I have to admit, even with the ridiculous latest entry in the family, X-Men: Apocalypse, I’m ecstatic to be tackling X-Men: First Class here. Ask me why. I dare you! Well, since you asked, I suppose the only nice thing to do would be to divulge. I’m “ultra” excited for this one simply because ever since they did this First Class I haven’t looked back. With the exception of Wolverine’s character, I had some small issues with the original X-Men films, especially the third one. However, First Class came along and totally made me a fan again with it’s reboot characteristics, vintage “freshness” and fantastic young cast. It’s an absolute blast. Needless to say I’m stoked about First Class making its 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray debut this past Tuesday. So let’s get started!
I guess in the screwed up timeline of things 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse is intended to the sequel to 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, and if you’re counting Deadpool, the ninth installment in the franchise overall. So that makes First Class the fifth film in the franchise because we left out The Wolverine. What makes First Class so exceptional is not only the story under the care of director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Kick Ass), but this new, talented young cast that seamless takes over the reigns of their older counterparts in this one. The lineup includes the likes of James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence, January Jones, Oliver Platt, Kevin Bacon and a Hugh Jackman F-you cameo (LOL). You can’t have a successful X-Men film without Hugh, right? That remains to be seen!
Speaking of being “seen,” in X-Men: First Class here we “see” firsthand how it all began in the very first chapter of the new younger cast trilogy in the X-Men film universe. We go back in time to see how Charles Xavier (McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Fassbender) not only became acquaintances, but also how they discovered their powers. That’s right. I’m talking old school way before they were known simply as Professor X and Magneto. The German concentration camp scene in Nazi occupied Poland was amazing in its own right. And this is obviously before they were enemies too. They were once the closest of friends and working together they gathered an elite team of mutants to form the X-Men in an attempt to prevent World War III. Mind you, this is all back in the 1960s now too (complete with a cool 007 vibe to it all). Furthermore, we also witness the divide of Charles and Erik going their own separate ways by the film’s end. This is a brilliant story, folks, and it’s only exemplified by the terrific young cast they put in place for this trilogy. Fassbender and McCoy are both at the top of their games here.
First Class was a box-office success, becoming the seventh highest-grossing in the film series, and received positive reviews from critics and audiences alike. They praised the fresh revival of the franchise as well as the acting, writing, directing, action, nostalgia, visual effects and even Henry Jackman’s score. Let’s be honest with ourselves. I believe everyone here on this page reading this review already knows all of this. I believe you’re all here for the 4-1-1 on the 4K ultra HD’s video and audio presentations. However, I’m going to humor you and pretend there are newbies here. Therefore, I’m going to personally make an unorthodox move here and opt to punt the ball. For the sake of time, repetition and sanity I want to resurrect Gerard Iribe‘s September 4, 2011 film review of it all originally found here. His sentiments and feelings towards the film echo mine and I wouldn’t do his review any justice if I did not honor his body of work down below here.
X-Men: First Class is the official first chapter in the X-Men film universe. One could even say that the film is a reboot of sorts, but that may or may not be stretching it a bit. A very cool cast has been assembled to take on the roles of earlier character versions in this latest offering from Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Kick Ass). X-Men: First Class is also the first of the X-Men films to be grounded in the real world and intermixed with real events of the time. JFK and Cuban Missile Crisis anyone? How would the new cast playing old familiars measure up to the gravitas of Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McCellan on the latter (or previous) trilogy? How would “less popular” mutants fair without Wolverine having to carry each and every film? For this and much more, you’ve come to right place.
X-Men: First Class starts off in a WWII concentration camp where young Erik Lehnsherr is separated from his family. What’s cool about the scenes is that if you have a good memory, mirrors the opening scene of the first X-Men film. No, your eyes are not deceiving you, that is a shot-for-shot reshoot of that scene. Instead of flashing forward to the present day like we did in X-Men we actually get to see what happened right after the young Erik bent the gate. Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) is a Nazi “sympathizer,” in the sense that he understands what they are trying to do, but are going about it all wrong. His idea of a perfect race is that of a superior mutant race. It’s this kind of intro to the world of X-Men: First Class that sets the tone for the rest of the film. Be warned: This isn’t your Saturday morning kids show.
Flash forward to 1962 and we are like a fly on the shoulder of Erik and Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), who by all intents and purposes is a player. Not to mention a booze hound. Charles, not Erik. Erik in the meantime is on the hunt for those responsible for the events at the concentration camp some twenty or so years earlier. Charles is great friends with Raven who cares for her as if she were family. She does keep her shape shifting abilities under wraps when in public, not to mention putting salt in Xavier’s game with the ladies. Haters gonna hate.
There are tons of story arcs, but the previous two are the bread and butter in terms of understanding where X-Men: First Class is going. It is an origins tale, but they’re the ones that only really matter. Later, we are reintroduced to Sebastian Shaw who is now an ultra wealthy individual who leads a secretive group of individuals known only as The Hellfire Club. Yes, they are mutants. The Hellfire Club consists of Emma Frost (January Jones) who has the power to form her body into a diamond and is a telepath. Azazel (Jason Flemyng) is blood red in appearance, but has the ability to teleport anywhere at anytime, and does so by thought alone. Riptide (Eric Gonzalez) has the power to create weather disturbances at will and can also turn his body into a storm, as well. Shaw has the unique gift of absorbing energy and redirecting it back to his opponent. The energy he absorbs also keeps him young.
