Director : Matthew Vaughn
Starring : Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Caleb Landry Jones, Nicholas Hoult, Kevin Bacon
Running Time : 132 minutes
Release Date : 2nd June 2011
The X-men franchise is getting a new make-over with X-men: First Class. It has a younger, fresh cast and a more hip director behind the lens.
In 1944 Poland, young Magneto, then known as Erik Lehnsherr, witnesses his mother’s death at the hands of Nazi scientist Klaus Schmidt (Kevin Bacon), who is aware of Erik’s power over metallic objects. Meanwhile, young Charles Xavier meets young Mystique, known as Raven then, who is in hiding. Charles invites her to live with his family.
18 years later, Charles (James McAvoy) is an Oxford graduate living with Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), who takes on natural human appearance in public. Erik has begun tracking down Schmidt, who is now the ageless Sebastian Shaw. Charles and Erik meet up and Erik accepts Charles’ request to stop Shaw from provoking a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union so that mutants can rule the world. With the help CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne), the two men and Raven join forces with other mutants around the world to stop Shaw.
British director Matthew Vaughn and writer Jane Goldman, who together made the originally-funny Kick-Ass, delivers an X-men movie that is both rollicking and truly enjoyable. Like the recent Star Trek reboot, it’s a lighter, more colourful and fast-paced rendition to the series.
The first half of the film is enjoyable, as we are introduced to the mutants when they were young. Before Charles Xavier was in a wheelchair, he was a slightly cocky, self absorbed, flirtatious British lad as well as being an intellectual Oxford graduate. As we witness the union of the x-men, the scenes where they test their superpowers in their hideout mansion delivers awesome special effects and great laughs. There is also a superstar cameo whose one line is the two funniest words in the whole movie.
Halfway through the movie things get a little more serious. The mutants begin to find themselves and learn how dangerous their powers are. They need to stay in control of their powers, but then they start to ponder whether humans and mutants should live in a world with peace or are mutants truly the next dominant species.
Charles and Erik’s partnership starts to slightly rift as they share different points-of-view (based on personal experience) about how mutants should settle in this world of prejudice against their kind.
The third act involves a climatic war at sea between the mutants, Shaw and the American and Russians Marine Corps that is truly spectacular to watch.
The filmmakers do an impressive job recreating the 60s, where the technology is cool and James Bond-inspired and there’s not a sense of differentiation between now and then.
This is such an unusual cast for a big-budget superhero action flick like X-men, filled with many low-profile British actors. James McAvoy, best known for Atonement, deserves credit for portraying young Xavier as both cocky and intelligent without doing a Patrick Stewart shtick.
Irish actor Michael Fassbender, whose tall and rugged-handsome figure will make him a star and sex symbol, evokes Erik’s anger and pain as it all boils underneath the surface. I was also impressed by Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult from TV’s Skins, even if his character’s transformation into Beast feels more accidental than destiny.
As for complaints, some supporting characters do come and go. Also, people I know have complained that the back-story of Charles’ handicap legs is not as climatic as it could have been.
Still, X-Men: First Class is a sweet mix of laughs, action, special effects and charismatic acting.