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X-Men: First Class Blu-ray Review

X-Men: First Class (2011) movie poster X-Men: First Class

Theatrical Release: June 3, 2011 / Running Time: 132 Minutes / Rating: PG-13 / Music List

Director: Matthew Vaughn / Writers: Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn (screenplay); Sheldon Turner, Bryan Singer (story)

Cast: James McAvoy (Charles Xavier - 24 Years), Michael Fassbender (Erik Lensherr/Magneto), Rose Byrne (Moira MacTaggert), Jennifer Lawrence (Raven Darkholme/Mystique), January Jones (Emma Frost), Nicholas Hoult (Dr. Hank McCoy/Beast), Oliver Platt (Man in Black Suit), Jason Flemyng (Azazel), Lucas Till (Alex Summers/Havok), Edi Gathegi (Armando Mu๑oz/Darwin), Kevin Bacon (Sebastian Shaw), Caleb Landry Jones (Sean Cassidy/Banshee), Zo๋ Kravitz (Angel Salvadore), Matt Craven (CIA Director McCone), Alex Gonzแlez (Janos Quested/Riptide), Rade Sherbedgia (Russian General), Glenn Morshower(Colonel Hendry), Bill Milner (Young Erik Lensherr), Laurence Belcher (Charles Xavier - 12 Years), Morgan Lily (Young Raven - 10 Years), Ray Wise (Secretary of State), Don Creech (William Stryker), James Remar (US General), Michael Ironside (Captain), Annabelle Wallis (Co-ed), Beth Goddard (Mrs. Xavier), Hugh Jackman (Logan/Wolverine - uncredited), Rebecca Romijn (Older Mystique - uncredited)
X-Men: First Class is one of DVDizzy.com's Top 100  Movies of the Half-Decade (2010-2014).X-Men: First Class ranks 34th in our list of the Top 100 Movies of the Half-Decade (2010-2014).

Buy X-Men: First Class from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital Copy • DVD • Instant Video

It seems fair to label 2000's X-Men as the start of the comic book era Hollywood still finds itself in. The 1990s' top franchise had fizzled out with Batman & Robin.
And the R-rated Blade (1998) was not indicative of the superhero movies that would become Marvel Studios' specialty. The success of X-Men paved the way for the genre to thrive. Within a few years, there were Sam Raimi's blockbuster Spider-Man movies, reboots for Batman and Superman, and a host of vehicles for other heroes and villains of varied iconicity.

Studios and audiences haven't tired of superhero movies, but enough time has passed for a new age/wave/generation to begin. Next year brings the end of Christopher Nolan's Batman saga, the launch of a new Spider-Man series, and the first major franchise crossover in The Avengers. Amidst these beginnings and endings, the X-Men remain in the forefront. The original film trilogy came to a close with 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand, but the series continued with 2009's spin-off X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Now, there is X-Men: First Class, a prequel and a reboot that hands the reins over to Matthew Vaughn, a British director who earned modest commercial success but strong critical renown on the films Layer Cake, Stardust, and Kick-Ass. Vaughn and his writing partner Jane Goldman receive screenplay credit along with Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz, a team that has graduated from genre television ("Andromeda", "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles", "Fringe") to summer tentpole films like this and Thor.

First Class will not be confused for the previous X-Men movies, because not only have the roles been recast and youthened, but because Vaughn has rewritten some rules to make the self-standing movie he wants, which he does with the blessing of Bryan Singer, the first two X-Men films' director, who gets story and producer credits here.

CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) spearheads the new division along with gifted mutants Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender, left) and Charles Xavier (James McAvoy). Emma Frost (January Jones) and the age-defying Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) lead the X-Men's opposition.

First Class opens in the 1940s, depicting contrast between two young boys. Erik Lensherr, the one who will later be known as Magneto, is separated from his parents at a Nazi concentration camp in Poland. There, a commanding officer, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), demands that the boy demonstrate his telekinetic powers, threatening violence to his mother if he does not. Meanwhile, the privileged other boy, Charles Xavier of New York's Westchester County, possesses telepathy, a gift he uses to get a homeless young house intruder named Raven to reveal her true mutant nature and become his adopted sister.

The film then jumps ahead to 1962, where it remains. CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) infiltrates a Hellfire Club shindig to find that Shaw, who looks younger now than he did eighteen years earlier, and his telepathic love interest Emma Frost (January Jones) are intervening in a U.S. diplomacy issue with Turkey. MacTaggert soon encounters Xavier (James McAvoy), now grown up and an Oxford professor, and Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), slightly less grown-up.

