STUDIO: 20th Century Fox | DIRECTOR: Matthew Vaughn | CAST: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, January Jones, Kevin Bacon, Rose Byrne
RELEASE DATE: 9/9/2011 | PRICE: Blu-ray $39.99, DVD $29.98
BONUSES: interactive Mutant Database, multi-part featurette, extended and deleted scenes, score, 10 X-Men Marvel digital comics, more
SPECS: PG-13 | 132 min. | Action adventure science fiction | 2.35:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | English and Spanish subtitles
X-Men: First Class is the latest film in the ever-growing X-Men series inspired by the venerable Marvel comic book line, and it’s the most entertaining and ambitious entry of the lot since the franchise’s kick-off, 2000’s X-Men.
A prequel to the earlier X-Men movies, First Class moves the series forward by taking a step back — way back to the late 1940s up through the early 1960s, focusing on the young, optimistic Charles Xavier (James McAvoy, The Last Station) and the troubled, hard-edged Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender, Centurion). Yes, it’s a foregone conclusion that by the end of the film, the two will come of age as, respectively, the good mutant godfather Professor X and the evil mutant overlord Magneto. But getting to that point is a lot of fun.
Along the way, we are introduced to a host of other mutants, many of them young and eager and unsure of the direction their extra-normal powers and outsider status will take them. The older mutants, namely the energy-harnessing Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon, Sleepers) and the diamond-bodied telepath Emma Frost (January Jones, Unknown), are already heading down a dark path, and they do their damndest to bring the younger ones with them.
Set against a stylized late 1950s/early 1960s backdrop that climaxes with the mutants’ involvement with the 1962 Cuban Missile crisis, the story is engaging and strong. It moves with surprising speed and clarity, which is quite a feat considering the film’s numerous characters and subplots. And the filmmakers seem to be dedicated to generally keep within the boundaries of the X-Men’s hallowed comic book “history.”
The Blu-ray presentation is simply outstanding — the sound and vision on First Class is up there with the best I’ve ever seen. All the excellent CGI and visual wizardry used to create the various powers of the mutants is rendered here with superior detail and, in particular, color. The blues of Mystique’s (Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone) body and Beast’s (Nicholas Hoult, A Single Man) hair, the amber glow of Havok’s (Lucas Till, Battle Los Angeles) energy circles, the reds/oranges/yellows of countless explosions and fires — it all looks simply ravishing.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track hits a second bulls-eye, with the various mutant sounds, lasers, ships, planes, gunshots and explosions landing with a crackling richness. And it doesn’t impede on any of the dialog. Turn up the volume and drive your neighbors crazy at your own risk.
The centerpiece of the supplemental package is the 70-minute “Children of the Atom,” an eight-part documentary that chronicles the making of First Class from pre-production up through its final edit. Featuring extensive behind-the-scenes footage and interview snippets with the cast, crew and producers, it covers virtually everything — scripting, casting, visual effects, makeup, costumes, production design, music score — one would want to know about the film’s development and creation. The X-Men franchise’s dedicated fans are a demanding lot and with “Children of the Atom,” they’re getting the kind of hard information and insight they clamor for.
Another excellent bonus feature is the “Cerebro Mutant Tracker,” an interactive database where viewers begin their experience by clicking on an image of one of some three dozen mutants who have appeared in the X-Men films. Each selection yields a well-edited clip montage of his/her appearances in the X-Men movies (all of the films are represented), followed by a dossier that includes the mutant’s bio, powers, affiliations and history in the franchise’s continuing story. Like “Children of the Atom,” “Tracker” is a well-produced piece and one that will expand via BD-Live as more X-Men films are produced and additional mutants enter the fray.
The disc also has 13 extended and deleted scenes clocking in at 14 minutes, the most notable of which is a longer version of a sequence where young Charles and Erik set out to recruit the shapely mutant Angel (Zoë Kravitz, Twelve), who’s dancing at a strip club. The two men get the job done — but not before Xavier telepathically conjures up an image of Erik in full drag, fishnet stockings included.
Buy or Rent X-Men: First Class
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