The latest in the X-Men movie franchise, X-Men: First Class comes out on Blu-ray, DVD and Amazon Instant Video this Friday, September 9th. I’ve had an early look at the DVD, and here are my impressions.
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), Zoë Kravitz (“Californication”), Nicholas Hoult (A Single Man), Lucas Till (Walk the Line), and Emmy Award®-nominee Oliver Platt (“The West Wing”).
X-Men: First Class presents an origin story for the X-Men, with how they all met. The movie starts in 1944, with a young Erik Lehnsherr (who would later become Magneto) in a Nazi concentration camp, when his gift is recognized by a brutal scientist by the name of Dr. Schmidt who gets Erik to unleash his powers. In the meantime, a young Charles Xavier encounters a young Raven/Mystique disguised as his mother stealing food, and befriends her.
The movie then shifts to the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, where Xavier begins to search out and organize other mutants with the help of a couple of CIA agents (Platt and Byrne), finding Lehnsherr during an incident with a submarine. Lehnsherr is still pursuing Schmidt, who now is a wealthy businessman named Sebastian Shaw and hasn’t aged – and is organizing his own group of mutants, The Children of the Atom, and is manipulating the events of the crisis.
For those interested in which mutant characters appear, aside from those mentioned, you also get to see Angel, Azazel, Banshee, Beast, Darwin, Emma Frost, Havok, and Riptide. Hugh Jackman does make a cameo appearance as Wolverine, looking just as old as he does in the later movies (Wolverine does have a slowed aging process). Note that this is the one scene that I noticed with very strong language – the rest of the movie seemed relatively clean.
The acting was generally well done. However, with so many characters, each of whom have their own motivations, some of the motivations seems less than authentic. It is difficult for me to quantify, but for example the interactions between Magneto and Mystique about who she really is and her struggles with it seemed to lack a bit.
The video quality was good, but I noticed a couple issues – however, they are likely due to the screener copy I had and probably not on either version of the actual release. There were several times where the video noticeably stretched horizontally during a scene.
For audio, the DVD offers up both an English DD 5.1 track as well as an English DD 5.1 Descriptive audio, plus Spanish and French Dolby Surround. Subtitles are available in English and Spanish.
There were two extras included:
“Children of the Atom: Filming X-Men: First Class”, which actually is two featurettes: “Second Genesis” (10:13), about dreaming up the origins of the characters, and “Band of Brothers” (12:06), about assembling the cast and working together.
Also included as an anti-smoking PSA (which had nothing to do with the X-Men) and a how-to on utilizing the digital copy (included in the Blu-ray release, not sure of the DVD release). The Blu-ray release will also include several other features:
- 10 Marvel “X-Men” Digital Comics with exclusive “X-Men: First Class” Backstory Comic
- More than two hours of never-before-seen extras, including:
- Cerebro Mutant Tracker: The complete interactive Mutant Database with interactive videos giving fans the ability to learn about their favorite mutants in the X-Men film franchise
- Children of the Atom: An eight-part behind-the-scenes featurette, charting the film from pre-production through post-production, including visual effects techniques and cataloguing “X-Men” transformations through prosthetic make up and costume design
- “X” Marks the Spot: An interactive feature allowing viewers the opportunity to learn more about specific scenes with talent interviews and behind-the-scenes footage
- Extended and Deleted Scenes
- BD-Live Portal with additional Cerebro Mutant Tracker profiles
- Composer’s Isolated Score
- Theatrical Trailer
Overall, I like this as a starting point for a potential reboot of the franchise, although the age of the actors/characters could be an issue if they want to bring it up to the modern day. I disliked the finality of X-Men: The Last Stand, and this gives hope that we may continue to see X-Men stories, and draw in from the vast library of characters.