Go to the WilliamHussey home page | skip to main menu | skip to content

First Class – Four Grins

After being sniffy about the photoshopped poster in my last post, I’m back to tell you X-Men First Class is bloody brilliant! I went the other night with a few friends and came out grinning. If I was running a star system here for my occasional ramblings about movies, books, TV stuff etc, I’d probably give X-Men four : ) out of 5. But that wouldn’t really work, would it? I mean, a one or two grin review would surely constitute a : ( or even a >:-(  , and that would be just plain silly… See what I mean about rambling! Alas, I think this will be my reviewing style – all wandering off at tangents punctuated by the odd exclamation mark…!

Back to X-Men – WARNING: spoilers follow.

I liked lots of things about it: the art department, wardrobe, makeup, CGI boffins etc have done an amazing job conjuring up the 1960s. The temptation with an historical movie, especially with a period as iconic as the 60s, is probably to go overboard on the design. In this instance the team behind the scenes seem to have taken their cue from the early Bond movies and stayed discretely faithful to the time. If they’d really pushed the whole cool 60s vibe too far it would have taken the viewer out of the experience, so kudos for that.

The casting is, on the whole, pretty darn perfect. Michael Fassbender as the nascent Magneto is the standout here, giving a performance that is, by turns, wounded and dangerous. The Frankenstein’s monster in search of his creator motif is played to perfection by an actor who seems to possess a unique ability to emote and be guarded at the same time. James McAvoy does a fine job as Professor X, conveying the spirit of the character we know from the first 3 X-Men movies without doing a slavish impersonation of Patrick Stewart. I would have liked to have seen his relationship with Erik Lensherr deepen and evolve over more films before the inevitable parting of the ways – do we really buy that fractured brotherly relationship when it’s only been allowed to develop over the course of a few weeks? – but these actors nevertheless make you feel the tragedy of the parting very deeply in film’s closing minutes. I confess to having a lump in my throat!

The script and direction, courtesy of Kick-Ass’ Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn respectively, is generally very tight and the movie whips along at a breakneck pace, switching from location to location at such a rate of knots that I felt a little jet-lagged! It’s giddy stuff, reminiscent of the globetrotting escapades of Bond at his finest. The opening scenes in the Nazi death camp in 1944 are particularly well-handled: blunt, brutish, and without too much moustache-twirling from Kevin Bacon’s Sebastian Shaw. Another minor niggle here, though. Shaw is wonderfully creepy as the Josef Mengele-esque camp doctor in these scenes, but there does seem to be a bit of a gulf between this character and the later depiction of Shaw as a 60s playboy. I know that part of the point of this bad guy is that he can rejuvenate his appearance, but the problem is more than skin-deep. I just don’t buy the idea that these two people are the same character.

As with all X-Men films, some characters are given short shrift. Fun as they are, Banshee, Angel, Havok & Darwin etc aren’t allowed much screen time and the doubtlessly talented actors who portray them must feel a little short-changed. That said, their introduction sequences courtesy of a prototype Cerebro are very amusing (watch out here for a killer cameo that had the whole cinema in fits of giggles!). Nicholas Hoult has a bumbling charm as Dr Hank McCoy, and is given a little more development, his character’s motivation playing directly into the storyline developed for Jennifer Lawrence’s Raven/Mystique (the tension between wanting to fit in and proclaiming to the world ‘mutant and proud!’). The training sequences for these young G-men (not X-men yet) add some much-needed humour to a tale full of darkness of foreboding – Banshee’s scream-powered flight is… well… a hoot!

As for the plot, it’s a nicely-handled mutant-flavoured take on the Cuban missile crisis, once again bringing in a Cold War espionage-tinged believability. The action is well-directed with each of Xavier’s first class given something to do (though I would have liked to have seen more of Beast’s athletic, balletic fighting skills). The film’s coda is a beauty, too, leaving the audience with a chill snaking down the spine and a hunger for more First Class action.

All in all, X-Men: First Class has enough magnetism and smarts to make both Erik Lensherr and Charles Xavier very proud.

One Response to “First Class – Four Grins”

  1. Dan O. says:

    It may not be subtle, but it is a return to what made the series so good in the first place [and is] the first X-Men movie to contain some truly spectacular action/special-effects set pieces. Also, McAvoy and Fassbender are great as Professor X and Magneto. Good Review! Check out mine when you can!

Leave a Reply