I am now screwed in my movie-watching for the rest of the year because I'll be so hard-pressed to find something that doesn't make me say, "It was good, but it was no X-Men: First Class." I will go to comedies, but doubt I will erupt into applause again at the perfect execution of a joke so satisfying. I will go to action films, but I doubt they will use their explosions and action so effectively. I can go to horror films, but I doubt I will feel somebody die as much as I did in this movie. I can go to romantic films, but I doubt any will be as heartbreaking as this. I can go to dramas, but I doubt I will care for characters quite like I did with this film.
Point is, X-Men is not only the best superhero film in my opinion, but a fantastic film in its own right, so much so that it has the ability to make other works seem amateurish. The previous X-Men trilogy? I'm currently in the process of erasing it from my memory. I cared more for characters that were on the screen for less than 5 minutes than I did for 95% of the original trilogy's characters. Thinking about characters like Rogue, or the fates of several of the characters in The Last Stand actively make me angry now when I think of them in context of this film.
First off, a lot of credit goes to director Matthew Vaughn, who in my opinion is one of my top 3 directors working today. The guy simply operates at a level above everybody else in this film, and the things that he does with the camera, the way he makes you feel, and the way he does everything is just a wonder. Prequel films and origin stories are typically one of the hardest things to do in film, see X-Men Origins: Wolverine for proof, but Vaughn makes it look easy, possibly earning the distinction of being the best stand-alone prequel film of all time. The things you expect in a superhero origin story are all here: Training sequences, learning to use powers, discovering powers, coming to grips with those powers, and having responsibility of them are all touched upon here, and are all handled exquisitely.
Fassbender: Master At The Fury & The Tears
For the first two films, X-Men was certainly a grand allegory for both racism and homophobia, but here it's just elevated to a whole other level, and is truly relevant to these times. The Professor X/Magneto and MLK/Malcolm X comparisons are more valid than ever here, as both the men's true beliefs are explored to its fullest rather than the more implied 'Oh, well, he was in a concentration camp. That's why he's like this.' Here Vaughn includes the original trilogy scene of Magneto at the camp, but then continues after that and follows Magneto in events after that. The result is you completely understand the reasons of both men for what they do, and when Magneto does what he does as an adult, you feel his pain and the god-like fury raining down from him as he goes about the world bringing about vengeance.
They don't even show Havok doing this, but just by hearing it and seeing its aftermath is incredibly awesome.
Which brings me to the action. The budget here was reportedly $120 million, which is less than most big budget movies nowadays, especially something like Pirates 4 or even Spider-Man 3 whose budgets can almost reach $250 million. Those films have nothing on this one. The acts of action are simple. The uses of the powers are usually simple. But you feel them all, and are usually stunned by them. You might have seen some amazing things in the trailer, but until you've seen them in the movie, and the context for them, you haven't really seen them. The lifting of a submarine for instance is a triumphant occasion, an amazing feat, and something that you're rooting for, even though it's performed by Magneto, who you know is not a nice guy in later films. It's not exactly a type of action I would describe as "fun," but rather immensely satisfying.
I should also say that even though it's PG-13, you should consider this to be something on the level of The Dark Knight in terms of maturity. There's no character quite like the Joker of course, but what the film does with a simple coin is one of the most dark, violent, stunning and frankly, emotionally powerful I've seen in a while. That scene is also a testament to Vaughn's work, who takes something that probably seemed rather simple in the script, but with the use of camera angle, cuts, and the pace of it, you feel every moment of it, and it's disturbing. Then there's the whole Mystique kind of being naked, but not really since she's scaly and blue, and it's never been creepier to me than here when they show the Mystique form in her as a child. Then there's also it's clear use of the F-Word, which is, like the rest of the movie, effective.
The Weight Of The World Now Rests On Their Shoulders
The acting is of course wonderful, as everybody hits all the right beats they need to with their characters. Frankly, they're so good that they make it look easy, which means you probably won't realize how good they actually are. A lot of people have cited how bad January Jones is in the movie, but I simply didn't see it. She is what she needs to be, and that's fine with me. McAvoy has never been better, the young talents are a revelation, Bacon is sinister as heck, and Fassbender is just something else. Then there's the gaggle of character actors, all of whom have played main villains in their own movies and shows at some point, simply populating the movie and adding more class to it. Seriously, this is a classy film. Also, "M. Ironside."
Overall, I loved this fiilm. It left me and my mind in a constant state of being blown away, and it consistently gets better as it goes along until the tour de force finale. Its themes are heavy, its acting is fantastic, its characters are wonderful, its action is stunning, and its emotion is palpable. I cannot recommend this film highly enough, and if they do make a sequal to this, it kind of has to have Vaughn at the helm again simply for the fact that I don't know if topping this film is possible. Also, go to Rotten Tomatoes and take note of every critic who gave this a negative review, and give them a grain of salt for the rest of their careers. As it stands now, I am convinced that everybody who is giving this a negative review either came in not wanting to like it, didn't pay attention to it, understand it, or even seen it. Don't you make their same mistakes. I am pretty sure you'll come out of the movie liking it if you give it the slightest chance.
Note: There is no scene after the credits. Once the credits start rolling, the movie is over. If you simply sit in the theater assuming that there will be a scene after the credits, you will be sorely dissapointed, you might curse at the movie, and I will laugh hysterically at you.