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Face-Off: X-Men vs. X-Men: First Class

11.29.2012by: Paul Huffman
In last weeks Face Off, we explored the minds of two iconic film serial killers in Hannibal Lecter and Patrick Bateman. While Bateman took the verdict and had some supporters, the cannibal took the cake via our readers thus maintaining his status as the psycho of all psychos. A true testament to what Hopkins brought to the character.

For this week, the news that Sir's Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen have signed on to reprise their roles as Professor X and Magneto in X-Men: Days of Future Past has inspired me. When the original X-Men hit the scene in 2000, it was worthy enough to be among the films that sparked this comic book film craze we've had the past decade. It brought together a great ensemble cast, and said cast brought these characters to life. Fast forward to 2011, after X-Men Last Stand disappointed fans all over, First Class came alone and gave us the resurrection the property needed. It re-invented numerous characters we came to know, and promised us glimpses of new characters. Which are you more fond of? The introduction? Or the re-introduction? Let's discuss.
Story
A young woman with unfortunate mutant powers named Marie comes into contact with someone she can relate to in a hard ass named Logan. After an attempted kidnapping, Logan and Marie are taken to the X-Mansion where they meet a slew of mutants led by Professor Xavier. Soon they find themselves locked in trying to maintain peace between mutants and the rest of humanity, while trying to thwart Professor X's former ally Magneto's desire for war. It was a great introduction to all these characters, and while I wish some would have gotten more love, it did its job.
Years after seeing his mother murdered at the hands of evil scientist Dr. Klaus Schmidt, Erik Lensherr grows up to seek revenge on the bastard, doing away with those who stand in his way. Along the way he meets and befriends a telepath named Charles Xavier, who is fighting a battle of his own. Lensherr and Xavier team with CIA agent Moira McTaggert and a group of fellow mutants to bring down there common enemy. I absolutely loved the historical backdrop this film had in the Cuban Missile Crisis, it also had the the formation of the friendship between Magneto and Professor X and its destined failure. I'm a sucker for those kinds of character dynamics.
Cast
Hugh Jackman. Patrick Stewart. Ian McKellen. Anna Paquin. Halle Berry. Famke Janssen. James Marsden. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos.

If any actor can claim a character their own exclusively, Jackman comes the closest with his portrayal of Wolverine. For obvious reasons. Stewart and McKellen brought their years of experience and owned their iconic roles. The other cast member who really shined was Stamos as Mystique, so sexy and menacing. She owned it. The rest of the cast did wonderfully and seemed close to perfect, but I wish a few of them would have more meat to their roles. James Marsden in particular as Cyclops. But overall this ensemble pulled it off and entertained me throughout.
James McAvoy. Michael Fassbender. Kevin Bacon. Jennifer Lawrence. Rose Byrne. Nicholas Hoult. January Jones. Oliver Platt.

I loved seeing a new dimension to Professor X and Magneto via the early lives and adventures of those characters. McAvoy and Fassbender really brought their A game, I was introduced to Fassbender by this film and he is now one of my favorite actors. Bacon portrayed a wonderful villain and improves any film just by being there, Lawrence was seductive and held her own against the more seasons actors. Hoult brought a lot of depth to Beast, and Oliver Platt was Oliver Platt. The famous cameo needs to be mentioned, whose five second appearance alone made up for the atrocity said character had recently been put through.
Design/Effects
Here we got our first glimpse of Mystique's breathtaking and drool inducing prosthetic makeup. I wasn't really present in 2000 to be aware of what fans thought of the costume design for this film, but from what I understand many were upset about the absence of the blue and yellow color scheme. What we got worked in my opinion, it translated well to screen. Loved the design of Sabretooth, and a sequence that stuck out in my mind is the effects that forced mutation had on Senator Kelly (poor schmuck)! Of course they did a wonderful job in bringing Wolverine's claws to life, to do so the team constructed a full silicone replica of Jackman's arm. Good stuff. Also, who could forgot the wonderfully envisioned and executed Cerebro?
Special effects teams have a lot more to play with in the year 2011. The amount of care they put into everything, like getting Emma Frost's transition into what she is perfectly, to studying the movement of of dragonfly wings to make Angel look as realistic as possible, this has always been real admirable to me. Jennifer Lawrence donned Mystique's pain in the ass makeup, Beast was beautifully designed, and we did not shy away from the costumes that the original 2000 film thought wouldn't translate well to screen. In 2011, the sky is the limit in portraying any and every mutant power someone can possess. First Class takes advantage of this fact.
Overall
Bryan Singer hit the film that introduced the world to the X-Men out of the park. He pulled together a brilliant cast who worked well together. Seeing the way Wolverine interacted with every character around him was a real treat, to his fatherly treatment of rogue, to his tension with Cyclops, to his almost grudging respect for Professor X. The theme of intolerance that X-Men carries was more present here than in First Class, and I dug the fight to be accepted by society. This first film will always be known as being partly responsible for bringing comic book heroes to the forefront of the movie going public's interest. An honor it earned thanks to everyone involved.
Matthew Vaughn used the time period First Class was set in to blend a comic book film with a type of style that echoed a James Bond film. This could be seen in so many areas of the film to the costumes, to the musical score, to the way the film was shot, to the characterization (Magneto in particular I read). After Last Stand and Wolverine: Origins, fans needed First Class. McAvoy and Fassbender put their own spin on characters brought to life by Stewart and McKellen, and the film pulled off the tragic story of their former friendship. As previously stated, I love how the film built a compelling story around a real life world event from history that shook the world at the time. If the 2000 film built the faith in the X-Men, after a few disappointments, First Class reinvigorated faith in the X-Men.
X-Men
I had a hard time picking a verdict for this Face Off. I had to go with the original X-Men for a couple of reasons, Hugh Jackman being the perfect choice and stealing the show as Wolverine, Ian McKellen doing justice to the formidable yet third dimensional villain in Magneto, and the overall wonderful job the film did in introducing to the characters we are most familiar with. That's not to say I didn't love First Class and the breath of life the film gave to the franchise. So what about you lot? Did First Class surpass what the original film gave us? If you have an idea that you'd like to see in a future FACE OFF column, feel free to shoot an email to me at paulhuffman@joblo.com with your ideas and some ideas for the critique to base your ideas off. Thank you and in the meantime...

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