Thursday, 2 June 2011

REVIEW: X-Men: First Class - Vaughn gives this franchise a reboot up the arse.

Ah, what a difference a couple of months can make.  It was only back in March that people (The Incredible Suit included) were despairing over the terrible marketing campaign Fox were putting out for X-Men: First Class.  Could it be that an insanely tight production schedule had resulted in a turkey of mutant proportions?
Fast forward to the end of May and First Class debuts to a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and critics hailing it as the best comic book movie since The Dark Knight.
So what's the truth?  While it is certainly not as good as The Dark Knight, it is closer to Batman Begins than Batman & Robin.
A lot of the reviews so far have made comparisons to Christopher Nolan's reboot of the Batman franchise and a lot of them are justified.  Both Tim Burton's Batman and Bryan Singer's X-Men started with the heroes already existing in society.  Nolan went back to the beginning to look at what makes a man dress up as a bat to fight crime, and Vaughn looks at the formation of the X-Men (the recruitment montage features one of the best ever cameos and uses of the F-bomb) and the pivotal moment that turned friends Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnser into the enemies they were are the start of the first film.
"I loved you in Band Of Brothers", "I was going to say the same thing!"
Matthew Vaughn is really coming into his own as a director and delivers a summer blockbuster that nearly manages to break out of the comic book genre and become just a really great movie.  The period setting allows for Vaughn to fulfill his Bond fantasies (to the extent that the villain has a secret submarine in his yacht).  Kick-Ass proved he could do action but he manages to create a fun, action-packed summer blockbuster that never has to sacrifice story or character development. 
He has an impressive ensemble cast that help provide a lot more threads in the Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon game but top marks however must go to the James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence.  Despite the iconic performances of Stewart and McKellen, their younger counterparts quickly make the parts their own.  McAvoy has an impish charm to him, using his power to get girls until fate shows him that he is destined to use this power for a greater purpose, and Fassbender has the steely eyed look of a man who could be the next James Bond, and in this film he becomes a bona fide star.
There is a moment in the film where Xavier helps Magneto achieve the full extent of his powers and the look on Fassbender's face played out with Henry Jackman's music underneath is a truly touching moment which cements their friendship which makes the tragic turn events take all the more sad.
Jennifer Lawrence also makes the most of a terrific story arc that focuses on what has always been at the heart and soul of the X-Men stories: the struggle and fight for acceptance in a world that fears what is different.
First Class is not a perfect film.  Due to the rushed production schedule (it was rewritten, filmed, edited and post production all within a year), unfortunately there are some niggling issues like dodgy CGI, Beast's make-up, missing love story lot between Charles and Moira, a couple of underwritten minor characters, and Fassbender's accent going rather Oirish at times.  But I think that if Vaughn had had a little more time to polish rounds the edges then this could have been a five star film... but unless he gets the chance to tinker with it before the DVD release then he'll have to make do with a rating of 4.5 stars.

4.5 stars

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