Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Video review: "X-Men: First Class"

"X-Men: First Class" was a totally unnecessary but thoroughly engaging reboot of the super-hero franchise that kicked off the current cinematic craze for costumed do-gooders. It takes the story back in time 40 years earlier than the original film, and focuses on the relationship between Charles Xavier, aka Professor X (James McAvoy), and Erik Lehnsherr, otherwise known as Magneto (Michael Fassbender).

The motivations for the time shift are suspect. The first set of films fixed very specific timelines for Magneto and Dr. X, which would put them now in their early 80s. Fanboys tend to like their mutants young and attractive, so going back four decades accomplishes that. Even though it requires characters previously seen in the other films, like Logan and Mystique, to play the old "they're-mutants-so-they-age-slowly" card to explain their lack of aging. Convenient.

The central conflict is how mutants should view their relationship with regular humans. Magneto, a victim of Holocaust camps and Nazi torture chambers, prefers to strike the first blow in what he sees as an inevitable war. But Professor X seeks integration and acceptance. It's not unlike the divergence between the approaches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X: Both shared noble goals, with radically different methods for achieving them.

I don't think the cinematic world really needed a new go-round of "X-Men" movies, but I liked this one enough that I can actually say I'm looking forward to another. And maybe another.

Please note, "X-Men: First Class" hits video stores Friday, Sept. 9.

Video extras are somewhat sparse in the DVD edition, but grow in power upon upgrading to Blu-ray.

Both versions contain "Children of the Atom," a making-of documentary split into eight featurettes touching on various aspects of production, from pre-production to special effects.

The Blu-ray version adds deleted/extended scenes and a number of goodies. There's Cerebro Mutant Tracker, with a database of mutant heroes and villains; behind-the-scenes footage and interviews about specific scenes; 10 digital X-Men comics; and a digital copy of the film.

Movie: 3 stars out of four
Extras: 3 stars

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