Thursday, October 13, 2011

X Men: First Class

By s. Thursday, October 13, 2011 , , , , , , ,
(132 min, 2011)
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Writers: Ashley Miller (screenplay), Zack Stentz (screenplay)
Stars: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence

Peace was never an option.

In 1944, in Poland, the boy Erik Lehnsherr unleashes his magnetic power when his mother is sent to a concentration camp. The evil Dr. Sebastian Shaw brings Erik to his office and kills his mother, increasing his abilities through anger. In New York, the wealthy Charles Xavier meets the mutant Raven and invites her to live in his manor. In 1962, the CIA agent Moira MacTaggert discovers the existence of mutants working with Shaw and the invites Professor Xavier to recruit mutants to work for the USA government. Xavier teams up with Raven, Erik and a group of young mutants. Sooner they learn that the evil Shaw has the intention of beginning a nuclear war to destroy the world and increase his power.

The opinions and rumors stated by many are true – this is the best “X men” movie to date. But is it a great movie? No. Is it worth watching? Yes, it is. It's not a compliment for the film to say it's the best in the franchise, while its predecessors were either average or terrible. I had my doubts when I saw the film is directed by Matthew Vaughn, the director of messy “Layer Cake”, charming but uneven “Stardust” and the biggest bomb of recent years “Kick-Ass”. I was right. Uneven is the best way to describe “First Class”.
The biggest flaw of “First class” is the fact that the movie appears to be misguided and doesn't feel whole – some parts of it are fantastic, some are cringe worthy. It reaches its greatness when the plot focuses on the uneasy friendship between Charles and Erik, bringing in two fantastic actors – James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender – together on screen. In their scenes together you can almost drown in the variety of emotions – on the one hand Charles wants to help Eric and Magneto is grateful that someone has finally shown him kindness and unconditional help. On the other, while Charles wants to protect mankind and gives people benefit of the doubt, that they won't hate mutants and show gratitude for their help, Erik, scarred by his past, having seen the cruelty of people and how far they can go in their hatred wants to destroy mankind, who in his mind is capable only of evil and violence. This conflict will result in inevitable split in their friendship, but even years later they will show each other respect, so splendidly shown in previous X-Men movies by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen.

The film's most triumphant moments, though, include Erik's quest for revenge. Eric travels around the world, finding Shawn associates and questioning them in order to learn Shaw's whereabouts. In the film's best scene “First Class” appears to pay homage to the tavern scene in “Inglourious Basterds”, which also included Fassbender's undeniable magnetism. However, Vaughn is no Tarantino and the scene, whilst impressive, doesn't rescue the film from the weight of its obvious flaws.

Had the film only focused on Erik and Charles and the material fallen to the hands of more capable director, we might have got a truly wonderful piece of cinema. But, sadly, that isn't the case. Young mutants are not only nowhere as interesting as the two main characters – screenplay doesn't even give them any back stories and if they got one it's pitiful at best – the actors playing them are either awful or just bland. The worst performances are given, as usual, by Rose Byrne and Zoe Kravitz, who must have gotten the role thanks to her daddy's fame. The movie could easily be made without their characters – Byrne plays love interest for Charles and there is no spark, no life, nothing with pulse in her performance. And Zoe Kravit'z character Angel is so ridiculous that even comparing to the man who shoots fire and the man who changes into blue fury Beast it hurt my eyes to see her on screen. Even January Jones, who is always a cold bitch (who doesn't just want to slap her Berry Draper across the face?) is better than those two, precisely because she was cast as another cold bitch. Jones's only asset is her resemblance to Grace Kelly. She is easy on the eyes and thankfully the script doesn't require her to do anything she isn't capable of. I mean acting.
The visual effects in the movie also vary from phenomenal to cheesy. The submarine pull, shown in every single trailer is impressive, Emma Frost's diamond form is very nice and Mystique's true form, while Jennifer Lawrence is a miscast, is also well made. But the acid shot by Angel and the abilities of the minor characters clearly needed more work. There are also glaring plot holes – Erik can easily maneuver anchors and destroy the ship but few scenes later he has difficulty moving a satellite dish? What?

Having said all of that, “X-men First Class” is entertaining, even with its mistakes. The film is fast paced, has decent score with few memorable themes and all in all is a very good origin story. It also has two very fun cameos from the actors that appeared in original films and is worth seeing even only for Fassbender's and McAvoy's performances. I'm not holding my breath for the sequel. I'm sure both Fassbender and McAvoy have better things to do with their time.


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