X-Men: First Class is a welcome return to the series capturing the force and fury of the original instalment over a decade ago. Taking the form of a prequel, this audacious film loses the heavyweight acting talents of its predecessors in exchange for a bolder, spunkier ensemble led by the affable James McAvoy as the idealistic Charles Xavier esq. along with devastatingly dark basterd Michael Fassbinder. Good v evil is the name of the game as always and it’s organised with just enough prerequisite tempo and explosive sequences to make the whole thing stick to the very end. Rest assured fans the film doesn’t disappoint, as the carefully constructed plot allows more than enough screen time with many of your favourite mutants to show off their otherworldly powers in effort to save us from the brink of annihilation. The question, however is: who will save them?
Not being a fan of the franchise per se didn’t stop me from liking First Class. Personally, I could care less about the premise. But for clarity it goes something like … ‘the wonders of human mutation spawned certain individuals capable of extraordinary abilities that have their paths set on a collision course with an increasingly hostile and intolerent world. That world is the 1960’s. The Cold War, Civil Rights Movement, ‘youthquake’, The Kennedys are all in full hip-swinging action.
Erik Lensherr is one such individual, (expertly delivered here by Michael Fassibinder and truly the films saving grace) as holocaust survivor with metal moving powers taken to avenge the remaing Nazis who altered his world view as a boy. His last conquest is the ferocious evil mutant DR Shmidt cum Sebastian Shaw.. (Kevin Bacon makes supberb anti heros and here is another star turn). His path however is temporarily diverted by the precocious brilliance of the telepathic academic Charles Xavier who is also after the same man, only for different reasons, at the behest of higher powers namely the CIA in the form of a wooden and unnecessary Rose Byrne. The resulting alliance sees the recruitment of the remaining young mutants in what feels like a college dorm party atmosphere (unforgiveable montage sequence). Together they face the invetible might of The Hellfire Club led by Shaw and his band of mutant malcontents. Most notably, the unbelievable silent sex bomb that is January Jones, in the form of a telepath replete with big, BIG hair and killer crystal cleavage. The tragic showdown brings in the final and possibly most important development . What now for the mutants? I’ll leave that one hanging.
In a film that stages the two sides of the ‘coin’ in quick paced vignettes there was always the risk that it might balance itself out of the necessary tension. Flicking from McAvoy to Fassbinder in the early stages was always a challenge to their inevitable meeting point. Personally, I immensely enjoyed Fassbinder’s Erik to the point where I found the Young Charles to be a bit of a wet blanket and quite frankly annoyingly wimpish. However, he lent enough contrast to lay the foundations in perfect time and by the end the lines became well defined leaving more than enough for future development. This film will always be for me the combination of evil done well and evil well undone.
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Stars: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence
Runtime: 132 min