The rest of the film is spent with Xavier and Erik meeting up under unusual circumstances and form an alliance. Xavier has the resources, so why not, right? The government also gets involved. They travel far and wide to recruit possible new members for the group. Banshee, Havok, Beast, Angel, and Darwin are drafted into this group. As things begin to escalate with Shaw using the Soviet Union to help start WWIII, Xavier and company will have to join forces to stop him and his band of evil mutants.
As you can see from the high rating that I have given the film you can tell that I really enjoyed it. You’ve got actors that I really like, and Michael Fassbender has really become the “new” Christian Bale in terms of doing the most eclectic work nowadays. He really shines as the young future Magneto. James McAvoy also kicks butt as the young future Professor X. The supporting cast is equally strong with the exception of January Jones. Seriously, she has the deadest expression I have ever seen on a pretty actress. It’s like she’s there, she’s hot and she knows it, but doesn’t give a crap, because she is rich and pretty. I know she would rather be somewhere else and that is the weakest part of the film. My man Kevin Bacon is sizzling as the evil Sebastian Shaw and truly relishes the role of the main bad guy. He is a treat. Jason Flemyng as Azazel (who will be Nightcrawler’s father) is unrecognizable in his pimp suit and red skin. I had to do a double take. The rest of the young people assembled to bring the X-Men to life carry on well with each other and show off a fair amount of chemistry.
Not only do these actors do their parts in conveying the action properly, but the film in general is gorgeous to look at. The production is first rate, and I’m considering changing up some of my living space and turning it into a 60’s lounge with all the trimmings. The costume design is great, and all the little details here and there are immaculate. Groovy, baby!
Now just because the film takes itself serious doesn’t mean that there is no time for some brief levity. Xavier’s introduction is great as are some moments in the young ones training. I do think that director Matthew Vaughn has pulled off a feat only rivaled by Christopher Nolan in that he has created the first superhero film to actually take place in the “real” world. The events in X-Men: First Class are grounded in reality. JFK and The Cuban Missile Crisis events are meshed flawlessly into the context of story. The film doesn’t just focus on mutants fighting mutants its entire length. Speaking of length, X-Men: First Class runs 132 minutes. I don’t think it would be that long if it didn’t have a cool story to tell. Do you?
The below video score and relative comments are based solely upon my viewing of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray presentation of X-Men: First Class. To read our video grades assigned to the feature presentation on the 1080p Blu-ray disc please refer to that review over here.
- Encoding: HEVC / H.265
- Resolution: 4K (2160p)
- Layers: BD-66
- Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
- Clarity/Detail: Sure the 4K resolution here boasts finer details than its 1080p counterpart, but the cinematic vibe of 1960s style is the real star of the show here in my opinion. There’s a unobtrusive, thin veneer layer of cinematic grain throughout so as good as that looks it does impede the razor sharp fine detail many seem to want on 4K Blu-ray. Most of the presentation is ample enough in the sharpness department (the 1080p Blu-ray presentation is much grainier) with examples ranging from textures in clothes (the X-Men’s yellow suits at the end too), furniture and wood to hair strands, wrinkles in faces and the awesome fur Beast dons all over his plush, hulking body. I mention the look of this cinematic presentation because it is intentionally tweaked a bit to look like this is set in the 1960s as a spy flick so to speak. So with that being said there are some moments of softness throughout. However, it does not appear to be any imperfection in the 4K’s transfer, but rather inherent in the source material. In the right lighting the many set decorations can look pretty intricate. I’m just saying. You have to look for the really good here as this is not a Top Tier 4K Ultra HD release. The only other thing I want to call out in this section is the fact the explosions and fiery effects vary in quality from scene to scene. Sometimes they look awesome and others are embarrassing. Your results will vary.
- Depth: Onscreen characters pop against the burred background and you don’t need to look too hard to find examples where depth goes on for miles in scenes.
- Black Levels: For the most part, black levels are deep and inky throughout, but never to the point of crushing any fine detail. In fact, it’s the detail in the darker moments here that make me appreciate the magic of HDR so much.
- Color Reproduction: Here’s where things get a bit weird. The color palette of this one is quite warm and natural. There are many cold moments mixed and then there are some where the hues just explode such as the purple drapes the club, the blue glow within the submarine’s nuclear reactor and even the mild pop of the X-Men’s yellow jump suits they don in the film’s final battle. The one good thing is contrast never goes out of whack so there’s always that.
- Flesh Tones: The skin tones are most natural and authentic looking throughout, but there were a few scenes because of the lighting where they were a tad warm. I just wanted to call it out like I see it.
