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X-Men: First Class(2011)
Before mutants had revealed themselves to the world, and before Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time. Not archenemies, they were instead at first the closest of friends, working together with other Mutants (some familiar, some new), to prevent nuclear Armageddon. In the process, a grave rift between them opened, which began the eternal war between Magneto's Brotherhood and Professor X's X-Men.
For more about X-Men: First Class and the X-Men: First Class Blu-ray release, see X-Men: First Class Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on September 9, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, January Jones, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne
Director: Matthew Vaughn
» See full cast & crew
X-Men: First Class Blu-ray Review
A return to form?
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, September 9, 2011
Superhero movies are big business and tricky business; not only are they expected to rake in tons of cash for the studios, but to do so, they also need to somehow cater to both the I-just-wants-to-see-stuffs-get-blown-up mentality of the casual action movie fan and the obsessive, continuity-checking nitpicking of hardcore comic book readers. That's a tough balance to strike. Appeal to the lowest common denominator and the most rabid geeks will revolt; get too detailed and those just looking for a cool place to spend a summer afternoon will be overwhelmed with off- puttingly esoteric lore. Of course, there's also the possibility that the movie just won't be any good, regardless, and that's what happened with the last two X-Men films. After the over-the-top mutant gluttony of X-Men: The Last Stand and the searing disappointment that was X- Men Origins: Wolverine, Marvel fanatics and the moviegoing public alike were understandably wary of yet another X-Men outing, which partially explains why First Class—a prequel and, effectively, a franchise reboot—got such a relatively lukewarm reception at the box office. But I think the film got a tough break. While it's not nearly as gripping as The Dark Knight, and not half as fun as Iron Man, First Class is an entertaining origin story that benefits from a 1960s setting that gives it the vibe of Mad Men the and style of an early James Bond picture.
But before we get to the swinging '60s we have to go back a bit further to a concentration camp in Poland, 1944, where evil Nazi scientist Dr. Schmidt (Kevin Bacon) discovers and exploits the telekinetic powers of a young Jew, Erik Lensherr, who sees his mother shot by Schmidt and erupts in a fit of metal-rending rage. Meanwhile, at a mansion in upstate New York, tween-aged telepath Charles Xavier discovers a blue-scaled shape- shifter named Raven rummaging in the kitchen for food and—without consulting his parents—invites her to join the family, happy to have found a friend who's similarly "different."
Eighteen years later and looking for revenge, adult Erik (Michael Fassbender, who also played a Nazi hunter in Inglourious Basterds) is on the trail of Dr. Schmidt—now called Sebastian Shaw—who has since developed a faultless American accent, actually looks younger than he did in '44, and has for a moll the appropriately named Emma Frost (January Jones), a telepathic ice-queen who's able to encase her body in glittery diamonds. (Busty and bombshell blond, she's the film's equivalent of a Bond villainess.) Shaw, who has the ability to absorb energy and disperse it at will, has been convincing American and Russian diplomats to strategically up their missile defenses—perhaps forcibly manipulating is a better phrase—and his end-game is all-out nuclear war, which would destroy humanity, leaving the evolved and "superior" mutant race to take over the planet. Also trying to track him down is CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne), who conscripts Xavier (James McAvoy)—now a dandy-ish professor of genetics—and his adopted sister (Jennifer Lawrence) to aid in the search. Eventually, Erik gets pulled into this CIA circle as well, and when he meets Xavier, in-the-know comic book connoisseurs will nod and hopefully smile, aware that these two men will become fast friends and— one day, inevitably—mortal enemies.
With just about any prequel, the audience already has a grasp on what will happen, so the challenge of the filmmakers is to give compelling whys and hows. We know Xavier ends up in a wheelchair. We know he founds a school for gifted mutants. We know he and Erik— soon to be christened "Magneto"—will have a falling out based on their mutually incompatible philosophies for mutant and human coexistence. First Class takes us there, with a story that co-opts the Cold War drama of the Cuban Missile Crisis for an adventure in mutant-infused alternate history. To save the world from nuclear destruction, Erik and Xavier round up and train the "first class" of superlative mutant students, from a flying burlesque dancer named Angel (Zoe Kravitz) and a taxi driver who ran rapidly adapt to survive any environment—he goes by "Darwin," obviously—to a red-headed Ron Weasley look-a-like with ultra-powerful vocal cords and the prehensile-footed Dr. Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), who will ultimately become the blue-furred Beast played by Kelsey Grammer in the previous movies. Most of these subsidiary mutants get short-shrifted in the character development department—they're really just here to use their powers in a pinch or provide the impetus for certain plot turns—but the film makes up for this with the evocatively portrayed relationship between Xavier and Erik, which goes beyond brotherly, making it all the more affecting when they part ways.
