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Movie Review: X-Men: First Class

True, the X-Men franchise has had its own ups and downs. I thought the first two films were brilliant with stunning set pieces and impressive special effects. The third installment struck a middle ground where the spectacle overshadowed the narrative. And as for the Wolverine spin off? Well, it was rubbish, disappointing and the only misstep in the series.

So, yes, I was a bit skeptical about another potential waste of my time. But dare I say, First Class actually put - at the very least - the last two films to shame! No, it wasn't a boundary pushing superhero movie - it's a tad formulaic, a few of the special effects were dated and a bit off, and, yes, the nitpick list could probably go on for a while - but what made the last two mediocre made this splendid.

To me, what stood out the most in this film were the excellent performances of some of the main characters. I thought James McAvoy was charming, intellectual and plain likable. I had doubts that he'll be able to pull off the role, but he was superb. Michael Fassbender also gave a solid performance. Both of them reinvigorated their characters adding further depth, energy and likability, which allowed me to develop an affection to both.

Jennifer Lawrence also gave her character, Mystique, justice. She did struggle on some scenes, but I appreciated her different take on the role. As for the other supporting roles, I actually thought most  of them gave good performances - save for Kevin Bacon, who I honestly didn't get. Haha.

But aside from the performances, I also liked the fact that the film had a pretty rock-solid piece of storytelling - something I didn't necessarily expect from a movie like this. The plot was engaging, understandable and it somehow gave so much more depth to the main characters - a welcome change, which actually convinced me that First Class was a character piece than anything else.

Oh, and I liked the clever way in which all the pieces fell into place as a prequel. It somehow cemented the backdrop and tone for the previous X-Men films. Sure, there were a couple of inconsistencies here and there, but most of it made a lot of sense that I actually didn't mind.

On a technical standpoint, the film ranged from average to fantastic. Visually, some special effects were great, but some could've been executed a lot better. Banshee's flying scenes, for instance, were a little problematic for me. It just didn't measure up to the meticulous execution of most scenes. I also felt like Beast's character design was a little dated. Plus, I thought his lip sync was awful and his aggression was more comical than terrifying. The scoring felt right most of the time, so no complaints on that department whatsoever.

As for the direction, I though Matthew Vaughn was competent. I liked his visual style from his montages that interject comic book visuals to his action scenes. Here he proved that Kick-Ass wasn't a fluke. The pacing and the editing was a little uneven though.

One thing I found extremely tiring though, which also ticked me off, was the geographic jumping from Germany to London to America to Argentina to Russia to London to America to.. Ok, you get the point. Haha. It was just literally all over the place.

Overall, the movie was a surprising treat. It wasn't the amazing film I was hoping for, but it's worth seeing. At the very least, First Class managed to save a series that I had written off. This, to me, would either be the final nail in the coffin or a much needed revival of the franchise. I'm glad it turned out to be the latter.

Movie Review: X-Men: First Class Reviewed by DAM on 4:00 AM Rating: 5

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