X-Men: First Class – DVD Review

A for effort, B for attainment, X for continuity

Michael Fassbender in X-Men: First Class

Hey, you'd be a bit narked too if someone had stolen your left arm.


Release date: 31 October 2011
2011 | 12 | 131 minutes | £19.99 (DVD)/£24.99 (Triple Play Blu-ray)
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, Kevin Bacon

X-Men: First Class was released to critical acclaim and fan worship. For those first few days, it seemed, everybody loved it. But as the weeks went by, the truth became clear. Everybody loved it except the blockbuster-loving multiplex crowd who mattered when it came to the box office. Oh, they didn’t hate it. Nobody could actively hate X-Men: First Class, could they? They just didn’t love it enough to tell their mates, “You must see it.”

In retrospect, it’s easy to see why. And no, it has nothing to do with the X-continuity cock-ups, which worried Mr and Mrs Multiplex considerably less than the price of their popcorn. It’s basically because the film tries too hard. It tries to do too much, to cover too much ground. We were told in pre-publicity that it was a film about how the “legendary” friendship between Professor X and Magneto went bad. Well, it is. Sort of. But it’s also about the formation of the X-Men, the training of the first intake, the beginnings of the Cold War between humanity and mutants and the formation of the Brotherhood Of Evil Mutants.
Tossed in amongst that lot, the “legendary” friendship comes across more like a marriage of convenience that lasted a couple of weeks, tops.

The other plotlines suffer too. The search for new mutants and the training sessions are almost over before they began. The human/mutant mistrust is virtually presented as a given. Characters swap sides almost before you‘ve worked out what side they’re on. The result is a film that’s very easy to enjoy, but hard to love.

Which is a shame, because there’s so much to love about it. James McAvoy is superb as a louche, lecherous, idealistic version of Xavier (who at times seems to treat his pupils as so much cannon fodder). Amazingly, he’s outshone by Michael Fassbender’s Erik Lensherr, a man who may be driven by revenge, but who has a much more realistic grasp of where the future is heading for mutantkind. It’s a clever dynamic, with Magneto often making more sense than Professor X, especially the way he “liberates” Raven from imprisonment in her human form.

It’s a very funny film too, but never at the expense of the story, with witty, character-led humour that helps you empathise with some of the more undeveloped characters. The action sequences are breathtaking. Admittedly a couple of effects (especially the White Queen‘s diamond form) look a little last-century-CGI, but mostly they are ahem, first class. And it all looks glorious on Blu-ray. Arguably it works better on the small screen: the shameless ’60s Bond imagery seems more at home in our living rooms after decades of watching Bond’s Connery on the telly.

So, does it have faults? Yeah, sure. But that shouldn’t stop you buying it on shiny disc, because what you did love about the film is worth watching time and time again.

Extras:

The slippage of extras to Blu-ray from DVD to try and entice us all to invest in the newer tech is painfully in evidence here. The DVD version (rated) features only a selection of deleted scenes – and only five deleted scenes, at that, as opposed to the Blu-ray’s 13. Swizz. There isn’t even a commentary – mind you, the Blu-ray hasn’t got one either. Still, you do get a digital copy.

If you do buy the Blu-ray (which comes with both a DVD and a digital copy), you get barely more than you would have expected on a blockbuster DVD release five years ago. The main thing you wouldn’t have found on a DVD is Cerebro: The Ultimate Mutant Database, a kind of faux game (in that the instructions make it sound like a game, but it isn’t) where you click on X-Men movie mutants (from the entire franchise) to access a bunch of clips about them. Perform this rather mindless task enough times and you get access to bonus features on BD Live. It’s not really a very exciting use of the medium.

On the plus side, the eight-part documentary “Children Of The Atom” (which runs for a total of 69 minutes) is very impressive. There’s very little repeated material (or even anecdotes), with almost every aspect of production covered. Matthew Vaughn seems a little camera-shy; he does contribute, but producers Bryan Singer and Lauren Shuler Donner grab most of the screen time. The suspicious among you may assume this is to stop Vaughn talking about his X-Men: The Last Stand experience (where he basically walked off the project weeks before production began) but no – they do actually cover this in quite some depth. In fact, all the interviews are impressively open; sure, any real dirty laundry (if there is any) isn’t aired but they do own up to disagreements and differing opinions. You even get the feeling that nobody apart from Vaughn quite wanted Beast to look that way. An option to listen to the isolated score completes the package.

Dave Golder
X-Men: First Class is one of our top 50 superhero movies of all time.