Today! Because peace was never an option –
X-Men: First Class (2011)
Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Bacon (x3), Rose Byrne, Oliver Platt, January Jones (x2), Nicholas Hoult, Zoe Kravitz, Lucas Till, Caleb Landry Jones, James Remar (x2), Don Creech, Ray Wise, Michael Ironside, Jason Beghe, Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Romijn, Rade Serbedzija, Glenn Morshower, Jason Flemyng
There was legitimate concern heading into the late ’00s that the mighty X-Men franchise was as good as dead. The Last Stand was pretty widely reviled among fans, and the Wolverine prequel wasn’t…good, so what sort of hope could there be? Even when this thing was announced, I don’t remember people being overly optimistic. What, no Storm? No Cyclops? Nightcrawler? Wolverine? Toad?! Concerns abounded.
But while none of these later prequel-centric cast X-films have been gigantic box office hits, this was crucial proof that they could work. The X-Men movies, even though they predated the MCU by many years, have never quite gotten their due – always overshadowed by the Raimi Spider-mans, the Nolan Batmans, and ultimately Iron Man and company. But overall this has to be considered the second most consistent comic book franchise ever, right? There have been, what, eleven movies so far, if you count the Deadpools, and eight of them are very good-to-great (depending on your opinion of Apocalypse, I guess) – that’s a pretty strong track record for a long-in-the-sabretooth series.
But the only movie with no significant Wolverine is this one (again, minus Deadpools), and it is one of the best. Sure, these films ended up focusing way more time and attention on Mystique than one would’ve hoped, but that’s wholly because they’d locked pending superstar Lawrence into her contract, so might as well use her! The cool ’60s visuals coupled with titanic performances from Fassbender and McAvoy buoy what initially felt like an idea-well-run-dry cash-in to the jumpstart of a reboot that, if nothing else, ultimately wipes the stench of The Last Stand out of continuity. Hurray!
2011 was a pretty great Fassbender year, and so technically he won some critics awards piling up his performance here with Shame, A Dangerous Method and Jane Eyre, but First Class itself won basically nothing from the major outlets. But as solid a wall-to-wall film as this is, the most memorable moment clearly deserves some honor – Best Job Proposition Refusal, from Wolverine.
It should also come as no surprise that the widely accepted center of the film universe, Kevin Bacon, joins the currently exclusive Three-Timers club, following his roles in #373’s Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and #357’s JFK – only the fourth actor so far making the cut. However, the pair of newly minted Two-Timers is a bit unexpected – #368’s Anger Management bit player/future Betty Draper January Jones and omnipresent heavy/#393 The Dream Team tough guy James Remar! That’s the fourth Dream Team Two-Timer as well! Unsung cast in that one!