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X-Men: First Class – 2-Disc Set (A J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 4, 2011 by  



“X-Men: First Class” is the best X-Men film to date!  Featuring wonderful direction and an awesome screenplay by Michael Vaughn and his team!  And the Blu-ray release, awesome PQ and audiophiles will love the lossless audio for the film.  Packed with special features, a digital copy version of the film and also access to 10 free X-Men digital comics, it’s a solid release that will no doubt be a must-buy for X-Men fans!  Highly recommended!

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Images courtesy of © 2011 Twentieth Century Fox Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: X-Men: First Class

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2011

DURATION: 132 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 2:35:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 5.1 Dolby Digital Descriptive Audio, French 5.1  Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

RATED: PG-13 (Intense Sequences of Action and Violence, Some Sexual Content including Brief Partial Nudity and Language)

COMPANY: Twentieth Century Fox

RELEASE DATE: August 30, 2011

Directed by Matthew Vaughn

Screenplay by Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn

Story by Sheldon Turner, Bryan Singer

Produced by Gregory Goodman, Simon Kinberg, Lauren Shuler Donner, Bryan Singer

Executive Producer: Stan Lee, Josh McLaglen, Tarquin Pack

Music by Henry Jackman

Cinematography by John Mathieson

Edited by Eddie Hamilton, Lee Smith

Casting by Roger Mussenden, Jeremy Rich, Lucinda Syson

Production Design by Chris Seagers

Starring:

James McAvoy as Charles Xavier

Laurence Belcher as Charles Xavier (12 Years)

Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto

Bill Milner as Young Erik

Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw

Rose Byrne as Moira MacTaggert

Jennifer Lawrence as Raven/Mystique

Beth Goddard as Mrs. Xavier/Mystique

Morgan Lily as Young Raven (10-Years-Old)

Oliver Platt – The Man in Black

Alex Gonzales as Jaons Quested/Riptide

Jason Flemyng as Azazel

Zoe Kravitz as Angel Salvadore

January Jones as Emma Frost

Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy/Beast

Caleb Landry Jones as Sean Cassidy/Banshee

Edi Gathegi as Armando Munoz/Darwin

Corey Johnson as Chief Warden

Lucas Till as Alex Summers/Havok

Demetri Goritsas as Levene

Glenn Morshower as Colonel Hendry

Matt Craven as CIA Director McCone

Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine

Rebecca Romjin as Mystique – Older

Don Creech as William Stryker Sr.

Before they were superheroes, the fate of humanity depended on an extraordinary group of youngsters who went on to become X-MEN: FIRST CLASS. Based on the international bestselling Marvel Comics franchise, this box office hit bursts onto Blu-ray and DVD Friday, September 9 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. For the first time ever, “X-Men” fans will have the power to choose a side between Professor X and Magneto with two versions of premium collectible Blu-ray packaging. Also exclusively on Blu-ray, fans receive access to over two hours of special interactive features PLUS ten Marvel “X-Men” Digital Comics including a never-before-seen “X-Men: First Class” backstory— redeemable through each Blu-ray’s unique packaging code.

Director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Kick Ass) tells the true origins of the multi-billion dollar film franchise, guiding exceptional performances by Golden Globe-nominee James McAvoy (Atonement), Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds), and Golden Globe-winner Kevin Bacon (“Taking Chance,” Mystic River). A “rare movie event that balances an intelligent story with solid performances, first-rate action and top-of-the-line special effects” (Ben Lyons, E!), X-MEN: FIRST CLASS has drawn an impressive $150 million at the domestic box office and nearly $350 million worldwide.

Before Charles Xavier (McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Fassbender) took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time, working together to stop the greatest threat the world has ever known. The film features a star-studded supporting cast, including Academy Award-nominee Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone), January Jones (“Mad Men”), Rose Byrne (28 Weeks Later), Zoe Kravitz (“Californication”), Nicholas Hoult (A Single Man), Lucas Till (Walk the Line), and Emmy Award-nominee Oliver Platt (“The West Wing”).

The X-Men is the most popular and successful superhero team to come from Marvel comics and with the loose adaptation of the films, there has been discussion of taking the story of the history and beginning of the X-Men from the early beginning.

But one of the problems is that the original team was founded in 1963 and while comic books do a great job of elongating the superheroes life throughout the comic book series with no signs of real-time aging, the movies can not.  Therefore, part of the task of producer Lauren Shuler Donner and Bryan Singer was to create a new beginning for the film version, incorporate characters that were not introduced in the film trilogy but to make sure the storyline focuses on the relationship of Professor Charles Xavier (Professor X) and Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto).

