X-Men: First Class

 

X-Men: First Class

Written by Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn

Produced by Lauren Shuler Donner, Bryan Singer, Gregory Goodman, Simon Kinberg & Stan Lee

Music by Henry Jackman

Directed by Matthew Vaughn

2011

 

Cast:

James McAvoy - Charles Xavier

Michael Fassbender - Erik / Magneto

Kevin Bacon - Sebastian Shaw

Jennifer Lawrence - Raven / Mystique

January Jones - Emma Frost

Rose Byrne - Moira MacTaggert

Nicholas Hoult - Hank McCoy / Beast

Lucas Till - Alex Summers / Havok

Zoe Kravitz - Angel Salvadore

Oliver Platt - The Man in Black

 

Production Studio:

Theatrical: Bad Hat Harry Productions & Marvel Enterprises

Video: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

 

Video: 

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Codec: AVC

Disc Size: BD50

Feature size: approx 33 GB

Bit Rate: Moderate (20-30 Mbps)

Runtime: 132 minutes

Chapters: 17

Region: A

 

Audio:

English DTS-HD MA 5.1

English Dolby Digital Descriptive Audio

French Dolby Digital 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Subtitles:

English SDH, French & Spanish

 

Extras:

• Children of the Atom – in HD (69:45)

• “X” Marks the Spot – in HD (19:55)

• Cerebro Mutant Tracker

• Deleted Scenes – in HD (14:05)

• Isolated Music Score

• Theatrical Trailer

• BD-Live Portal with additional Cerebro Mutant Tracker profiles plus

• 10 Marvel “X-Men” Digital Comics

• Digital Copy Disc

 

Presentation:

Amaray Blu-ray Case w/ slipcover: 

BRD x 1 + Digital Copy Disc

Street Date: September 9, 2011



Synopsis [Fox]:

Before they were superheroes, the fate of humanity depended on an extraordinary group of youngsters who went on to become X-MEN: FIRST CLASS. Based on the international bestselling Marvel Comics franchise, this box office hit bursts onto Blu-ray and DVD Friday, September 9 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. For the first time ever, “X-Men” fans will have the power to choose a side between Professor X and Magneto with two versions of premium collectible Blu-ray packaging. Also exclusively on Blu-ray, fans receive access to over two hours of special interactive features PLUS ten Marvel “X-Men” Digital Comics including a never-before-seen “X-Men: First Class” backstory— redeemable through each Blu-ray’s unique packaging code.


     

 

Before Charles Xavier (McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Fassbender) took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time, working together to stop the greatest threat the world has ever known. The film features a star-studded supporting cast, including Academy Award-nominee Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone), January Jones (“Mad Men”), Rose Byrne (28 Weeks Later), Zoe Kravitz (“Californication”), Nicholas Hoult (A Single Man), Lucas Till (Walk the Line), and Emmy Award-nominee Oliver Platt (“The West Wing”).


     

 

The Movie: 6.5

Unlike the franchise fan base, the general public and many critics, I found X-Men First Class to be better in conception than execution.  While consistently entertaining, I found it not to be a very good movie - at best, inconsistently realized. The backstory about Charles and Erik is compellingly told - the one born into privilege and who accepted and reveled in his mutant talents, the other a Holocaust survivor who witnesses the murder of his mother at the hands of the sadistic and ambitious Nazi, Sebastian Shaw.  Erik swears revenge and it eats at his very being until everyone on his list of torturers is exterminated at his hands.  Only Shaw remains.  To Erik, Elie Wiesel is a pussy. 


Erik’s relationship to Xavier, once they meet, is not unlike that of the fox to the Little Prince. And tame Erik, Xavier did - to a point - and it is in the dramatization of that point, where Xavier hopes and expects humans to come to accept mutants and Erik cannot, having understood humankind only through its basest practitioners - it is in this nexus that X-Men First Class aspires to something akin to greatness.


     


But producers, writers and director understood the expectations of the marketplace and knew that fans would not accept a mere drama, however well told.  They had to satisfy the need for brilliant effects as well as the younger base of the audience, which, to them meant creating a host of younger mutants and casting accordingly.  Alas, this is where their movie becomes not only routine, but at times embarrassing.


Take the character of “Angel.”  What on earth, any earth, is she doing there?  Why butterfly wings, and how could anyone have conceived such a creature would make a convincing, let alone, compelling, mutant, especially in dog fights as some sort of flying insect.  But more important, why does she go to the other side?  OK, she, like the other kids has just witnessed some serious terror at the hands of Shaw and his squad of mutants, and he is a seductive cuss.  But why her?  Why not someone else?


     


And why do all the young mutants in their humanized form look like rejects from a Disney casting call?  I say “rejects” because that’s where they should be. Or perhaps they would feel more at home posing for hip record jackets - seems that all they’ve got is attitude, none of them have acting chops, or if they do we never get to see the proof.  And what happened to the promise of Winter’s Bone?  Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique should be positively reeking sex, but alas. . . there is precious little going on behind those eyes or under that blue skin.  Whatever that may be I found her eventual defection, considering her - that is, Raven’s - lifelong loyalty to and affection for Charles, all the more puzzling.


