“If you’re using half your concentration to look normal, then you’re only half paying attention to whatever else you’re doing.” X-Men: First Class (2011)
***Caution: Here may be spoilers, reluctance to slag off Matthew Vaughn, and underneath it all there are most likely subconscious randy thoughts concerning Jane Goldman***
“X Meh” was the only reaction I had to the trailer for X-Men: First Class on first seeing it. With the exception of January Jones in a state of undress, I didn’t hold out much hope for anything else that would hold my attention…
…Holy shit, was I proved rather wrong.
In a departure from recent Marvel outpourings, where the best scenes are shown before you even enter the theatre, X-Men: First Class kept its cards close to the chest. A clunky trailer with an awkward voiceover doesn’t leave you expecting the slick, well-executed package that awaits.
It’s entertaining, there are some great sequences – most notably the ‘mutant hunt’ Charles and Erik embark upon – the whole thing is suitably stylish and works with the sixties aesthetic, and the origin fits with the previous films. We get an angle on the whole nickname thing, the Hellfire Club is thrown in, and an excuse for that bloody ridiculous helmet is offered up…but the genius seems to be in the casting.
James McAvoy makes a perfect young Charles Xavier, using his knowledge of and proficiency in genetics to not only gain himself professor status, but also charm the ladies. Sleazy bastard that he is. Both Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique and Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy pull off suitably confused and awkward performances, before each reconciling themselves with their mutant abilities in their own way. Kevin Bacon excels in the role of the villainous Sebastian Shaw, even more so in his previous incarnation of sadistic, tache-sporting friend of the fuhrer. Poor January Jones has taken a little beating from some as being ‘wooden’ but – forgive me if I’m wrong – that fits like a glove with the Emma Frost I’ve known in the comics. Cold and unfeeling, icy. Bill Milner as the young Erik is genuinely quite heartbreaking. If I have any complaints, they are minor…mainly that Banshee was a bit ropey and we deserved more Darwin.
But enough about the others. Let me skim over everything else and head straight to Fassbender. Michael Fassbender. Yeah, that’s not a Bond reference. Unlike most, I’d rather he didn’t do Bond. The man is almost too good for Bond. A swaggering mass of suave that the 007 franchise wouldn’t be able to handle. Christ, the man made me forget about Ian McKellen. He *is* Magneto. Fassbender stole the whole film with one scene. Beer in Argentina. Hell yes. You ain’t seen a Nazi Hunter till you’ve seen Erik Lehnsherr in action. We’ll just forget about the occasional slide into the Irish accent and focus on him torturing a bank manager instead, shall we?
With regards to the much talked about cameo? Well, it can go fuck itself…if you pardon the turn of phrase. There’s far better acting talent on display in minor roles that pretty much blows a certain clawed hard man out of the water. My excitement at finding both Ray Wise and James Remar in the war room took any shine away from that moment.
Overall, taking the franchise back to its cold war era roots was a stroke of genius. We get to see the characters back in the environment they were originally created for, which works to great effect. The paranoia of the America of the early sixties and the threat of terrors unknown. Pretty damn fine effort all round, I’d say. Might go back a second time, if only to play ‘spot Tony Curran’.
Oh, and can anyone suggest anything I can watch Rose Byrne in where she doesn’t look so worried?