McAvoy, Michael Fassbender
Directors: Matthew Vaughn
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, Subtitled,
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Number of discs: 1
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: 20th Century Fox
DVD Release Date: September 9, 2011
Run Time: 132 minutes
Century Fox has engaged in a curious bit of hype for the
X-Men: First Class Blu-Ray release.
Complete with a huge party in Hollywood featuring models dressed as Emma
Frost and DJ Paul Oakenfold spinning tunes, they touted it as the “biggest
Fox Blu-ray of the year,” a strange claim considering the release of a
certain epic space saga on Blu-ray next week. Then again, X-Men: First
Class remains one of the best-reviewed mainstream movies of the year…
and no one’s inserting any awkward “NOOOOO’s” into the dialogue.
Unnecessary hyperbole aside, the new Blu-ray presents a very appealing
package, starting with the movie itself. At first glance, it looks like a
desperate attempt to keep the X-Men franchise
alive by changing the timeline. But Kick-Ass
director Matthew Vaughn – originally slated to do
X-Men: The Last Stand before dropping out over scheduling concerns –
viewed the project as more than an also-ran. In the process, he readily
delivered the best X-Men film to date.
His secret lies in focusing on the saga’s central dynamic: the opposing
philosophical views of Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik “Magneto”
Lensherr (Michael Fassbender). The former believes that humans and mutants
(those born with extraordinary powers) can live together in peace, while the
latter thinks that mutants are destined to replace humans . . . and that
humans will not go quietly into the night. We see how their convictions
began, with Charles a bon vivant graduate student surrounded by wealth and
privilege, and Magneto a Holocaust survivor dedicated to destroying those
Nazis who escaped the noose.
The pair come together as friends and then sees that friendship tested
beneath the crucible of the Cuban Missile Crisis . . . actually an effort on
the part of the sinister mutant Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) to start a
nuclear war. With humanity wiped out, Shaw can then seize control of the
planet, something both Charles and Erik want to stop for very different
reasons. To do so, they need an army of their own, pulled from the ranks of
young mutants just beginning to learn how special they are.
Vaughn ties an incredible amount of plot into a comparatively brief
130-minute running time. The story embraces multiple characters and
significant story arcs without wasting a single instant. Stellar
performances from McAvoy, Fassbender and Bacon anchor the proceedings, but
we also spend considerable amounts of time with the likes of The Beast
(Nicholas Hoult), Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and Havok (Lucas Till). All
the characters get plenty of time to stretch their muscles, and yet the film
never feels crowded or rushed, even with the copious action pieces that
cover it from beginning to end.
The film’s impressive storytelling prowess gets a considerable boost from
the period touches. Vaughn infuses
First Class with a
healthy dose of James Bond glamour, from the go-go dancers of the Hellfire
Club to the John Barry-style score courtesy of Henry Jackman. More
importantly, the film delves very deeply into real world notions like
prejudice and revenge: whether peaceful solutions can be found or whether
the only recourse of the oppressed is to destroy their oppressors forever.
First Class wraps it all up in a gloriously exciting package that
fulfills its promises on a number of levels. The only downside is that, with
the bar set this high, more problematic efforts such as
X-Men: Last Stand and
Wolverine will no longer suffice. If Fox
wants to continue this franchise – and by all accounts they do – they’re
going to need to bring their A game. First Class did, and the Marvel
movie canon is all the better for it.
THE DISC: The Blu-ray version contains two discs,
one with the movie and most of the extras, the other with a digital copy for
transferring to a portable device. The Blu-Ray visuals are sparkling and the
behind-the-scenes stuff is great. First Class contains a very
illuminating one-hour documentary, complete with interviews from all the
principal creative forces, as well as a fun “Cerebro Mutant Tracker” feature
that delivers cool details on various X-mutants (including those not in
First Class). An “X Marks the Spot” viewing mode provides more
behind-the-scenes tidbits within the film, and an isolated soundtrack lets
you enjoy Jackman’s terrific score without the dialogue or audio effects.
The usual bevy of deleted scenes and trailers round out the set.
WORTH IT? Oh yeah. Not only does it set the
franchise firmly back on track, but it makes a wonderful primer for
newcomers to the X-Men saga. You don’t need to be a comic book fan to
enjoy it: just someone who likes their action movies delivered with
thoughtfulness and skill.
RECOMMENDATION: A first-rate addition to your Blu-ray
collection . . . no “NOOOOO’s” included.
- Rob Vaux