To be fair, it couldn’t have helped to have Jennifer repeat lines about how beautiful Hank was as a mutant (really?), a motif that wore out its welcome very quickly, but got relentless play throughout the film - just to spite me, it seemed.  Then there was that shuddering close up of Kenyan Edi Gathegi during Shaw’s exhortation on the word “slavery”.  (A similar shot works quite well when Erik insists “Never again!” because the phrase refers to a Holocaust he was a part of.)  Talk about subtle direction - not.  But Edi got back at all of them soon after with a riveting look as he makes his exit.  Now that’s drama!


     


The only younger mutant that projected recognizable humanity beyond the looks and postures was generated by Nicholas Hoult, an incredibly pretty Englishman, who conveys delight, accomplishment, angst or anticipation at the twist of a coin.  We knew he could act because we saw him do so in A Single Man across from the likes of Colin Firth, which made Jennifer Lawrence’s non-performance all the more painful.


Then we have the lovely January Jones as Sebastian Shaw’s right hand woman: another person we have seen affect an audience (witness any moment in Mad Men) who seems to do her best work in this movie in crystalline form.  Her line readings are lifeless, and what, pray tell, possessed the costume designer to dress her in that horrid two piece bit of nonsense in the casino.  It would seem like the designers were embarrassed at the thought of having to come to terms with her body.  Nor did the writers know what to do with her once she was captured by Erik and Charles, any more than they knew what to do with Angel.


     


So let me end this seemingly relentless tirade of disappointment on an upbeat: James McAvoy (a little short, true) and Michael Fassbender.  These actors, each as their character deserves and as we know they will become as older adults, inhabit the characters created by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen.  McAvoy’s job is the more challenging since he must convince not only us, but Erik, of the truth of Xavier’s vision.  Playing the good guy is always more difficult.  Nor is there anywhere for the actor to go dramatically.  His best moment is when he helps Erik find his power through a meditative exercise.  Whereas Erik gets to move in and out of rage whilst entertaining the possibility of inner peace, if only while he’s bending metal to his will.


And let’s not forget the villain of the piece - Sebastian Shaw - played with delicious menace by Kevin Bacon, a type we have seen from him before (e.g. River Wild / Wild Things) and can play in his sleep I imagine.  These guys are good and make the movie worthwhile, even if the rest doesn’t add up to more than a bag of elbows.


     

 

Image: 7/9

X-Men First Class offers a curious mix of image textures – both from scene to scene and sometimes within the frame.  These all appear to be as intended by the filmmakers rather than transfer issues.  Some shots are very sharp, generally close-ups, while some master shots are a bit soft, both interiors and exteriors, CGI and not. In other respects, the color is vivid with pumped up contrast and deep blacks - perhaps a shade too much so, just as it appeared in theaters I gather.

 

Audio: 6/6

The good news is that nuanced effects and dialogue are clearly projected.  The bad news is that the LFE is just awful: it’s thick and thuddy, and spine-numbing. Fortunately it doesn’t come on all that often.  I remember when it first appeared I thought there was something wrong in my system, or possibly in my neighbor’s home.  his is bass whose sole purpose is to demonstrate bass. It has no energy or timbre. Aside from this, Henry Jackman’s music score, which I found generic and uninvolving, is very well handled and balanced with the dialogue and effects (LFE excepted).  The surrounds are used to good effect during Mystique’s morphing process and especially when Xavier searches for other mutants with Cerebro.


     

 

Extras: 7

“X” Marks the Spot: can be viewed either as a standalone piece in eight segments or, optionally, interrupting the movie on pause while allowing viewers the opportunity to learn more about specific scenes, special effects, talent interviews and pre-visualization and title sequences.  Not much depth, but helpful. .

 

Children of the Atom: An eight-part behind-the-scenes featurette, charting the film from pre-production through post-production, including visual effects techniques and cataloguing “X-Men” transformations through prosthetic make up and costume design.


     

 

Cerebrus Mutant Tracker: an interactive feature that highlights character profiles for the mutants, supported by clips from the movie.  More data on the mutants can be found via the BD-Live portal.  Also at BD-Live are 10 Marvel “X-Men” Digital Comics with exclusive “X-Men: First Class” backstories.

 

Deleted Scenes: Entertaining, often funny, justly deleted.  I am obliged to note the presence of Henry Jackman’s score isolated from the dialogue and effects.  Usually a consumation devoutly to be wished.  Here, I place this news in the same paragraph as the deleted scenes advisedly.

 

Recommendation: 7

While I wasn’t nearly as high on this installment of the X-Men franchise, Matthew Vaughn’s pop-infested prequel is certainly a step or two above the first origin movie “Wolverine” or the finale of the original trilogy “The Last Stand”.  In any case fans will no doubt want to snap up this Blu-ray - despite my reservations about the audio.


     

 

 

Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

September 10, 2011



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