X Men: First Class (2011)
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn | 132 minutes | action, drama, thriller, adventure, science fiction | Actors: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, January Jones, Rose Byrne, Kevin Bacon, Nicholas Hoult, Zoë Kravitz, Lucas Till, Jason Flemyng, Oliver Platt, Edi Gathegi, Ray Wise, Morgan Lily, Bill Milner, Caleb Landry Jones Alex González, Demetri Goritsas, Laurence Belcher, David Crow, Tony Rich
After the success of ‘Batman Begins’ and ‘The Dark Knight’, it seems to be a trend to reinvent superhero franchises. After ‘X-Men’, ‘X2’ and ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’, 2011 is the turn of Marvel’s mutants to be dusted off and refreshed. ‘X-Men: First Class’ is an origin story that explains how the protagonists of the series became what they are. Purists beware: the story is based on the self-made character backgrounds that director Bryan Singer gave to the actors of the first X-Men film, rather than the comics. In addition to Singer and four others, Jane “Kick-Ass” Goldman also wrote the screenplay for “First Class.” Goldman is not the only Kick-Ass connection, by the way, because director Matthew Vaughn took the director’s chair. Together they provide an end product that stands out: a fresh, rambunctious action film that, despite the minor flaws, never bores.
Like the original, ‘First Class’ begins in Auschwitz concentration camp. The young Magneto – then still called Erik Lehnsherr – suffers from the atrocities of Nazi scientist Dr. Schmidt (Kevin Bacon), eager to fathom Erik’s gift for influencing metal. In another part of the world, the young telepath Xavier leads a privileged but lonely existence. When adult Erik (Michael Fassbender) and Xavier (James McAvoy) bump into each other in the 1960s, a close friendship develops, despite the differences between the men. Xavier is a young dog with a full head of hair and a firm belief in a society where humans and mutants coexist peacefully, while Erik is consumed with revenge against his camp executioners and mistrust of humanity in general. Yet the two join forces. They form a team of young mutants to protect the world from Dr. Schmidt, who now calls himself Sebastian Shaw and turns out to be the evil genius behind the Cuban Missile Crisis.
‘X-Men: First Class’ is not a flawless film. Like ‘Spider-Man 3’, he suffers from an overabundance of players. What begins as a clear, taut story about Xavier’s idealism versus Erik’s cynicism, disintegrates halfway through the film into a range of subplots surrounding secondary role mutants, not all of which are equally interesting. Evil mutant Emma Frost (January Jones) sparkles in a literal sense, but is somewhat dull as a character, and the storyline surrounding trainees Beast and Mystique, who both struggle with their different appearance, feels forced and also contains some plot holes. It also takes a lot of art work to ensure that some mutants eventually defect to Magneto’s camp, who increasingly sees non-mutants as enemies. For an ex-camp inhabitant who has personally experienced the excesses of human nature, rejecting Xavier’s polder model may be an understandable choice, but for other characters it is a turnaround that seems sought after.
Fortunately, it’s easy to forgive ‘X-Men: First Class’ its shortcomings. The film is full of (black) humor and action and the special effects look great. In addition, the references to historical events give an extra dimension to the story and it crackles between the protagonists. Fassbender is perfectly cast as a charismatic cynic who is often right with his black view of humanity, but that doesn’t make him any happier, McAvoy has enough boyish charm to prevent Xavier from being played off as a boring softie and Bacon turns out to be a wonderfully bad villain. nice word of German to speak. To top it off, Vaughn treats his audience to insider jokes and you can enjoy some really fun cameos. All in all, ‘X-Men: First Class’ is the origin story the Star Wars prequels should have been. As far as we’re concerned, the X-Men franchise can last a few more years.