X-Men: First Class (12A)
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Time Out says
Tue May 31 2011How to shoehorn gravitas into your superhero blockbuster? Plonk it at a critical juncture of twentieth-century political diplomacy by giving us a ‘Red Dawn’-style generic rendering of the Cuban Missile Crisis, before suggesting that our boys, the X-Men, were decisive in defusing this showdown? It’s a neat trick, already attempted and bungled by Zack Snyder in ‘Watchmen’. But while the context of Matthew Vaughn’s slick ‘X-Men’ origin story feels like it’s been filched from the notepad of a GCSE History student, there’s no shortage of breathtaking spectacle elsewhere.
Erik Lehnsherr, aka Magneto (Michael Fassbender), is out for the blood of Kevin Bacon’s pantomime scoundrel Sebastian Shaw, the energy-sapping mutant Nazi who executed Erik’s mother. Meanwhile, in the cosy real-ale pubs of Oxford, fledgling genetics professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) has been roped-in by the CIA to use his telepathic powers to locate Shaw. What follows is a jolly collection of snappy montages, FX setpieces, a killer fanboy cameo and a torrent of disposable wisecracks that, while functioning perfectly as stand-alone episodes, fail to cohere.
McAvoy plays Xavier as a raffish boffin and his charming performance is one of the film’s high points. Fassbender, too, is on teeth-clenching powerhouse mode, until his accent dies a death on the home stretch. Jennifer Lawrence is less convincing as shapely shape-shifter Mystique, the torch-bearer for the film’s obligatory investigation into issues of identity and who dubiously adapts the black power slogan into ‘I’m a mutant and proud’. As with the previous ‘X-Men’ films, the many mutants look like they serve no purpose other than to be pretty punching bags for the film’s climactic scuffle. You wish as much time was spent on drawing together the disperate elements and devising a ripping yarn than was spent concocting the shiver-inducing final death scene, which – props to Vaughn – really is one for the ages.
Author: David Jenkins
Thu Jun 2 2011