Review – X-Men: First Class
Yes, I know, I’m more than two months late with this. I can only apologise. It is one of the disadvantages of living in the middle of nowhere. Just imagine it’s June and the world is still alive with possibilities, not the debt-ridden heck-hole it has become. Anyway…
X-Men: First Class is Matthew Vaughan’s first picture since the ace Kick-Ass last year. Fast-tracked into production, it’s a prequel of sorts to the X-Men trilogy. Set in the early sixties during the Cuban Missile Crisis, it tells the tale of the first mutants and the origins of the X-Men and the Brotherhood Of Mutants.
James McAvoy plays Professor Charles Xavier, a privileged, intelligent, and extremely powerful psychic. With the help of the CIA, he brings together a ragtag bunch of uniquely powered freaks and outcasts to go up against the diabolical Hellfire Club and their evil scheme to destroy the world by goading the US and the USSR into nuclear war, leaving mutants free to take over the world.
The Professor is aided by Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender), a mutant with the ability to move and manipulate metal via magnetism. A victim of the holocaust and tortured in a concentration camp by Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), leader of the Hellfire Club, Lensherr is filled with anger and revenge and sets out to destroy those who’ve hurt him.
Relentlessly kinetic, this globe-trotting adventure never stands still for a second. The swinging sixties setting not only helps differentiate it from its superhero peers stylistically, but allows for cool conspiracies and neat ret-conning of history. McAvoy’s hip young cat professor chatting up the mini-skirted ladies is a joy when compared to the stolid and staid Professor X of the X-Men trilogy. Indeed, it’s McAvoy’s ability to balance the fun and fatherly nature of the character despite being so young, that helps tie the film together.
The action sequences are brilliantly handled too, the highlights being Magneto wielding an anchor and its chain against a ship, Magneto vs. a submarine, Magento vs.the… Well, you get the picture. Another stand-out is an in-flight battle between Banshee and Angel. It seems to capture the dogfight sensation fantastically, the camera whipping and panning to catch them as they fly past. Flight seems to be something superhero movies struggle with but here it’s wonderfully done.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed X-Men: First Class. Considering the rushed nature of the production, Vaughan and screen writer Jane Goldman have done amazingly well. It neatly ties in with the trilogy, with some geekily gigglesome moments I shan’t spoilerize, and re-energizes the franchise after a moribund Last Stand and a disappointing X-Men: Wolverine. I doubt it will surprise you, it is a prequel after all, but it does everything with excitement and verve.