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After the lackluster X-MEN: THE LAST STAND, which was made without the participation of Bryan Singer (and as result, was a pale shadow of the first two X-MEN films), I was left questioning if there was any cinematic juice left in the multi-mutant movie franchise. X-MEN: FIRST CLASS marks a delightful return to form and proves to be as good a movie as the first two X-MEN installments. Of course, this may have a lot to do with the return of Bryan Singer, who serves as the producer of X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, not to mention his contributions to the film’s screen story. In addition to being the best superhero movie of 2011, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS adds another level of cool to franchise the by being something of a period film, one which moves the main action of the plot right into the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis. In many ways, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS is a great superhero origin movie, wrapped in the classy veneer of a "shaken, not stirred" sixties era James Bond cinematic adventure.

Opening in 1944, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS paints portraits of two very different young mutants: Erik Lensherr is tormented and experimented upon in a Nazi concentration camp in Poland, while Charles Xavier is a boy from a privileged family living in a mansion in Westchester County, New York. The psyches of both mutants are forged in response to the environments in which they are raised, and by 1962, the adult Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) wants nothing more than vengeance on Dr. Schmidt (Kevin Bacon), the scientist that murdered his mother and experimented on him, while the adult Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is an Oxford University graduate about to publish his thesis on mutation, and living a more carefree life in academia. Thanks to his level of privilege, Charles has also had his shape shifting mutant friend Raven Darkholme (Jennifer Lawrence) living with him since childhood, with the two sharing a near brother/sister relationship.

CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) inadvertently places Charles and Erik’s destinies on a collision path, when she uncovers a mutant threat in a plot being hatched by Sebastian Shaw (aka Dr. Schmidt), who wants to drive Homo sapiens into nuclear war… something that will leave him and his fellow mutants the dominant species on the planet. Shaw proves impossible mere Homo sapiens to capture, and during an abortive government/military attempt on Shaw, Charles has his first encounter with Erik, one which forces Charles to save his fellow mutant from killing himself with his all consuming obsession for Shaw. After the government’s failed attempt on Shaw, a faction of the CIA sponsors the young Professor Xavier to fight Shaw’s mutants with mutants of their own… thus giving rise to the very first X-Men. The cast of X-MEN: FIRST CLASS also features Oliver Platt, Álex González, Jason Flemyng, Zoë Kravitz, January Jones, Nicholas Hoult, Caleb Landry Jones, Edi Gathegi, Lucas Till, Demetri Goritsas, Glenn Morshower, Matt Craven, James Remar, Rade Serbedzija, Ray Wise, Michael Medeiros, Olek Krupa, Brendan Fehr, Michael Ironside, Laurence Belcher, Bill Milner, Morgan Lily and an uncredited cameo from Hugh Jackman.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made X-MEN: FIRST CLASS available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. First class is exactly the way I would describe this demonstration worthy 1080p presentation. Image sharpness, depth and dimensionality are all exceptionally good. Fine details such as individual hairs and lines on the actors’ faces, as well as the texturing of objects are all truly excellent. Even the CGI work looks incredible, and has been beautifully integrated into the image. Colors are fully saturated, rich and vibrant, plus the flesh tones are rendered in a highly appealing manner. Blacks are pure, as are the whites. The image also demonstrates exemplary contrast and shadow detail. The elements from which X-MEN: FIRST CLASS has been mastered show no noticeable imperfections. There is just enough grain in the picture to make the presentation film like.

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. No surprises here, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS sports an aggressively mixed superhero movie sound design that perfectly complements the film’s totally cool on screen action and blasts the Blu-ray into demo territory. The soundtrack really places the viewer in the middle of some impressive sonic assaults, which are guaranteed to gives one’s sound system a thorough workout. During the action, sounds come at the viewer from all sides, but there is nothing muddy or indistinct in the sound field. Everything is precise and enveloping, plus the pans between channels are highly effective. Thanks to the lossless encode, fidelity proves to be stunning; the musical component sounds fantastic, plus the sound effects are weighty and totally convincing. The bass channel is deep, percussive and ground shaking, enhancing both sound effects and music alike. Dialogue is clean, clear and never buried under the sonic onslaught. French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as is an English Descriptive track.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some supplements. Starting things off is the X-Marks The Spot Viewing Mode, which interrupts the film and jumps to pertinent featurettes. Said featurettes are also viewable from the main menus. Next up is the Children Of The Atom Documentary, which is broken down into seven parts totaling seventy minutes. Cerebro: Mutant Tracker is an interactive featurette, which allows one to access a database of pertinent details and video clips for various mutants. An Isolated Track featuring Henry Jackman’s score in 5.1 is also present. Deleted And Extended Scenes close out the standard supplements. X-MEN: FIRST CLASS is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player). A Digital Copy of the film is also provided.

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS is as good a film as the first two installments in the franchise, and definitely the best superhero movie of 2011. The Blu-ray presentation rocks on both the video and audio fronts. Highly recommended.


X-Men: First Class (+Digital Copy) [Blu-ray] (2011)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright © 2011 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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