Bryan Singer who was responsible for the first two X-Men films worked on the storyline for “X-Men: First Class” but to hone the story and make it his own was director Matthew Vaughn (“Kick-Ass”, “Stardust”, “Snatch”) who was given a second chance to work on an X-Men film after departing “X-Men: The Last Stand” (due to family obligations and also a perfectionist who does not like to be rushed, in which “X-Men: The Last Stand” had a rushed schedule).

So, Matthew Vaughn and his team began crafting “X-Men: First Class” and despite the differences from the comic book series, fans enjoyed the more violent and action-driven tone of the film with a strong script, focused direction and wonderful performances from its cast.  And the film was successful in the box office making over $350 million dollars and has received positive reviews from film critics worldwide.

“X-Men: First Class” begins with the story of young Erik Lensherr, a young boy separated from his parents in 1944 at a German concentration camp in Poland.  As his parents are taken to the concentration camp, a young Erik Lensherr fights to stay with his family but is held down by the Nazi’s.  Full of rage, Erik was able to bend a metal gate which was observed by a scientist named Dr. Schmidt (played by Kevin Bacon).

Dr. Schmidt tries to get young Erik to utilize his power but when he is unable to do it, Dr. Schmidt kills his mother in cold blood and sees how anger and rage is what makes Erik’s ability come alive and now, Erik Lensherr is to be used as Dr. Schmidt’s lab rat.

Meanwhile, the opposite is happening to the gifted and young Charles Xavier.  A telepath living in a mansion in Westchester, New York, where he encounters a shape-shifter named Raven.  Thrilled to meet a person with special abilities like him, instead of turning Raven away, Charles welcomes her to his home to live with him.

Eventually, as the two grow older, fast forward to 1962 and the two are like brother and sister and adult Charles Xavier (played by James McAvoy, “Wanted”, “Atonement”, “The Last King of Scotland”) is publishing his thesis on mutation, while Raven (played by Jennifer Lawrence, “The Beaver”, “Winter’s Bone”, “The Hunger Games”) gets easily jealous when he sees Charles interested in other women but only sees her like a sister.

Meanwhile, Erik Lensherr (played by Michael Fassbender, “Inglorious Basterds”, “300”, “Centurion”) is an adult and is bent on getting revenge on the surviving Nazi by killing them, but his primary goal, to kill the man…Dr. Schmidt.

While these two men with special abilities are doing two different things, a CIA agent named Moira McTaggert (played by Rose Byrne, “Insidious”, “28 Weeks Later”, “Damages”) is doing an investigation as she sees Army Colonel Hendry walking into the Hellfire Club where he is meeting with Sebastian Shaw (played by Kevin Bacon, “Footloose”, “Apollo 13”, “Mystic River”), who was known in the past as Dr. Schmidt.

While Moira is spying on their meeting, she suddenly sees humans showcasing their power.  From Emma Frost, the White Queen (played by January Jones, “Mad Men”) who has the ability to turn hard as a diamond and is also a telepath, Azazel (played by Jason Flemyng, “Clash of the Titans”, “Snatch.”, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) as the teleporting killer and Riptide (played by Alex Gonzalez), who has the ability to create and send out twisters.

Moira is shocked to know about mutation, she also is shocked to learn that Sebastian Shaw is up to no good and trying to start World War III between the U.S. and Russia.

Needing help, Moira McTaggert needs a person who is educated about mutation and what better person than to meet with Professor Charles Xavier.  When Charles learns that other people with special talent exist, Moira introduces him to the U.S. military and sure enough, Charles, Raven and Moira work with the Man in Black (played by Oliver Pratt, “The West Wing”, “2012”, “Doctor Doolittle”) who works in a specialized unit of the CIA.  And together, they go to investigate Sebastian Shaw who is with his team in the ocean.

But as they are about to confront them by ship, Charles learns that Shaw has another telepath on his side and discovers another mutant with magnetic powers trying to destroy Sebastian Shaw’s ship. Fearing that the mutant might kill himself, Charles Xavier saves Erik Lehnsherr.

Charles knows that Erik has a lot of anger but he hopes that Erik can use his anger towards a more positive goal and that is capturing Sebastian Shaw, so both men work together with the Man in Black with the aid of a mutant named Hank McCoy (played by Nicholas Hoult, “A Single Man”, “About a Boy”, “The Weather Man”), a brilliant scientist who also has the athletic abilities due in part because of his very large feet.

Hank creates Cerebro, an amplifier for Charles Xavier and together, they hope they can find more mutants to recruit and prepare them to fight against evil.