The two become the foundation of the agency's new mutant division, spearheaded by MacTaggert but governed by Xavier and other newly-enlisted mutants, including Lensherr (Michael Fassbender), large-footed scientist Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), sonically-gifted Sean Cassidy (Caleb Landry Jones), and blast-dispensing Alex Summers (Lucas Till). While Xavier, Lensherr, and MacTaggert figure out what the unit will do, the younger mutants bond over their previously hidden differences. Then, Shaw and his henchmen come calling, giving nary a thought to the harm they cause many humans in the process. The offer divides the mutant group slightly, but also enforces the bond among those not lured, each of whom acquires more familiar nicknames like Beast and Mystique.

The film proceeds with its attentions going to the rival mutant factions and the escalating Cold War missile crisis.

Xavier's young recruits (Nicholas Hoult, Caleb Landry Jones, Zo๋ Kravitz, Jennifer Lawrence, Lucas Till, and Edi Gathegi) put up a defense against Shaw and company's destructive invitation. In Westchester, Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) harnesses his telekinetic powers under the guidance of Xavier (James McAvoy).

Straight synopsis of the film might not sound too riveting, but First Class offers a great time. The main storyline actually seems to take backstage to characters and atmosphere, two things the movie delivers in spades.
Characters are almost always the most appealing part of any superhero movie and yet too often, they're left to simply advance a conventional plot. The X-Men franchise has such a large and colorful cast that inevitably the personalities are prominent, even if each individual is given limited opportunity to stand out in the group dynamic. Vaughn deals with the same challenges as those before him, but he meets them exceptionally, making good use of all the mutants and showing off their powers in creative ways.

The atmosphere is an even greater success. The rule of thumb has long been that superhero movies, like most tentpole movies, take place in contemporary times. Defying that, Vaughn sets the bulk of the picture in the year before Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced the comic book series, opening us up to a period setting that's big on style. The movie provides that tastefully, never as a distraction or fixation, but in a way to make the X-Men's uniting and conflict reflective of an era of change.

Vaughn doesn't throw out what has worked in the franchise's past movies; he just heightens it, with appropriate flair and sharp pacing. Those flourishes he brought to Kick-Ass get put to use here on a story that doesn't fall apart or rely on gimmickry. It's a near-perfect combination of style and substance that along with the lack of prerequisite viewing elevate First Class to a landmark for the genre. It might not have the real-life weight and arresting nature of The Dark Knight, but that might be the only live-action superhero movie of recent times with more going for it. How utterly unexpected for what on the surface looks like simply a way for Fox to keep the brand active and hang onto the series' film rights.

The X-Men -- Professor X (James McAvoy), Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones), Havok (Lucas Till), Magneto (Michael Fassbender), and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) --  suit up for the first time in preparation for the film's Cuban beach climax.

Though critical marks were comparable to Singer's two movies, attendance reached an all-time low domestically as did the $146 million gross, even without factoring inflation. Buoyed by strong foreign numbers, the movie's $350 M worldwide tally wasn't too far from the other entries (but surpassing only the original). The performance seems more a reflection of the industry's down year than any audience dissatisfaction, but it was enough for a sequel not yet to have been greenlit. Marvel also has The Wolverine and the spin-off Deadpool in the works before they decide whether to next make a follow-up to X-Men: The Last Stand (an X4) or X-Men: The First Class (almost certainly not subtitled Second Class).

In the meantime, if you're part of the fanbase that decided to give this outing a pass, the time is now to check out First Class on DVD and Blu-ray. We review the latter here.

Tying First Class into the franchise at large, two of the trilogy cast members make brief cameos, one of them perhaps the funniest and least expected cameo in cinema history. To say more would spoil it.

X-Men: First Class Blu-ray + Digital Copy combo pack cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: September 9, 2011
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Two single-sided discs (BD-50 & DVD-5 DVD-ROM)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Embossed Two-Faced Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in on DVD ($29.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video


First Class looks great on Blu-ray, although the 2.40:1 presentation falls a little short of the expected perfection. The element is flawlessly clean and often highly detailed, but it looks a little less than pristine and certain shots or parts of shot have a seemingly unintentional blur to them. No similar shortcomings mar the 5.1 DTS-HD master audio, a lively and effective mix which delivers thrills without throwing volume levels for a loop. It is notable how much of the film's dialogue is uttered in foreign languages (German, French, Spanish, and Russian, to be specific) and translated by player-generated subtitle. That adds an air of authenticity and distinguishes this from more ordinary superhero movies.

I also must note that this disc adds to the line of BD-Live-enabled Fox Blu-rays that cause problems on my Sony player. At the first inkling of such playback woes, I disabled the Internet connection and the problem never recurred, which seems to confirm that the issue lies in the disc utilizing the connection while the movie is playing. Disconnecting and reconnecting every time such a title arises will annoy, but less so than the experience I had recently watching Rio. Sony released a firmware update since then, but it doesn't seem to have addressed this odd, widely-reported issue.

