One Classy Trailer

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X-Men: First Class may be the most open, unapologetic example of a major movie studio “taking a Mulligan” on a franchise in Hollywood history. Back in 2006, then-newcomer director Matthew Vaughn was supposed to direct the third X-Men movie after Bryan Singer took a leave to make Superman Returns, but interference from notoriously difficult Fox Studios under fandom-despised producer Tom Rothman led to his abrupt exit. Vaughn was quickly replaced by Brett Ratner, who holds the distinction of being able to make even Jackie Chan unexciting. The result, X-Men: The Last Stand, was even more abysmal than anyone could’ve expected.

Now, five years later, all involved (well, except the actors, and also Ratner, but nobody cares about that) are back to try for a do-over: Singer as producer, Vaughn as director and Fox as a movie studio newly humbled by a desperate desire to keep their X-Men franchise chugging lest Marvel snatch the Mutants back and add their box office firepower to the expanding Avengers universe.

The planned film itself is something of a Hail Mary pass: One part prequel to the earlier films detailing the origins of the ideological feud between Magneto and Professor X, one part reboot helping to remove the previous, roundly-hated Origins: Wolverine prequel from continuity before Darren Aronofsky’s Wolverine: Pretend The Last One Didn’t Happen comes out, and also (many suspect) a backdoor way to simply re-start the series altogether.

Up until now, Vaughn and the studio have kept much of the film’s story and visuals top secret. But now we have a trailer, which you can watch right here. Lots of action, lots of shout-outs, lots of easter eggs for fans and – because this all has to take place at least 35-40 years before the first one – lots of new, unfamiliar characters. What’s going on? Who is everybody? Here we go, moment by moment:

00:00 – 00:30 Okay, was not expecting them to use full-on flash-ahead clips from the first two films at all, but probably for the best. Our first look at James McAvoy as the young, not-yet-bald-and-crippled Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender as the young, not-yet-a-terrorist Erik Lenssher, aka Magneto.

00:30 – 00:50 Charles and Erik being escorted through a prison(?), establishing somewhat that they’re still in their buddy phase; fade to the Xavier School, fade to roomful of young mutants. Laid over the soundtrack is President Kennedy’s speech on the Cuban Missile Crisis, ending on Xavier and pals watching it live on TV to establish that this is indeed set in the mid-1960s.

Seated on Xavier’s right: Rose Byrne as Moira MacTaggert, the Professor’s best ladyfriend. You may recall Olivia Williams playing her in a pointless cameo in X-Men 3.

00:50 – 00:54 Two shadowy figures stare down a woman seated in some sort of interrogation/observation room, in what looks like a visual shout-out to Basic Instinct.

Sitting in the chair: January Jones as Emma Frost, aka The White Queen of The Hellfire Club (more on them in a bit,) a powerful mutant psychic and one of the primary villains/anti-heroes of the X-Men universe. Technically, what was supposed to be this character already appeared as Diamond Skin Girl (Frost’s secondary power) in Wolverine – but remember, we’re all agreeing to pretend that didn’t happen.

00:55 Lensher and Xavier meet with Zoe Kravitz as teenage mutant Angel Salvadore – first big onscreen confirmation for fans that they’re playing fast and loose with the timeline, bringing modern characters into this 60s-set story. I have no issue with that – different version, different continuity, etc.

And yes, you saw the fly-wings correctly: Angel is essentially a person-sized Faerie.

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00:56 Nicholas Hoult as Dr. Hank McCoy, better known as Beast – not yet blue and furry yet likely already manifesting his animal-level strength and agility powers.

00:58 Lucas Till as Havok, real name Alex Summers, brother of Scott “Cyclops” Summers. In comic continuity, Havok is the younger brother; but whatever – it’s as good a way as any to get an energy-blasting character in there.

01:00 Edi Gathegi as Armando Munoz, aka Darwin, who has one of the niftier powersets of the lesser-known mutants: His body rapidly evolves to adapt to intense situations. Drown him and he’ll learn to breathe underwater, punch him and he’ll develop hard skin, etc.

01:01 Moira MacTaggert again, possibly in England?

01:02 You didn’t think they’d do another one of these without Raven Darkholme, aka Mystique, did you? Winter’s Bone breakout star Jennifer Lawrence will play the role in young-adult scenes, but this scenes looks to be of Morgan Lily as the character at a much younger age.

The setup of this shot is all kinds of uncomfortable, and makes me think they plan to touch on some of Mystique’s less family-friendly background (more later).

01:05 – 01:09 The Blackbird, eventually (maybe already?) the X-Men’s private aircraft, blasts off amid seafaring battleships, Xavier looks like he’s about to make a big jump, Erik looks concerned. Our first look at the X-Men’s nifty retro-style yellow and black field uniforms. I’m inclined to like any superhero outfit that ISN’T black rubber, but even setting that aside I like how these look and how colorful and bright the whole production looks in general.

