DIRECTOR: Matthew Vaughn
The idea of another X-Men movie filled me with dread, after the poor X-men: The Last Stand and the misjudged Wolverine. But I was in for a surprise. Wise choices had been made, with Matthew Vaughn of Kick Ass fame in the directors chair, and Bryan Singer, director of the first two superior X-Men films this time-serving as producer. The casting, which included James McAvoy as Proffessor X and the Michael Fassbender and Magnito, to name but a few, both excell as younger versions of the iconic characters.
Set in 1962, the plot it multi-faceted but revolves around Magnito and his hunt for Kevin Bacon’s ex-Nazi mutant, who was responsible for the death of his mother. Bacon is on a typically diabolical quest to rid the world of humans as he believes that a nulear holocaust will feed the mutant genes and propel them to top of the food chain. Meanwhile, Charles Xavier, or Professor X as he will so be known, has become involved with the CIA begins to gather his first X-Men.
McAvoy is delivers a, forgive me, First Class performance as a young Patrick Stewart, with every inflection, tone and gesture recreated, in fact at times it was a little creepy. But there’s a lot to praise here, and not just the crew and the acting. The film’s sixties tone is fresh yet familiar, with strong leanings towards James Bond, but not so much a hammy recreation but as if it was naturally filmed in the era. I know though that this is wholly subjective and many would disagree but I feel that the tone was equitable to that of L.A. Confidential, in the fact the here the 1960’s have been conveyed in such an accessible manner, as was the case with Confidential’s 50’s setting.
But heart was the key to this film. At the films heart is a sort of trinity between Xavier, Erik, and Raven; or Proffessor X, Magnito and the shape shifting Mystique. It is established very early on that Xavier and Raven have become inseparable childhood friends, but when Erik turns up as they’ve grown, he offers her a very different view of herself than the conformist Xavier has.
Xavier is presented here, and consistently in regards to the rest of the franchise, as trying to live side by side with humans, whilst Erik’s view is that mankind is the enemy, and mutants are the future. Coexistence is not a viable option. Raven is caught between the pair, as Xavier encourages her to present herself as human whilst Erik offers her the freedom to be a blue naked chick. The one that we all know so well.
But when all the 60’s James Bond gloss is done away with, and Kevin Bacon’s super-villan, entertaining and typically well performed by the underrated Bacon, though it is, it’s this philosophical debate which is at the heart of X-Men full stop. It’s about racism, prejudice and natures concept of survival of the fittest. But, this is not what the 132 minutes of X-Men: First Class is about. It’s about mutants fighting, the Cuban missile crisis, which actually works better than you might think and the evolution of the characters that we all know, with plenty and I mean plenty of nice nods to the future or previous films, depending your point of view.
I had a lot of time for this. Granted, it’s not a perfect film and no film is, but it left me with great feeling afterwards. The film had offered of interest, excitement and decent character development and is a worthy entry into the franchise as a whole, certainly on par with the best entry, X2, a film which until Christopher Nolan’s Batman reboot, I thought was the best comic book film that I had seen.
X-Men has always been an interesting concept, whether it be in comic books, cartoons or features, and like I said earlier, the issues that it touches upon are real, important and poignant, and even though films must generally opt for action and gloss over the nitty-gritty, I feel that this film was within the bounds of balancing the two well. This was a top class film and lets hope that it is just the first the planned trilogy, and that Matthew Vaughn, who has again proven himself in this genre, continues to direct.