Producer/co-story writer Bryan Singer marvels at the faithfulness with which "First Class"'s concentration camp scenes recall his original X-Men movie. The Cuban Beach climax is compared to a previs animatic in "X Marks the Spot."


The Blu-ray's all-HD extras begin with two ways to experience the film anew. The movie mode of "X Marks the Spot" interrupts film playback eight times for short, scene-specific behind-the-scenes shorts that add twenty minutes to the runtime. The shorts deliver comments from Matthew Vaughn and other crew members, along with some B-roll footage. The pieces shed light on the concentration camp scenes, Mystique's childhood introduction, depicting Xavier's telepathy, the film's two cameos, the technical journey of film dailies, the Cuban beach climax (with faithfully honored previs animatic split-screen), and the end title design. Happily, these diversions can be viewed on their own, removed from the movie. If you choose otherwise, you can skip through the film's chapters to bring up the next detour.

In a throwback to the early days of DVD, we also get a composer's isolated score, which enables you to admire Henry Jackman's music with the movie's dialogue, sound effects, and non-original music silenced. Of course, that means there's a lot of dead air (unfilled by commentary, as some of these have been) on this Dolby Digital 5.1 track you are more likely to sample than listen to in full. Nonetheless, it's a very cool feature and a nice score to make use of it.

Matthew Vaughn directs leading men James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender in the first of seven parts of making-of documentary "Children of the Atom." Academy Award nominee Jennifer Lawrence gets airbrushed for hours for her transformation into Mystique.

"Children of the Atom: Filming X-Men: First Class" (1:09:49) is a detailed making-of documentary, which you can choose to view as seven featurettes. "Second Genesis" (10:01) details the project's origins. "Band of Brothers" (11:51) discusses the characters chosen for the film and the actors chosen to portray them. "Transformation" (10:06) turns our attentions to the make-up, fur, and paint used to give Beast, Mystique, and Azazel their distinctive looks. "Suiting Up" (8:33) tackles costume design, drawing comparisons to the comic books, the previous X-Men movies, and early James Bond films. "New Frontier: A Dose of Style" (9:55) further enforces the Bond connection with regards to period production design and mechanisms. "Pulling Off the Impossible" (10:23) moves to visual effects, singing the praises of John Dykstra and the various teams reporting to him while deconstructing some of their work. "Sound and Fury" (6:29) dissects the score by Henry Jackman. When viewed via "Play All", the difference is made up with a brief intro and an outro considering where the franchise might go from here.

This coherent, comprehensive piece is as thorough and satisfying as any contemporary film companion. It blurs logos, bleeps some curses, and makes fitting use of clips from past X-Men movies and the Sean Connery Bonds.

Pyro is one of eighteen X-Men characters Cerebro: Mutant Tracker tells you about with no Internet connection required. Young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) uses telepathy to charm Moira MacTaggert in this deleted scene.

"Cerebro: Mutant Tracker" moves you around a gallery of X-Men. Pressing enter whenever one is seen leads you to a 1-2 minute video profile of the character, followed by a dossier of facts.
The characters and clips span all five X-Men movies. It's a fun but time-consuming way of enforcing the unity within the franchise. Your finds are logged in a "Mutant Manifest." Filling the eighteen slots there unlocks nineteen additional character files on BD-Live, where the stats are immediately accessible, but the profiles have to be downloaded or streamed.

Thirteen deleted scenes (14:07) are offered, most of them brief extensions to existing bits. Both those and the light self-contained character bits seem to have been cut only to keep the film at a reasonable runtime.

On-disc extras conclude with Fox's detailed digital copy how-to (3:35), which applies here because in a standard Fox move, the second disc here, a DVD-ROM, holds digital copies of the movie in iTunes and Windows Media formats. Target alone is selling a Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack that would have been a no-brainer option at most other studios.

With an Internet connection enabled/re-enabled, a few additional items are found under the Blu-ray's Live Extras heading. For First Class, we get exclusive "proof of concept" test footage of the aerial "Dogfight" battle (2:13) and the movie's original theatrical trailer (1:55). You can choose speed (a skippy stream) or quality (a patience-trying download taking twice as long as viewing does), neither one approximating a standard-on disc feature. By checking them out, you've made it to Fox's "What's New" section, which also lets you download or stream a variety of other trailers and Blu-ray bonus samples from the studio's next and latest home video releases. Look at that, BD-Live turns company promotion into a reward!

There is also the IMDb-powered Live Lookup, Fox's answer to Sony's movieIQ. With this activated, you get a picture and filmography for almost every credited (and notable uncredited) actor in the film. You can have this information laid over the film playing full size or around it playing in a reduced window. You can also limit the cast to those appearing in the scene currently playing. The layout and navigation is a bit smoother than Sony's equivalent, but I'm guessing you'll still find it easier to grab the nearest laptop to identify an actor or filming location. Nonetheless, you can make the info appear and disappear with a simple press of your remote's blue button, which is probably the reason for the cause of some playback woes.