The duo manage to recruit the redhead Sean Cassidy (played by Caleb Landry Jones), a mutant with sonar ability; a stripper named Angel (played by Zoe Kravitz, “The Brave One”, “It’s Kind of a Funny Story”) who has fairy-like wings and can shoot fireballs from her mouth; Darwin (played by Edi Gathegi, “Twilight”, “Crank”, “Gone Baby Gone”), a mutant who can adapt his skin to a subject he touches; and Alex Summers “Havok” (played by Lucas Till, “Battle Los Angeles”, “Hannah Montana: The Movie”), who has the ability to shoot out a wave of plasma blasts.

But because The White Queen, has detected that Charles Xavier is recruiting mutants, one day while Charles, Erik and Moira go on a mission to find Sebastian Shaw in Russia, they do not know that Sebastian and his team are going after Xavier’s young mutants.

The stage has been drawn as a group of mutants led by Sebastian Shaw are to ensure global domination by mutant-kind, while Charles and Erik train the mutants they have recruited for battle against Sebastian Shaw’s group of mutants.

Who will come out victorious?

 

VIDEO:

“X-Men: First Class” is presented in 1080p High Definition (widescreen 2:35:1) and the picture quality of this film is fantastic.  There is a good balance of warm and cool colors but the amount of detail for the characters was fantastic.  Good balance between vibrant colors, ambers, blues and black levels were nice and deep. I detected no crush, no artifacts, no banding.  The film looks great on Blu-ray!

Especially the various color combinations used in the film from the blues on Mystique and Beast (and I just have to add that Matthew Vaughn’s input on the Beast was right on the money!), the look of Azazel was fantastic, the detail on the wings of Angel was quite impressive and the scenes with the White Queen especially the wide-angle shot of her walking to the Russians is a pretty cool shot!

Jon Mathieson (“Gladiator”, “Kingdom of Heaven”, “Hannibal”) is an awesome cinematographer and when it comes to bringing in breathtaking shots to an action film, from his work on “Gladiator” and “Kingdom of Heaven”, he definitely brought memorable scenes to “X-Men: First Class”.  The whole look and feel of the film was stylish and cool, editing was well-done and the overall direction of the characters was quite smooth and fluid. The action sequences and the use of CG for the film was wisely done and if anything, it was a great balance of a great script and action sequences that looked great for the film.

It’s one thing to have the details of Mystique, Beast, Angel, Azazel looking very good but there was good choice of colors and just overall well-planned scenes that made the film look fantastic, stylish and very cool!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“X-Men: First Class” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, 5.1 Dolby Digital Descriptive Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.

I can easily say that if you are an audiophile, you are going to love this film!  Center and front channels are crystal clear but the amount of LFE and the immersive lossless soundtrack is just fantastic.  There are three major scenes where the lossless audio is quite stellar.  From the first encounter of Charles Xavier and Erik in the ocean, as you can hear metal being squeezed and Riptide unleashing his twisters towards the US military, another scene features Sebastian Shaw and his team attacking the area where the mutants are being kept and hearing Azazel going dropping bodies from the air and the bodies hitting the pavement to the attacks.  This action sequence lasts a long while and is pretty intense with a lot of gun shots, windows shattering, explosions galore.  And of course, the final battle sequence which takes up the final half hour is fantastic.

The music composed by Henry Jackman (“The Dark Knight”, “Pirates of the Carribean” films) was also awesome and I’m glad that FOX included the isolated score as a feature on the Blu-ray release!

I was very pleased by this soundtrack and there was one point which my wife was walking into the living room and there was one startling scene that freaked her out as she was near the right surround speaker.  Needless to say, I was enjoying the lossless soundtrack and yes, part of me was hoping it would be in 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio but for the most part, it was a pretty awesome soundtrack that I am confident will win over the audiophiles!

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“X-Men: First Class” comes with the following special features:

  • X-Marks the Spot -( 19:55) You can watch the following featurettes while watching the film or individually.  The featurettes are behind-the-scenes of the following scenes from the film: Erik in Auschwitz (young Erik scene), Charles Meets Raven (young Raven and Xavier’s mother scene), Mr. Howlett Declines (Hugh Grant’s scene), Mindscape (Cerebro scene), Emulsional Journey (Havok scene), Rebecca’s Return (Rebecca Romijn scene), Cuban Beach Pre-Viz Sequence (the non-rendered 3D sequence of the Cuban Missile sequence), Retro Cool (the style and look of the film).
  • Composer’s Isolated Score in 5.1 Dolby Digital – Watch the film with only the isolated score.
  • Cerebro Mutant Tracker – The following is an interactive game where you can spot mutants such as the one’s featured in the film or X-Men films and watched related video footage taken from those films and info. on the characters).
  • Children of the Atom – (1:09:48) Featuring seven featurettes which include: Second Genesis (director Matthew Vaughn’s second chance to work on a “X-Men” film), Band of Brothers (the producers talk about focusing on Xavier and Erik), Transformation (how filmmaker Matt Vaughn wanted the Beast to have a certain look and the challenge to achieve the look), Suiting Up (creating the look and feel for costume design for “X-Men: First Class”), New Frontier: A Dose of Style (how the early Sean Connery James Bond films were an influence to the look of Erik and also what influences there were for costume design for the other characters), Pulling Off the Impossible (the animatics used on “X-Men: First Class”), Sound and Fury (the music for “X-Men: First Class”).
  • Deleted Scenes – (14:07) A total of 13 deleted scenes.
  • LIVE – At this point of time for the review, only the imDB cast info. was available as well as live features for other Twentieth Century Fox films.

