Set during The Cuban Missile crisis X-Men: First Class shows how the X-Men came to be, as Professor X sets up his academy and Magneto avenges his mother’s murder at the hands of Kevin Bacon’s energy absorbing Nazi.
All the promotional material, consisting mostly of poorly photo-shopped posters, had me setting my expectations at the floor and I’ve never been much of an X-Men fan anyway. Despite, or perhaps because of, all this X-Men: First Class is surprisingly good, not too many flashy set pieces but instead plenty of character, humour and brutality which comes together to make it the best X-film so far. And I’d say that even if the rest had been any good.
After a bleak opening, this entry into the franchise manages to be fun and tongue in cheek without ever losing its integrity. There are plenty of throwaway references to the earlier films but the real charm comes from the way the characters interact and a particularly slick split-screen montage in the middle of the film. Training mutants has never been so fun. I expect that a lot of the credit for the fun script should go to Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman, they did Kick Ass after all, but without the young cast it might not have been pulled off.
The cast really are good… well the good guys, and I’m including Michael Fassbender’s Magneto in this, are very good. From James McAvoy’s charming Charles Xavier to Jennifer Lawrence’s sexy but vulnerable Mystique, this is a well cast bunch of thespians. Each seems to embody a role we already know without resorting to an imitation. Nicholas Hoult also deserves a shout out for being a brilliant Beast, and for having come so far since Skins. On the bad guys team Kevin Bacon is of course brilliant as Sebastian Shaw, for once a villain wants to blow up the earth and it almost makes sense. His sidekicks are another matter however.
There was a strong sense of a vintage Batman movie about Shaw’s henchmen. Just as comfortable fighting as they are standing in a submarine with headphones on, pretending they know how to operate it. It all felt a bit cartoonish over in Shaw’s submarine, making his group less threatening and more bemusing. January Jones is a stand-out weak link in the cast. Dressed up like a transvestite, she coldly delivers her lines and hopes you’ll be too distracted by her constant display of cleavage and thigh to notice the lack of acting going on. It’s a shame she tarnishes an otherwise fun film.
Consider this as a review from a non X-Men fan, maybe we’ll get one from a proper fan soon, but I still managed to enjoy myself. I have no idea how well this fits in with the “true” X-Men story but it is very entertaining, a bit sexy, and you almost don’t mind that January Jones is in it.
Poster Quote: Good