This exclusive Emma Frost backstory digital comic is one of ten the Blu-ray entitles you to unlock. Supporting young mutants Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones), Havok (Lucas Till), and Beast (Nicholas Hoult) share the screen in the Blu-ray's menu montage.

Finally, through a dedicated URL on the Marvel website and a unique code enclosed, you can gain access to ten X-Men digital comics for the next year. The lot includes four comic books from this millennium, five volumes of Uncanny X-Men from 1963, and an exclusive Emma Frost backstory comic created just for this Blu-ray. I'm not much of a comics person, but with their clean hi-res graphics, instant navigation, and smooth magnification options, this online presentation is not a bad substitution for having the actual items in hand.

If you haven't upgraded to Blu-ray, you will miss out on the majority of bonus features. The only items making the First Class DVD are the first two "Children of the Atom" segments, "Second Genesis" and "Band of Brothers." It's a move like that which sours the mouths of customers, whether or not they've gone Blu. With the exception of the Internet items, all of the material should have been easy to make available on DVD. At the very least, Fox could have shared the deleted scenes and "X Marks the Spot" shorts.

Though it takes a long time to load, the Blu-ray disc excels at resuming, recalling where you left off even a week after ejecting the disc. It also supports bookmarks. The menu's scored montage divides the screen into panels.

Fox takes a rare extra step in the packaging department, granting the Blu-ray a unique, reversible slipcover that lets you choose whether Xavier and the good mutants or Magneto and the bad ones face front. It does make the decision kind of easy for you by keeping the back free of a title logo and other text. At least the requisite UPC cut-out section is appropriately filled with the corresponding section of Magneto's helmet when you turn it around. The keepcase artwork below displays both of the leads. The two single-sided inserts supply directions and activation code for the digital copy and digital comics. Marvel seems to be spearheading an advertisement reduction initiative; as on the practically concurrent Thor, no trailers precede the menu's loading here.

In 1962 Washington D.C., the X-Men (Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence) unite with the blessings of The Man in the Black Suit (Oliver Platt) and CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne).


Rich, exciting, stylish, and self-contained, X-Men: First Class ranks as my favorite film of 2011 so far
and one of the best superhero movies I've ever seen. It is one of the rare cinematic universes I would like to see live on in a faithful sequel.

Fox's Blu-ray leaves little to be desired. The feature presentation is a tad shy of perfection and I'm sure that many customers would prefer getting a standard DVD to a digital copy DVD-ROM. Still, the extras lend much insight into a film that on its own would be easy to recommend. Short of film snobs who turn their noses up at mainstream entertainment, I can't think of anyone whose home video collection wouldn't welcome this release of this film.

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Related Reviews:
Marvel Comics: Thor • Captain America (1990) • Iron Man • Fantastic Four • Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer • Ghost Rider
Superheroes: The Incredibles (Blu-ray) • The Green Hornet (Blu-ray 3D) • Hancock • The Tick vs. Season 1 • Sky High
Directed by Matthew Vaughn: Kick-Ass • Stardust

Marvel Animated TV Series:
Wolverine and the X-Men: Volume 6 - Final Crisis • The Spectacular Spider-Man: The Complete First Season
The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! Volume 1 • Fantastic Four: The Complete 1994-95 Animated Television Series

The Cast of X-Men First Class:
James McAvoy: The Conspirator • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe • The Last Station
Jennifer Lawrence: Winter's Bone • The Beaver | January Jones: Unknown | Nicholas Hoult: A Single Man
Rose Byrne: Insidious • 28 Weeks Later • Sunshine • Knowing • Bridesmaids | Kevin Bacon: Death Sentence • Footloose
Lucas Till: Battle: Los Angeles • Hannah Montana: The Movie | Caleb Landry Jones: The Last Exorcism | Edi Gathegi: Gone Baby Gone

X-Men: First Class Music List: Michael Kamen - "Concentration Camp (from X-Men)", Edith Piaf - "La Vie en Rose", Freddy Cannon - "Palisades Park", Gnarls Barkley - "Run (I'm a Natural Disaster)", The Jarmels - "A Little Bit of Soap", Booker T. & the MG's - "Green Onions", Chan Romero - "Hippy Hippy Shake", The Red Army Choirs of Alexandrov - "Soviet National Anthem"

Buy X-Men: First Class: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack from Amazon.com: MP3s • CD

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Reviewed September 20, 2011.

Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2011 20th Century Fox, Marvel Entertainment, Bad Hat Harry, Donners' Company, Dune Entertainment, and Fox Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.