EXTRAS:

“X-Men: First Class” comes with a slip over cover case, a digital copy version of the film (with activation code) and access to 10 free X-Men Marvel Digital Comics (via provided activation code) from marvel.com.

I am a big X-Man fan.   I’m a critical X-Man fan.

I have had issues of “The Uncanny X-Men” from the ’60s to the present, I have purchased nearly every X-Men related title and mini-series since the ’80s, the Toy Biz toys from the ’90s, the Marvel Legends action figures from the early 2000’s and even the movie figures from the first two “X-Men” films.

With that being said, I also know that film adaptations from the comics are not going to be 100% but I know when a film seemed rushed and when the characters don’t seem right.  With that being said, I will say that I enjoyed the second “X-Men” film and understood the introductions to the characters of the first film.   But since then, the third film and the Wolverine film were popcorn action films that didn’t have the best screenplay.  Yes, it delivered in action but since the release of “The Dark Knight”, the rules of comic book-inspired films have changed my attitude towards these films.  I would rather have a well-written screenplay, a film done right versus a film that features action, explosions and are literally films that make me want to watch only because the characters are X-Men but not for the overall story.

I felt the second X-Men film (The Last Stand) was the best in making a serious X-Men film which included a darker story and violence but since then, the X-related films have backed away from a strong script.

So, I give Twentieth Century Fox and producer Lauren Shuler Donner in giving Matthew Vaughn a second chance.  The fact is that the third film was rushed, he knew it was rushed and he backed away from it.  But this time around, although production schedule was still tight, he brought his creative team aboard and made sure that he had control over the film and the producers gave him that control, including producer/writer Bryan Singer when it came to make those changes with the story.  It was a collaborative effort but when done right by a person who was intent of making and creating a more serious, more violent type of film, he was able to accomplish it with great efficacy.

After the film was released in theaters, my friends and associates were calling me up and raving about the film.  How it was the best “X-Men” film to date and after watching “X-Men: First Class”, I agree.

Granted, the X-Men fan in me still has a hard time of seeing Havok and the White Queen in the beginning storyline but how these characters were incorporated to the film, it made sense.  Having Mystique and Azazel in the film definitely scores brownie points for X-Men fans as the storyline of Nightcrawler (featured in second X-Men film), going with a somewhat unknown group was wise but to have a balance of talent by bringing in accomplished actors such as James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Kevin Bacon was a fantastic choice by casting and Michael Vaughn.

Many of these talents are known for their serious acting work on non-action films and by bringing McAvoy and Fassbender, I was a bit skeptical at first on the chemistry of the two characters but after watching the film, I was quite pleased.  I also have to give Michael Vaughn a thumbs up by using the 1960’s Jamese Bond (Sean Connery) films as a source of inspiration for the look of the film, especially for Erik’s costume design and of course, the look and feel of everyone else, especially January Jones ala Emma Frost.  She looked fantastic!

The Blu-ray release of “X-Men: First Class” is wonderful when it comes to picture and lossless audio quality and the disc is packed with special features and extras.  Granted, if going by the Twentieth Century Fox X-Men releases, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a 1.5 release when the next film is released.

Granted, the next film coming out will be another Wolverine film but if only Matthew Vaughn and his team can work on every X-Men related film, if he was able to bring this much quality to the screenplay and overall direction, he does a fantastic job.  The only thing I can think of, that would make things much worthwhile is possibly giving filmmaker Joss Whedon a chance one of these days as he had done a pretty solid job on the comic book series and knows the fine balance between movies and the comic series.

But overall, I was quite pleased with “X-Men: First Class” and I share the same sentiment as others that this is the best X-men film to date.  Put the film in capable hands, especially to a perfectionist and sure enough, Matthew Vaughn and his team did a wonderful job in putting synergy to the X-Men films and I can’t wait for more (especially if Vaughn and team returns).

“X-Men: First Class – 2-Disc Set” is a wonderful release and is highly recommended!

 

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