- Noise/Artifacts: There’s grain. I already told you that. However, it gives it a nice, fuzzy kind of 1960s cinematic feel to the presentation so I’m very down with that. I did have one moment of judder though where a pan happens in the US government boardroom when Raven reveals herself to the CIA members seated around the table. That was the only time I saw any moment of judder.
Like I mentioned up above in the video section, the below audio score and judging comments are based solely upon my viewing of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray presentation of X-Men: First Class. It should be noted that the 4K Ultra HD version of this presentation houses the same DTS-HD MA surround track as the 1080p Blu-ray. So that means there’s no real upgrade here. Boo! To read our audio grades assigned to the 1080p Blu-ray disc please refer to that review over here.
- Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Descriptive Audio 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French DTS 5.1
- Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
- Dynamics: X-Men: First Class has a very balanced sound field. Explosions, energy blasts and all various mutant powers/sound effects are handled well while the triumphant and robust musical score flows into every channel effortlessly and without intrusion.
- Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel is where it’s at with this one. It delivers that big, bold modern day superhero movie boom when called upon. Without it I would be severely disappointed. The LFE is employed for the usual moments such as action fights, explosions, gunshots, jet engines and propulsions, etc., but the real magic of it all happens masterfully with the following two examples. More often than once we witness Erik’s magnetic powers and what he’s able to do with it. The LFE roars during those moments. My second favorite LFE moment though has to be the ship anchor that Erik lifts out of the water and swings all around essentially destroying a ship with it in the process. The bass will swallow you whole here.
- Surround Sound Presentation: The surround sound presentation is directional and immersive here, but not as robust as your modern day action presentation. Still there’s enough to brag about like moments of rain, a ship anchor flying around you, bullets zinging by, jet engines roaring behind and the rousing score engulfing you.
- Dialogue Reproduction: The dialogue is loud, clear and intelligible throughout. I never had an issue hearing any spoken word. Now with that being said there does appear to be a skip in the audio presentation. I watched this 4K feature twice now and it happened both times (but only when you start the film from the very beginning and not the chapter mark itself). When Chapter 18 starts we see Charles holding a gun to Erik’s head and the audio jumps. It’s instantly recovered, but the lips become out of sync. If you back the chapter up it no longer skips on that same scene and lips are fully synched with the spoken words. Weird, huh? I popped the included Blu-ray in here and I did not experience this problem moment in 1080p. Maybe it’s just my disc?
X-Men: First Class on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray comes packaged with the following set of extras we’re here to talk about in more detail. However, before we go into each of them below I wanted to point out a few givens. First of all, there’s a redemption code good for the film either in iTunes HD or UltraViolet. Second, there’s a Blu-ray disc in this package that not only houses the below extras exclusively, but also the feature film in 1080p. With that being said now let’s tackle everything you’ll find in way of extras on the Blu-ray disc down below.
- X Marks the Spot Viewing Mode (HD, 19:55) – This is literally where X Marks the Spot is the film’s pop-up video mode on the 1080p Blu-ray presentation. If you turn this option on in the menu, the film will be interrupted by mini-featurettes (interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, etc.) while watching. There are a total of eight of these. Conveniently you can also view these separately from the extras menu.
- Cerebro: Mutant Tracker (HD) – Here you get to experience the mind blowing Cerebro for yourself in this interactive featurette. Ha ha. I’m probably making this sound more exciting than it really is, but this gives you the opportunity to track down mutants from the X-Men films. Using your remote you basically click on a mutant and a short video clip and bio is available for each of them. Fun!
- Children of the Atom (HD, 1:09:49) – Look at that runtime! This is an in-depth 7-part documentary that contains the following segments: Second Genesis, Band of Brothers, Transformation, Suiting Up, New Frontier: A Dose of Style, Pulling Off the Impossible and Sound and Fury. A Play All option is available here too for your convenience. This one is a MUST-WATCH 7-part extra that covers everything from the story, mutants and comics to the visual look of the film, the costumes, the score, the 1960s spy vibe and whatnot.
- Deleted and Extended Scenes (HD, 14:07) – There are a total of thirteen deleted and extended scenes to be found here.
- Composer’s Isolated Score – This one is obviously the isolated score from the film and it’s presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. This one is also found on the 4K Ultra HD disc too. Bonus!
So I am sure everyone is wondering does this 4K ultra HD release of First Class warrant a double dip? Look up above and tell me. How important is owning your favorite film in the most pristine version of it? If the answer is very, then you already know what to do. Skip down below and hit that order link please. However, if your answer is sort of, I’d say wait. You know that by the end of the year Fox will have to run some kind of special pricing on these eventually. I agree the price tag is still a bit high for catalog releases like this, but rest assured this fifth entry in the X-Men film franchise is pure dope in the film department. With the exception of Deadpool in the family, it doesn’t get much better than this one in my opinion. Take that for what it’s worth. All you’re really gaining here is HDR and a little finer detail in my opinion. Next up…Ghostbusters on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. Stay frosty!
DISCLAIMER: This particular 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray review was judged and graded using the following 4K certified A/V gear found here. Make sure to check out all our 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray reviews archived here.
The X-Men First Class
Mystified 4k Ultra HD
on October 4th