One very magnetic mutant really helps X-Men: First Class“
Fans who like the back stories of their big screen superheroes should love “X-men: First Class” a prequel of sorts which spends a lot of time introducing the characters that formed the basis for the first three films. Nothing earth shattering here to disclose and even the very character based storyline isn’t all that revealing save the performance of one particular mutant.
But there’s something to be respected about a film that doesn’t spend most of its time in mindless action—in fact the only extended action sequence comes near the end of “First Class.” A lack of action could be the demise of a superhero film, and there will be some audiences that may not appreciate the films exposition-heavy script brought to life stylishly by director and co-writer Matthew Vaughn. (“Layer Cake”).
Unless you’re a serious fan of the comic books you practically need a score card to keep track of all the characters involved, but here goes:
The film starts at a concentration camp in WWII where we learn why young Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender, “Jane Eyre,” “Inglorious Bastards”) will spend his life avenging the brutality of Nazi megalomaniac Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon). His anger coupled with his magnetic powers are in stark contrast to the gentler, telepathic Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) who, fast forward to 1962, as a CIA advisor is assembling a team of other similarly skilled mutants to combat Shaw and his plans for nuclear Armageddon.
The other mutants including Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Darwin (Edi Gathegi), Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones), Havoc (Lucas Till), Beast (Hank McCoy) Angel (Zoe Kravitz) have lesser roles and along with deliciously beautiful but non-emotive villain Emma Frost (January Jones) don’t get much character development despite the film’s rather long running time. (2 hrs, 10 min.)
In an origin based story line, underdeveloped characters could be a problem, but Fassbender’s Erik/Magneto performance is so compelling and dynamic that it becomes clear why the filmmakers chose to focus on his character. (Early scripts had this installment as his origin story much like the underrated X-Men fourth installment that focused on Wolverine, who by the way makes an unforgettable, two word cameo here).
Even with Fassbender’s terrific portrayal, some excellent film work, a thrilling soundtrack and globe hopping venues, “X-Men: First Class” may not get better with age. It covers important territory to be sure but after all, a lack of memorable action sequences in a film of this genre reduces, for many, the demand for multiple viewings.
Rated PG for intense sequences of action and violence some sexual content including brief partial nudity and language.