01:10 – 01:14 Beast, now in his familiar blue n’ fuzzy look, pilots a jet versus a Macross Missile Massacre. At least some of our plot begins to take shape: Are the Mutants somehow involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis?

01:14 Someone dives into the ocean. Xavier? Erik? Are we seeing a piece of “oh, that’s why he’s in a wheelchair?”

01:14 – 01:16 Fassbender’s Lensher, doing his “Don’t eff with a guy who controls metal” badass-walk. I get the sense this is him well on his way to Bad Guy Land.

01:17 – 01:18 A quick preview of McCoy’s transformation into Beast’s furry-form. He’s clearly not “into” it, so I wonder if in this version he’ll be somehow changed against his will?

Beast going blue here, incidentally, represents the first (non-“Wolverine”) instance of “First Class” breaking-continuity from the films it’s supposed to be preceding: Dr. McCoy was seen, briefly, on a TV in “X2” still in humanoid form… but this puts the transformation at least 40 years before that.

01:18 – 01:19 Holy crap! KEVIN BACON! Oh, yeah, and Jones looking stunning in Frost’s signature white lingerie look while morphing into diamonds but mainly KEVIN freakin’ BACON!!!

Folks, meet at least two members of your Villain Team for the piece: The Hellfire Club. An underground society of ultra-rich mutants with a strong S&M/kink undercurrent in the comics, movie-form still somewhat unknown. Bacon’s character is Sebastian Shaw – he can convert “kinetic energy” into physical force, meaning that he just gets stronger the harder you punch him. I’m actually not sure who the third guy is.

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01:19 Pre-blue Beast again, along with what one imagines is a Field Team of X-Men, showing off his monkey-jumping skills.

01:20 Jennifer Lawrence as teenaged Mystique, making romantic moves on… Beast!? Okay…

01:21 Havok, using his version of the energy-blast power (it comes out of his chest, evidently) he shares with his brother Cyclops. Incidentally, the Summers Bros. dad is an intergalactic Space Pirate who runs with a Manga-esque crew of aliens called The Starjammers. No, I don’t think you can expect to see them in the movies anytime soon.

01:22 Magneto snatches some guy’s knife in a barfight. Badass.

01:23 – 01:24 Cerebro!!! Hey, wouldn’t it be fun if using this thing for (presumably) first time is how he lost the hair?

01:25 The Hellfire Club again, with a look at what White Queen’s full-on Diamond form looks like. Hey… who’s this new guy? Read on.

01:26 – 01:27 BAMF! Poofy smoke powers? What may be a prehensile tail?? NIGHTCRAWLER!? Not exactly… but close.

Dollars to donuts this is Azazel, and that was him with Shaw and Frost in the previous scene. Azazel’s backstory is convoluted even contradictory even for an X-Men character – I’ve lost track of whether or not he’s supposed to be a mutant, an immortal prehistoric super-mutant or a literal demon from Hell, but the important thing is that (unless they junk this part) he will at some point get Mystique teen-pregnant with the baby who’ll grow up to be Nightcrawler.

01:28 Ooooh! Magneto’s psychic-proof helmet, rendered in sleek silver and gray but much closer to the source-material design-wise. Oh, wait a sec…

01:29 – 01:31 Magneto? In Silver Age red and purple costume?? Dare I hope???

01:32 – 01:34 Some nice, grim back-and-forth between Charles and Erik. This is the important stuff. The effects, shout-outs and comic-accurate costuming is all nice, but if this central relationship doesn’t “work,” neither will the movie. Simple as that.

01:35 – 01:40 Of course, crazy-cool action setpieces don’t hurt either. Magneto versus an entire Soviet naval fleet? That’ll do.

NOT SHOWN (YET):

Caleb Landry Jones as Sean Cassidy, aka “Banshee.” As the name(s) imply, he’s Irish and has the power to yell very, very loudly. He was a charter member of the second iteration of the X-Men (read: the one that was actually popular), “representing” Western Europe in what was initially pitched as a multinational rainbow-team of heroes; here he’s among the folks re-imagined into the First Class. Sharp-eyed fans take note: The similarly-powered minor character seen briefly in the 2nd and 3rd films was “Siryn;” traditionally she’s set up as Banshee’s daughter – which actually still fits now.

Oliver Platt as “The Man in Black.” At this point that unfortunately familiar is all anyone knows about his character, apparently a villain. Plenty of fans are hoping like hell, based on dubious (at best) speculation, that he’s Nathaniel Essex – better known as “Mr. Sinister.”

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you’ve heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.


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Bob Chipman
Bob Chipman is a critic and author.