X-Men: First Class
- Street Date:
- September 9th, 2011
- Reviewed by:
- Aaron Peck
- Review Date: 1
- September 9th, 2011
- Movie Release Year:
- 20th Century Fox
- 132 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Rated PG-13
- Release Country
- United States
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
This summer saw its fair share of superhero movies. Like most summers, there were some that were better than others. It's my opinion that 'X-Men: First Class' eclipsed all those other superhero movies and stands atop the summer superhero heap as the best comic book movie of 2011. Not only is it the best "superhero" movie, but it's a damn good movie to boot, one that isn't afraid to take a modern tale like the 'X-Men' and travel back in time with it. It's tough to do a period piece about characters we only really know in their modern day forms. The way director Matthew Vaughn and his crew seamlessly integrate the origins of the X-Men into real history is a daring but very fun way to keep the stories fresh.
It's the 60s and the world is afraid of nuclear war. The Cuban Missile Crisis is approaching. The United States and Russia are on the brink of nuclear annihilation. Our existence hangs by a thread. That's where the mutants come in.
Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is only a young man now, studying genetic mutations. He knows he has the ability to read and control minds, but he doesn't know how many other mutants are out there. He knows of Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), a blue woman who can transform into any other person. There are others out there though, like Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) a man who can control magnetic fields. His story began in the Nazi concentration camps and now he's out for revenge. Trying to hunt down Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), the man who killed his mother.
What's so fun about Vaughn's new 'X-Men' movie is how it so deftly tells the origin stories of our favorite X-Men, all the while telling its own unique tale. Infusing it into real world, historical events lends the movie an added layer of dramatics that's sorely lacking in many superhero movies. 'First Class' works on a human level, even though we're dealing with super-humans. It's easy to empathize with Erik, since we can only imagine the horrors of living in a concentration camp. We understand his hatred, and when the time comes for him to part ways with Xavier, we don't begrudge him.
Kevin Bacon, as the villain, probably gives one of the most enjoyable performances I've witnessed this year. He's so deliciously over the top in a Bond-villain type of way. He's got his plans of world domination, his minions that follow his every whim, and he's even got his very own personal submarine to cruise around the globe on. He's one of those villains who'd travel to the arctic in his submarine just for ice (which he does).
'First Class' isn't without its faults though. Chief among them being the inclusion of Angel (Zoë Kravitz) who is quite possibly the lamest mutant since Kid Omega (Ken Leung) in 'Last Stand.' Angel sports dorky insect wings and spits fiery loogies at her enemies. Every time she's on screen she totally removes you from the very real, very entertaining drama going on.
I'm a huge fan of 'First Class.' I didn't think that there would be much to it because we've already had so many 'X-Men' films come before. What could they do that we hadn't already seen? That answer lies in the performances of McAvoy and Fassbender. Fassbender, especially, is what really makes this film what it is. That scene between him and Charles, where he's trying to move the satellite dish is moving, touching, and proof of what a good actor can accomplish in something like a superhero summer blockbuster. 'X-Men: First Class' was an unexpected treat.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
20th Century Fox has released 'First Class' on a 50-GB Blu-ray Disc and packaged it together with a Digital Copy in a standard Blu-ray keepcase. It should be noted, for slipcover fans, that there are two choices for slipcovers at the present time. You can get the one with Magneto and the bad band of mutants on the front, or a slipcover with Xavier and his band of mutants. No need to worry though, because whichever one you pick the artwork from the other cover is actually printed on the back. It's just not embossed.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
'X-Men: First Class' looks stellar in 1080p. With a few exceptions of very noticeably phony CG effects, (when the submarine rolls over the palm trees on the beach) this is demo presentation through and through.
The period that Vaughn has created photographs well. Fine detail is alive and vibrant throughout the film. From the plush interior of the Hellfire Club to Emma Frost's sparkly skin-tight suits, everything looks immaculate. Colors are bright and bold. Blue is an almost overwhelming presence from Mystique's body, to Beast's transformation, to the light blue of the nuclear reactor in the submarine. Each shade of blue is completely discernible and clarity is optimum. Oranges and yellows from the numerous explosions burn with ferocity. Blacks are perfectly dark and shadows wonderfully delineated.
Most of the CG looks great. Especially when Shaw takes on the extra mass as he's absorbing energy, or when the anchor tears through his yacht. It's just that submarine shot that looks a tad bit silly, and in HD it looks even sillier. With that in mind, 'First Class' is for all intents and purposes, a stunning transfer featuring deep clear detail, and a wonderful sense for the movie's time period.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
If the video was near perfection, the audio is perfection. There is so much going on with 'First Class's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that it would be impossible to draw your attention to each and every one of its highlights in this review.
Surrounds are constantly active with the whiz-bang crashing of mutant mayhem. As Erik sends the anchor tearing through the yacht, metal crunches all around you, LFE roars as the metal of the ship is torn apart. It's a truly engulfing audio experience. That's only one of the many. Dialogue is always clear and concise even in whispered form. Low-end sonics are resounding and unforgiving. Whether it's the roar of their specially made jet or the sudden impact of a missile exploding on a ship, this bass will rattle the walls of your house. Speaking of deep and resonant, Henry Jackman's inspired score reverberates through the sound field providing a sturdy base for our listening environment.
