Form: Feature Film
Adapted From: Marvel Comic's Uncanny X-Men (ongoing since 1963) and X-Men: First Class (original mini-series in 2006)
Starring: James McAvoy (Charles Xavier/Professor X), Michael Fassbender (Erik Lehnsehrr/Magneto), Jennifer Lawrence (Raven/Mystique), Kevin Bacon (Sebastian Shaw), Rose Byrne (Moria Mactaggert), January Jones (Emma Frost), Oliver Platt (CIA agent), Nicholas Hoult (Hank McCoy/Beast), Jason Flemyng (Azazel), Alex Gonzalez (Riptide), Caleb Landry Jones (Sean Cassidy/Banshee), Zoe Kravitz (Angel Salvadore), Edi Gathegi (Darwin), Lucas Till (Alex Summers/Havok)
Screenplay/Story by: Ashley Miller, Zach Stentz, Jane Goodman, Matthew Vaughn, Sheldon Turner, Bryan Singer
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Released in Theatres: June 2011
Movie Review: Wow. After the horrible messes that were Wolverine: Origins and X-Men 3 and all the negative things people were saying about the trailer, the badly photoshopped pictures, and an apparently insane shoot, I was worried about this. But I have to say it: this just might be my favorite X-Men movie ever.
First things first: the movie is gorgeously shot. From the 60's costumes to the brilliant set design, the movie is sure pretty. There's even a gorgeous training sequence that makes better use of comic book panelling than Ang Lee's Hulk.
The other thing that's impressive is the acting - Fassbender and McAvoy deliver electric turns as Magneto and Professor X, delivering a whole movie essentially built on their friendship alone. Secondary turns by Byrne, Hoult, Bacon, and especially Lawrence, make these rather secondary X-Men characters shine.
The action sequences are also well done, with a twisty-turning climax that is the epitome of building tension towards a fitting conclusion, saving the last big twist for an emotional turn that literally had me (and the whole theatre) gasping. It was so fitting in X-Men lore that you really can't help but be impressed - because I, a devout X-fan, didn't even see it coming.
There are a few drawbacks - mainly that Havok and Banshee's stories go undeveloped, Angel's doesn't really make sense, and January Jones sucks the energy out of every scene she's in. Jones apparently was not given Astonishing X-Men to read before taping, since she plays Emma Frost like she's a simple sexpot, not one of the most complex X-Men characters ever.
Overall, though, pretty dang amazing. And fun.
Adaption Analysis: Somehow, this movie manages to not only absorb a whole bunch of X-Men lore, the 60's vibe, the Cold War, WWII, brilliant cameos, meta jokes, and some campy comic book moments, but it manages to do it while making it look easy. The problem with comic book movies is that the director and the actors sometimes make it like what many adults think comic books are: stuff written for children, mostly sound effects, and women drawn in skimpy outfits (see: The Fantastic Four). Luckily, the recent spate of comic book movies have realized that this is not really the truth.
As far as an adaption goes, this isn't really X-Men: First Class. First off, only Professor X, Beast, and Magneto appear from that series, which would technically be set after this movie happens. In reality, this movie is really about the founding of the X-Men, which is kind of what that series was. Instead of Cyclops, we get Havok. Instead of Iceman, we have Banshee.
But the strangest thing about this movie's mutants is the wide selection they went with - we get Morrison's Angel Salvadore, Chuck Austen's hated Azazel (an obvious evil Nightcrawler stand-in), 80's villain Riptide, and Ed Brubaker's Darwin (recently in Peter David's X-Factor). I could have gone for more interesting mutants, as Azazel and Riptide were both chosen strictly for their powers. You also get the classic villainess and current lead X-woman, Emma Frost, and classic Professor X love, Moria Mactaggert.
The contuinity changes are alright for the most part: Moria isn't a scientist and is American, Professor X has hair (and jokes about it!), Banshee is American, and Havok doesn't appear to be Cyclops' brother. But the oddest, and actually the most interesting, change is Mystique. She's still Raven and she's still destined to be Rebecca Romijn, but in this version, she's taken the place of the Juggernaut as Professor X's adopted sibling. In another way, you could also view her as a version of Cassandra Nova, Professor X's twin sister. Jennifer Lawrence's portrayal adds depth not allowed Mystique in the other films, but it works here and makes her one of the main characters of the film.
Overall, the only negative here in conversion was the loss of Emma Frost. Her character was reduced to its most pedantic: slut, second-in-command, and not even that smart. Jones, and the script, lost the heart and soul of the character and it's just sad. She could have been a great counterpart to Mystique's journey.
All in all, I have to say that I love the ending's transformation of a classic X-Men moment. Trust me, it's great. Much in the way that X2's sacrifice by Jean Grey made X-fans squeal in joy, this is the moment that seals this movie's greatness.
I think I might have to see it again.
X-Men: First Class is now in theatres.