The credit goes less to the credited screenwriters—of which there were, count 'em, six—and more to James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, two actors who have both been doing brilliant work recently. (Fassbender in particular. If you've yet to see Hunger or Fishtank or the new Jane Eyre, track them down. All three are wonderful.) McAvoy initially comes across like a young Richard Dawkins, all scientific swagger—nerdishly charming while trying to bed Oxford co-eds by commenting on their "groovy" genetic mutations—but as the film progresses he begins to take on more of the gravity of Patrick Stewert, who plays an older version of Xavier in the other films. And I'm not going to avoid it; Fassbender is positively magnetic as Magneto, the Holocaust survivor who worries that a similar culling will take place with the newly out-of-the- closet mutants, who are already being labeled as freaks and aberrations. As always in X-Men, the racial/sexual orientation discrimination sub-text isn't very sub. There's even a scene where Dr. Hank McCoy replies, "You didn't ask, so I didn't tell," when his boss questions him on why he didn't let anyone know he was a mutant. The metaphor gets to be eye-rollingly obvious in places, but I haven't notice any anti-gay rights activists boycotting the film, so hey, maybe it's still flying over a few heads.
But are there explosions, you ask? Absolutely. Director Matthew Vaughn—the guy behind last year's hilarious and brutal Kick-Ass—gets the comic book action elements right, vacillating between intimate fight scenes and epic set piece battles. The big finale has the amassed navies of the U.S. and Russia squaring off with itchy trigger fingers while Professor X's mutants swoop in on a pimped out SR-71 to put an end to Shaw's manufactured missile crisis. Who'd've thought throwing even more superpowers into the mix would be so good for the Cold War?
X-Men: First Class Blu-ray, Video Quality
No surprise here. X-Men: First Class is one of 20th Century Fox's top-tier releases for the year, so you know it looks fantastic on Blu-ray. The movie has been given a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that's crisp, colorful, and naturally filmic, with a rich-but-unobtrusive patina of grain that's untouched by digital noise reduction or unnecessary edge enhancement. Most of the film is satisfyingly sharp, with more-than-ample fine detail visible in nearly every frame. See the rippled texture that covers Mystique's body or the fuzzy wool of Professor X's suits, Beast's facial hair and the intricate design of the costumes the mutants don for the finale. There are a few shots that look slightly less resolved, but this softness seems to be inherent in the source material, and not any kind of transfer defect. Color fares wonderfully too; there's a creamy quality to the picture's highlights and a slightly warm cast that pervades most of the film. The grading balances vibrant hues--blues and yellows, purples and reds--with skin tones that look consistently natural. Black levels are deep without ever looking oppressive to shadow detail, and contrast is finely tuned. The encode is solid as well, with no overt compression problems like banding, blocking, or excessive noise. I did have two instances where I thought the image "skipped," for a lack of a better word, causing a temporary judder, but I rewound the film I couldn't replicate it. Maybe my eyes were playing tricks on me. Regardless, this Blu-ray presentation is sure to impress.
X-Men: First Class Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The same goes for the film's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, which delivers all the sonic explosiveness and attention to detail you expect in a modern day superhero movie. This is one of those mixes that works best if you don't have next door neighbors. That is, it sounds great when you turn it up loud. The more action-oriented scenes assault you with immersive sound effects. The LFE channel roars and throbs to accentuate Erik's attempt to magnetically restrain Shaw's submarine. An anchor attached to a chain whips wildly through the rears and a mutant-induced tornado surrounds you from all sides. The X-Men's SR-71 whooshes between speakers, and elsewhere you'll hear pinpoint/cross-channel effects from gunshots, missiles, and various impressionistic swooshes and other sounds, like Xavier's voice floating in the space behind your head. Of course, it wouldn't be an action movie without at least a few good explosions, and yes, they're more than suitably rumbly here. The rear channels do cool off, however, during the more dramatic, dialogue-heavy scenes--as you'd expect--but some of these quieter moments probably could've benefited from some additional ambience. Nothing loud or distracting, just room noise. Henry Jackman, one of Hans Zimmer's proteges, gives the film a stabbing, brass-heavy score that works really well and sounds great, full and dynamic. Throughout it all, dialogue is clean, balanced, and easy to understand. The disc also includes English descriptive audio and French and Spanish dubs, all in Dolby Digital 5.1, along with English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
X-Men: First Class Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
X-Men: First Class Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
X-Men: First Class was definitely better than I expected, and although it's not a perfect comic book film, it's miles and miles beyond the last two entries in the franchise. So yes, First Class is a return to form, one that should leave all but the most persnickety and discriminating Marvel fans satisfied. As you'd hope, the film looks and sounds fantastic on Blu-ray, and the disc comes with some great special features, including an hour-long making-of documentary. Recommended!
X-Men: First Class: Other Editions
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X-Men: First Class Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Digital Copy Coming to Android Courtesy of Fox - July 22, 2011
Starting with X-Men: First Class, Twentieth Century Fox are to include a digital copy compatible with Android phones and tablets with Blu-ray Discs. The digital copies will leverage Google's newly acquired Widevine DRM platform, which is also used by Netflix ...
• X-Men: First Class Blu-ray - July 19, 2011
Fox has revealed that their reboot of the X-Men franchise, X-Men: First Class is slated for a September 9th release. The studio will be giving away Magneto and Xavier t-shirts to the first 1,000 fans to pre-order the release at this week's Comic-Con. A SRP of 39.99 ...
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