It’s hard to imagine how far a successful movie franchise can fall until you see it being pushed out to make room for an even larger franchise. Sometimes this is done deliberately, sometimes by accident, and sometimes executive producers think the franchise is so famous they can trim their budget down to sock puppets and still make a buck.
I don’t really know where X-Men: First Class falls in regards to those categories. Maybe it’s a little bit of all three. What I do know is that:
1) The X-Men movies helped relaunch the comic book series.
2) A thousand mutant-style movies and television shows popped up as a result.
3) X-Men Origins: Wolverine tanked.
With this timeline, it looks like First Class was thrown together to commit franchise suicide in order to make room for the juggernaut movie crossover that this whole Avengers series is creating (Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, etc.). Maybe I’m being too harsh. Let us dissect the mutant movie gene, shall we?
The first thing I noticed was the plot. While it doesn’t follow exactly with the comic book timeline, I’m really not that much of a hard-ass. The plot was good: compelling back story, the beginnings of the split between mutants who are pro-normal people and anti-normal people, rifts that create fear of mutants with normal people, a storyline that really made this a good prequel in writing.
However, mutant casting just didn’t do it for me. Could I have given the movie a pass on this? Of course, but when the majority of the action happens in mutant training and a big battle, you need some people with bad-ass powers. Granted, many of these powers are on the up-rise, since it is a prequel, but the problem is that it is seen as a cut-back in originality and special effects.
Beast is a prime example. Kelsey Grammer was a CGI spectacle in the third X-Men movie. What do we get here? A walking, talking blue stuffed animal.
Then we have an all-powerful mutant that screams at you.
In place of Archangel, we have a flying mosquito.
Nightcrawler is replaced by his evil twin.
We’re shown the dangers of hula-hooping without the proper training.
Mystique shows off her baby fat.
Magneto shows he’s had a heart all this time.
Professor X annoys the crap out of everyone with his “smarter-than-thou” attitude.
The only things that visually saved this movie hardly had any effects at all:
2) Kevin Bacon
Most people know this as a formula for movie gold. Everyone loves breasts, and everyone loves Kevin Bacon. In fact, the characters of Emma Frost and Sebastian Shaw seem to be where all the money of the film was invested in, besides having Magneto lift up one ridiculous object. That was the mistake. You could have Emma Frost (played by January Jones) put on gypsy clothes and have Sebastian Shaw (played by Kevin Bacon) throw snaps at people and they would have been stellar. It was the other characters that needed visual safety nets that they never really received, and ended up helping the movie fall into limbo.
I really tried to like this movie, too, and I kept giving it passes because I wanted to believe, but once Beast came out looking like a life-like Care Bear, it was all over.
I give X-Men: First Class two out of five horribly cheap and useless “Coming Soon” movie posters that should have given us all a heads up for what was coming.