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Wednesday, 1 June 2011

At The Fleapit: X-Men - First Class (2011)

With my current obsession with retro Sixties spy-fi and my ever-loving passion for all things superheroic, X-Men: First Class was the perfect storm of geekdom for me.

In a nutshell, this movie rocks from start-to-finish - director Matthew Vaughn and screenwriter Jane Goldman are in the zone and never miss a beat.

Part X-Men origin story (we learn how Magneto and Professor X become friends, how Beast turns blue and furry, why Professor X is in the wheelchair, where Cerebro and the Blackbird came from, how the team was assembled, how they got their codenames, where Erik picks up his Magneto helmet etc), part James Bond-esque Cold War thriller, the script is a textbook example of convincing character arcs, fully-rounded personalities and well-played sub-plots.

The film opens in wartime Nazi concentration camps, with young Erik Lehnsherr (Bill Milner) being emotionally tortured to manifest his mutant control of magnetics, contrasting with young Charles Xavier (Laurence Belcher)'s pampered life and his befriending of runaway shapeshifter Raven Darkholme (Morgan Lily).

The action then moves swiftly forward to Xavier (James McAvoy) and Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) during their time together at university - while Erik is hunting down Nazis across Europe - and onto the moment in the early '60s when CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) shows up with a job offer for Charles.

There is more story in this globe-hopping first 20 minutes of First Class than probably the entirety of Thor (and I really enjoyed Thor; but this is in a different league).

And that's just the beginning as Xavier and Raven begin their quest to track down megalomaniac mutant Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) and his Hellfire Club.

Shaw has plans to turn the Cold War hot, trigger World War III and take over the radiation-blasted remains of world (in true James Bond villain style - he even has a swanky, tricked-out submarine as his base of operations).

Xavier meets Erik (Michael Fassbender), who has his own reasons for seeking Shaw, at this point and then, using a CIA transmitter developed by Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) - the future 'Beast' - they track down a select group of other mutants to form their team to go up against Shaw.

With this first use of Cerebro - and the ensuing montage - we are treated to a glimpse of a young girl I took to be Storm and another surprising, and very amusing, cameo by a famous mutant character.

In fact, this film is full of Easter eggs for the diehard X-fan, but none that would leave the average viewer at all mystified by a character's importance to the action at hand.

And I'm no hardcore fan of the X-Men comics (too many characters, too many teams, too complicated a backstory to get into these days), but - as you have guessed - I loved this film and can highly recommend it not just to fans of superhero movies but also to those who embrace the idea of action thrillers with a dash of paranormal activity in them.

Before we were even two-thirds of the way through this 132-minute epic, I was ready to start watching it again.

Both McAvoy and Fassbender are wholly convincing in their roles, but ultimately Fassbender's Erik comes off as the coolest character with the snappiest patter... because the best bad guys always do!

The intricately-woven plot is as much about the clash of ideals between these two friends as their joint mission to stop Shaw from blowing up the planet.

First Class also ties beautifully in with the first X-Men movie trilogy, but leaves enough room for many more 'period' X-Men outings to move the characters from where they are at the end of First Class to the start of the 2000 X-Men flick.

Any nit-picking anyone could have with First Class would be simple churlishness because I, personally, can't imagine another superhero movie being quite so pitch perfect on all counts.

As it's not part of the official "Marvel-verse" of movies it almost feels as though First Class came out of nowhere - with naysayers predicting doom over the apparent haste of its shooting schedule, its period setting, last minute reshoots etc - when  instead it has set the bar very high for upcoming superhero movies - Captain America and Green Lantern.

I can see at least one of those coming off very badly in comparison with this mutant masterpiece and in this summer of superhero flicks, X-Men: First Class is the standard by which all others will be judged.

2 comments:

  1. While I'm much more a fan of Thor than I am the X-Men, I think this will prove to be the better of the films. I hope to see it this weekend!

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's simply a very well made film. I think (hope) you'll enjoy it!

    ReplyDelete

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