I thought that 'First Class' and its sound mix was every bit as demo worthy as any other high-octane summer blockbuster. Know that if you're purchasing this you'll get top quality when it comes to sound.
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
See HD exclusives below.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
It is actually a bit disappointing that we didn't get a straight forward audio commentary. I was really looking forward to one with Vaughn and maybe a few of the actors. The lengthy making-of featurette tries to cover all the bases, but it would have been nice to have a commentary included.
- Cerebro Mutant Tracker (HD) – This is a game of sorts where you're tasked with finding mutants as Cerebro whizzes by them. Not just mutants from this movie but mutants from all of the 'X-Men' films are included here. After selecting them (by pressing enter when they appear on screen) you get a few clips of the character throughout the films, and then an information sheet declaring their real name, their allegiances, their powers, and a brief synopsis of their storyline. It keeps track of which ones you've already found by listing them.
- Children of the Atom (HD, 69 min.) – This is an extensive seven-part documentary that covers quiet a lot of the movie and never ventures into promotional territory. This is the nuts and bolts of the filming and getting the movie made. It's a must watch.
"Second Genesis" – The first part of the documentary talks about how the idea of 'First Class' came into being during 'X-2' and how they thought that they were going to do a more "high school" approach with young kids. Thank heavens they didn't go through with that. They also talk about how the idea developed to be a period piece in the 60s and how Vaughn finally tied the whole story in with the real-life missile crisis.
"Band of Brothers" – This part talks about how the mutants for the movie were picked and how they really wanted to showcase new mutants and new powers. They talk about how Havoc is really Cyclops' younger brother in the comics, but in the movies the movies follow a different continuity than the comics. If only they could have discussed how dumb Angel really is and how they regretted putting her in this movie.
"Transformation" – This is the make-up featurette that discusses the transformations of the actors who played Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Mystique (Lawrence), and Azazel (Jason Flemyng). Lawrence went through six to seven hours of grueling make-up application where she had to be standing the whole time. Pretty eye-opening actually.
"Suiting Up" – This is the costume portion of the documentary. They spend most of the time talking about how they dressed the characters for the time period and how they took a lot of inspiration from older 'Bond' films.
"New Frontier: A Dose of Style" – This is mostly about the production design and how they built all of their sets because they just couldn't find practical locations for them. More 'Bond' influence going on here too.
"Pulling off the Impossible" – This is the visual effects featurette where we learn how instrumental legendary effects man John Dykstra was in getting this film made. In Vaughn's own words he would not have been able to make this film without him. Much of it talks about how the actors had a tough time acting when the effects weren't yet present. There's some great behind-the-scenes footage of Dykstra giving direction to the actors telling them how to play the scene as if the effects were actually happening. The CG effects are also discussed. You'll learn about how they did Emma Frost's diamond look, how Mystique transforms, how they actually ended up doing the flying battle (helicopters), and how they made Shaw look when he was absorbing energy.
"Sound and Fury" – The last part of the documentary has to do with Jackman's score. He's funny to listen to and it's interesting to hear him talk about how Vaughn was deeply integrated in the film's score and how he created Magneto's music from a simple bassline. Vaughn and Jackman discuss that it's the score that makes the movie a bit more modern, which is true.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 14 min.) – There are 13 deleted scenes in all. Most of them are simply extensions of scenes you already saw in the movie, but there are some prominent deleted scenes that would have added a bit more to the story. There's a scene where Erik sees a mother and son at the Argentina airport that brings back a flood of memories, but it wouldn't have worked because it's the very same memory that Charles unearths later in the movie and Erik responds by saying "I didn't still know I had that." We also see Shaw meeting with some Cuban generals, and Charles trying to court Moyra with his suave mind techniques..
- X-Marks the Spot (HD) – A cumbersome set of trivia facts that pops up every now and then during each episode. I say cumbersome because the dialog box featuring the facts regularly takes up about half of the screen.
- "Dogfight" Stunt Piece (HD) – There's a small featurette contained on BD-Live that shows more footage of them filming the fight between Banshee, Havoc, and Angel. Even though I can't stand Angel, the fight scene and how they filmed it with helicopters is actually very inventive. You can either download the content or stream it.
'First Class' was one of the best summer blockbusters, because it was smart and wasn't afraid to go places few superhero movies fear to tread. It's an engaging origin story, but it stands on its own as a great film. It looks and sounds fabulous on Blu-ray, and it's crop of special features is inviting. I would've loved a commentary, but other than that the extensive making-of feature is a great addition. This one comes highly recommended.
- BD-50 Blu-ray Disc
- Digital copy
- 1080p/AVC MPEG-4
- English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- French Dolby Digital 5.1
- Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
- English, French, Spanish
Exclusive HD Content
- 10 X-Men Digital Comics
- Cerebro Mutant Tracker
- Children of the Atom
- X Marks the Spot
- Deleted and extended scenes
- Composer's isolated score
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