves and it ends up bowing out on a premature note. Vaughn brings a lot to the party but its a party that feels over-crowded, occasionally immature and often fluffed. The First Class report would probably read something like, 'working well within themselves, could do better'.

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'This retro X-Men is sexy, smart and sophisticated' - ComicBooked.com


  1. Despite its runtime I actually think it doesn't take enough time to tell the story; especially in the first third which I feel barrels along at such a fast pace, switching from location to location, that there isn't much depth given to the characters shown before we're given even more characters (the characters you mentioned and i'd add Darwin to the mix).

    There's a few too many characters, as has been the case with the series since X3 but I enjoyed the film. I agree about the 2nd act, i've become rather tired of the training sequence in comic book films. Not to sure about the dialgoue however, "mutant and proud" feels a touch on the nose.

    I'd give few mentions to Kevin Bacon for his suave and domineering villain. Good stuff.

  2. Agree with all of that really. The training montage is getting severely over-used although I thought it had its place here; still, that whole segment (from the base attack onwards) just felt too drawn out.

    There's definitely too many characters and/or not enough time given to covering them and yes, Bacon could do that role all day as far as I'm concerned, he makes a great nefarious villain.

  3. It was fun, slick, and well-acted, especially by Fassbender who gave me this idea that he was bad but at the same time a good guy. This one was definitely a hell of a lot better than the last two X-Men flicks we've gotten. Good review.

  4. Have been talking about the last two films on twitter recently. Don't remember X3 being as bad as everyone seems to think but I've only seen it once and can't remember everything about it. That said, yes, huge improvement on WOLVERINE.

  5. You have identified what is wrong with so many blockbusters today. They try and cram too much into their runtimes and as films they get lost with too much going on and not enough plot or story.
    I found this a solid film even though I've all but forgotten it now. Highly flawed and yet watchable.

  6. It would be nice to see them take a bit more care but I suppose they all operate under the assumption that a sequel isn't guaranteed. If this had started out knowing it would get a second bite at the cherry then maybe some of its problems (the rushed allegiances come the end) could have been straightened out?