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X-Men: First Class

June 12, 2011

X-Men: First Class (2011)
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Actors: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon

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Review: The US government enlists the help of Mutants with superhuman abilities to stop a malicious dictator who is determined to start World War III.

Synopsis: I’ve never been the biggest fan of the X-Men movie franchise. Of course, it will ultimately be judged on its profitability and crowd-pleasing exploits, but I’ve always found it hard to take the series’ po-faced ‘mutant’ politicking seriously, when it conflates cartoonish supernatural abilities (being able to breath fire, fly, turn blue etc) with disability/civil rights rhetoric. The only saving grace of the previous movies was the gravitas casting of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in the lead roles, and much like in those movies where the minor mutant characters failed to make much of an impact, in X-Men: First Class the drama only gains frisson when the younger versions of Professor X and Magneto, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, take centre stage. Unlike some commentators, I actually think McAvoy gives the better performance here – I know Fassbender has already amassed an impressive CV with memorable roles in Hunger and Fish Tank, but he never quite hits the right note, marred somewhat by the weak fleshing out of his character’s Nazi-chasing motives (was Kevin Bacon really the best casting as an evil ex-Nazi?!), and bizarrely by the end of the film, Fassbender’s character seems to have acquired his own native Irish accent. Nitpicking aside, X-Men: First Class just about merits a watch as one of the better summer popcorn spectacles around, though whether it’s earned a run as a new ‘young’ X-Men franchise will ultimately depend on the numbers. (June 2011)

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