Sunday, 19 June 2011


The Rees family took a break from revising for A-levels and editing books to take in a movie yesterday. The vote on what to see was split but finally on a minority vote we opted for 'X-Men: First Class'.


Now I'm getting to think that I shouldn't be reviewing superhero movies as I seem to be genetically inclined to loath them but that's not always the case: I loved 'Kick Ass', 'Batman Begins' and am probably the only person on the planet that liked 'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.'

I think my problem is that I appraoch superhero films expecting them to aspire to the same emotional content and the same 'suspend disbelief' rigor I demand of every movie I watch. And this is where First Class comes up short.

What underpins the movie's story is the relationship between Charles Xavier (rich American) and Erik Lehnsherr (Jewish auschwitz survivor) who are both possessed of amazing mutant powers. Erik's outlook on life is deformed by his experiences at the hands of the Nazis especially those suffered as a result of him falling into the clutches of a despicable item named Sebastian Shaw. As might be expected, Xavier's attitudes are much more middle-class and liberal. This is an excellent and intriguing premise for the movie and the reason why I wanted to see it in the first place.

So far, so good and the first quarter of the movie (though a trifle long and exposition heavy) augers well. Then we slip into familiar 'superhero origins' territory and the mutants come at us thick, fast and increasingly superficial. With most of the action set in the early 60's it's almost inevitable that the Cuban missile crisis should be the centrepiece of the story (tho' Kennedy's assassination might have been more resonant) and here things start to become unravelled, the killer question being why would Shaw be inclined to precipitate WWIII when as many mutants will die as Normals?

And while the plot is flimsy so unfortunately is the casting. Michael Fasbender as Lehnsherr/Magneto is good, but James McAvoy/Xavier is both too old (Xavier is portraited as a 12 year old in 1944 which makes him only 30 in 1962, not McAvoy's 40)  and too British. But while the male characters are bearable the female ones are awful. Coming after the class turn of Rebecca Romijin as Mystique in the first three X-Men films why oh why did they think that Jennifer Lawrence could fill her ... whatever. And January Jones as Emma Frost is nondescript to say the least.

In all the film is too long, too predicatable, has zero emotional heft, has all the characterisational depth of a puddle, has some surprisingly ropey effects (Beast's make-up was appauling) and the historical accuracy is suspect (it was the USSR in 1962 boys, not Russia).

A boring disappointment.

Score: 4/10

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