Sunday, 12 June 2011

X-Men: First Class

Year: 2011
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Screenplay: Ashley Edward Miller, Jack Stentz, Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn, from a story by Sheldon Turner and Bryan Singer, based on characters created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Chris Claremont
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne, January Jones, Jennifer Lawrence, Oliver Platt, Kevin Bacon
Running Time: 132 minutes
Genre: Science-fiction, superhero, action

Summary: Poland, 1944: Young Eric Lensherr (Bill Milner) is put in a concentration camp and, being forcibly sperated from his mother, Eric's pain, rage and fear cause the metal gates to buckle and distend. The event is witnessed by Nazi scientist Dr. Schmidt who tries to force Eric to demonstrate his powers, however when Eric is unable to Schmidt forces him to watch as he kills his mother, which triggers a devestating display of Eric's power.
New York, 1944: Young Charles Xavier (Laurence Belcher) is fully comfortable with his telepathic abilities. One night he meets a young shapeshifter named Raven (Morgan Lily), who in her natural form is a blue-skinned girl with golden eyes, stealing food from the kitchens. Charles befriends her.
1962: Eric (Fassbender) travels the globe, using his power to manipulate metal objects in his search to find and kill Schmidt.
Charles (McAvoy), studying at Oxford University, achieves success with his thesis on mutation, while Raven (Lawrence), who is now his foster sister, is working as a waitress.
CIA agent Moira McTaggart (Byrne) discovers that Sebastian Shaw (Bacon) is the leader of a team of mutants and is playing both the USA and the USSR against each other in his plan for domination. She approaches Charles and Raven who join the CIA's covert mutant operation along with Eric who has discovered that Shaw is in fact Schmidt. Soon Eric and Charles are recruiting mutants for their own team to combat Shaw's. However, Eric becomes increasingly resentful of the fact that they are helping a world that both hates and fears them.

Opinions: This is the fifth feature film based on the X-Men comic books. It's a prequel to the other films and showcases how the X-Men came to be as well as the souring of the initial frienship between Charles Xavier (aka Professor X) and Eric Lensherr (aka Magneto). Magneto was always one of the most interesting "villains" in comics because it's hard not to feel sympathy for him and his motivations. A survivor of the Nazi concentration camps, he sees history repeating itself in humanity's attitudes towards mutants. Michael Fassbender gives a superb performance as the complex and tormented Lensherr.
As Charles Xavier, James McAvoy has a less interesting character to work with. He is perfectly comfortable and in control of his ability right from the start and his main character development is showing him turning from a feckless and egotistical student to become a more responsible, if still somewhat egotistical, leader.
The rest of the large cast doesn't really have much of a chance to shine, and the message of racial tolerence and prejudice is hammered home quite heavily, even though the film's only two black characters in one case is killed after about five minutes of screentime and is never mentioned again, and in the other case almost immediately swops sides to join the villains.
Despite this the film is hugely entertaining and benefits from a complex plotline that puts a fantasy spin on real world recent history. The special effects are spectacular and director Matthew Vaughn keeps the action moving along well despite the daunting two hour plus run time.
While falling short of being a great film, this is still a very good one and should provide plenty to interest and entertain non-comic fans. Also the fact that this film in the first in a proposed trilogy makes for a very enticing prospect.
Fans will probably notice Hugh Jackman appearing in a brief cameo as Wolverine.

Caleb Landry Jones, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, Nicholas Hoult, James McAvoy and Lucas Till in X-Men: First Class

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