On Saturday, I had the opportunity to see Matthew Vaughn‘s X-Men: First Class. Over the last year, we’ve heard about how the film had morphed from the original concept of X-Men Origins: Magneto into a prequel/reboot in the same style of what JJ Abrams did for the Star Trek franchise. I can confirm that the completed film is exactly both of these things. It fits right in with Bryan Singer’s first two X-Men films and is probably the second best film in the series next to X-Men United. And I say that with a certain but of nostalgia for the sequel, as it came out at a time when comic book adaptations didn’t strive to be anything more than popcorn fun. But the more and more I think about it, the more and more I think Vaughn’s film might have surpassed it.

Going into the film, I had so many expectations (most of which were set-up by the trailers).  I had assumed that the advertising was being packed with all the moments in an effort to sell a action-less origin story, but I was surprised at how much action was actually the film. I don’t think anyone will see this movie and come out disappointed. It strikes a great balance of being accessible to non-comic book fans and packing some pretty cool easter eggs that comic geeks will love (I will keep this vague as I don’t want to spoil any of the fun).

While I have read a lot of X-Men comics in the 1990′s, I’m not really clear on the origins on some of these characters and what events in the comic universe led to certain situations. So while I’m unable to assess how faithful it is to comic book canon, I will say that everything is handled quite nicely. Picky fans might notice some continuity nitpicks and possible timeline issues (especially if you look at this as a prequel to the film series), but nothing major

And Vaughn adds his trademark style to the series in all the right moments, without making the cinematography feel out of place in the period setting. For example, one such moment (and I wouldn’t consider a spoiler in any way) is Hank McCoy’s transformation into Beast. Vaughn handles the sequence like a werewolf transformation, but shot in a way I’ve never seen it before, from Hank’s POV. It is very cool. There is a bit of cheesy dialogue, especially in the scenes that focus on the younger mutants. But at the core, this is a story about Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr (played brilliantly in this film by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender), two best friends who will become enemies at the center of the mutant revolution.

We can’t really go into specifics at this time, so I’m trying to keep everything general. I recorded a short video blog with Frosty from Collider, joined by /Film’s own Germain Lussier. Watch it now embedded after the jump.

Video blog reaction:

Buzz from other sites:

Bleeding Cool: “First Class contains some of the briskest and most efficient storytelling I’ve seen in any recent blockbuster. An awful lot happens, and awfully quickly at times, but it’s all clear and while some nice moments might be over in the blink of an eye, this can only reward repeat viewers. …  This film does not hang around – and at over two hours of running time, that’s a virtue, because when nothing drags, and the audience don’t get bored, the minutes just whistle by. There are some characters who get short shrift and aren’t allowed the space, or focus, that would have allowed them to really come to life – Riptide and Azazel, definitely, and Darwin, perhaps; and Moira McTaggart sort of fades away for a while, but while she’s around, some of her scenes are great. An amazing amount of the characters are sketched out most deftly. It’s that efficiency again.”

HitFix: “Right now, I’m still sort of in shock at how much of it works, and how ambitious the entire thing is.” … “It uses your expectations about the genre to set you up one way, then time and again, reaches for something a little bit more perverse or a little bit more eccentric or a little bit more heartfelt.” … “X-Men: First Class is a genuinely good movie, not just a good superhero movie.  Big and bold and aggressively told, it feels to me like this is the first film in a brand-new franchise, and even the few very wicked and enjoyable references to Singer’s films that are hidden in this one don’t tie it down.  This is ground zero, and I think Fox just got it right, really right, in a way I can’t say it feels like they have on any of their Marvel films so far.  With the right support, and with this film’s key creative team onboard, a sequel to this could well be the X-Men epic we’ve been waiting for since day one.”

HeyUGuys: “It’s rather pleasing then, that X-Men: First Class takes the series back to its roots, both figuratively, in terms of the character-focused drama, and literally, as we open with an almost shot-for-shot recreation of the beginning of Bryan Singer’s first X-Men film. In doing so, the film makes itself instantly familiar, and also, instantly engaging.” … “Indeed, it is in the treatment of the characters, and their relationships that the film really triumphs.” …  “Vaughn’s ability to direct action, and sense of humour run through the film, while the film still feels very much like a part of the world Singer created in his movies.”

Blogomatic3000: “X-Men: First Class does not forget what came before, in fact there are nods to it throughout, both fun and terribly sad, but fresh faces have breathed new life into familiar characters and their battle for acceptance has an added touch of humanity.” … “There is all the excitement, pace and spectacle that you would expect and want from an X-Men film.”

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