terça-feira, junho 07, 2011

X-Men: First Class (2011)

When the first teaser came out, it was already highly anticipated from my part!

Since I was a little kid, the X-Men have been one of my favourite Marvel creations, going beyond the comic strips of which I was a big fan. There were also the 90’s cartoons, video-games and toys contributing to my growing affiliation to the “mutant gang”.

Fast forward a few years later, the movies came out in the early 00’s! Also good, adding different perspectives to their background source material, but remaining faithful to their core essence. Then X-Men Origins: Wolverine came and ruined it… and even though it consisted on its title character, I think the whole X-Men franchise was affected. So basically, they really needed X-Men: First Class (2011) to do good, so it would gave them a huge boost… otherwise their future projects around Professor X and his pupils might not have the same impact in times to come. And I don’t say this in a financial point of view (as almost every Marvel production does well at the box office), but more in terms of reception by critics and fans all around.

Fortunately it did! The reviews and iMDB reaction were so good that it became impossible for me to resist going to a screening room in London.

Matthew Vaughn does an excellent work behind the camera by giving his work an exceptional well timed pace, plus perfectly drifting from action sequences in to an exploitation of the history (a prequel to the trilogy), the characters and their developments from an emotional stand.

Other decisions on this movie making: The option of going to the vintage costumes was excellent and even the sets (derivate from a James Bond classic era) effectively demonstrate the time and age that we are witnessing, adding more positive sides to create a suitable environment for the story.

Also credit is due to the team behind the screenplay. They added a lot of rich elements to the narrative, giving the storyline a darker and a more real feel to it, something that I thought it was proper to stimulate an adult audience, especially in some of the Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto scenes.

And it’s with Erik as a young boy that we begin the film. In a very drama fashion opening scene, it reminded me some of the great movies reflecting the Holocaust times, such as Schindler’s List (1993) or The Pianist (2002). I thought it was remarkable how a blockbuster like X-Men could evoke so easily some of the same feelings I got when watching those movies. It felt so intense… so real! And while we see Erik grow up in to the man we follow until the end credits, we can feel his pain and anger. Although knowing up front he his to be considered the villain in the X-Men saga, we sympathize! We almost support his cause and we become more understanding! To certain extent we even support his quest for vengeance. That is definitely an interesting point for those you don’t follow the comic books, because their immediate reaction his to dislike Magneto because he’s just labelled as “the bad guy”. But one of the things that make X-Men a success is their vast, complex and interesting backgrounds.

But, even though having the right story or the right character is half way through… you still need the right casting. And how right could they be when they chose Michael Fassebender for the role? This actor of German Irish descendentcy is quickly becoming one of the most promising lead actors in Hollywood after establishing himself in both indie and mainstream pictures. 300 (2006), Hunger (2008) and Inglorious Basterds (2009) stand as his milestones, before landing in one of the leads in X-Men: First Class. His performance is nothing short of outstanding, with particular emphasis for the first 25 minutes that, in my opinion, out shadows all of the other casts contribute.

But wait!

James MacAvoy, the other lead in this movie is also very good as Charles Xavier, the man later on to be known as Professor X, leader of the X-Men.

MacAvoy, also a young but accomplished actor in the Hollywood scenario, came to prominence with The Last King of Scotland (2006), then going on to act in other movies such as Atonement (2007) or Wanted (2008). In this particular movie he goes so far as to give body to an unknown side of Xavier, a side that I also wasn’t really aware. A young man that passed as ambitious, womanizer and even (in some occasions) arrogant! The combination of all these attributes made it more fascinating to see how the character would unveil and MacAvoy did a wonderful job guiding the audience through that path, making sure we would always stand by his side no matter what.

Well… this actually brings a good point of discussion! Something that I even think it’s worth bringing up in scholar debates (for instances).

The friendship established by the two main characters sets a different course when they begin a conflict over their different ways of dealing with problems in hands.

If on one hand Charles thinks that mutants should be the better man and turn the other cheek, Erik believes they should fight back. And it’s in this conflict of interests and personalities that we see resemblances between Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X, two of the biggest freedom fighters in the history of mankind.

One sided for acts of peace, the other wanted to “reply” in the same measures.

The X-Men doesn’t go too far from that! In the real story of MLK and Malcom X they would fight for equal rights between the black and white communities, in the comics/movies is more about the differences between humans and mutants. The struggle seems the same… a society that doesn’t pass judgment on difference, but allows them to live together in peace and equal terms. But history has proven than acceptance doesn’t come cheap nor without effort! People don’t make it easier as they should. They build barriers, they create demons and they find excuses to provoque some of the most horrible events that man has ever seen. 

Anyway... (trying to wrap it up), the movie stands out for a lot of reasons:

It has plenty of action, drama and humour... Great crew, great actors (especially Fassebender and MacAvoy, who show great chemistry), great story and surprise cameos!!!

By far the best from all the X-Men movies and maybe the best Marvel movie yet!
(you can quote me on that!)

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