The Flick Chicks

Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

X-Men: First Class

Submit to DeliciousSubmit to DiggSubmit to FacebookSubmit to Google BookmarksSubmit to StumbleuponSubmit to TechnoratiSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedIn

4_Chicks_Small Judy Thorburn

judy-thorburn-editor
Las Vegas Round The Clock - www.lasvegasroundtheclock.com
Women's Film Critic Circle - www.wfcc.wordpress.com
Nevada Film Critics Society - www.nevadafilmcriticssociety.org
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

4_Chicks_LG

 

X-Men: First Class is the fifth installment of the X Men movie franchise based on the Marvel comic books. The last two movies (2006's X-Men: The Last Stand and 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine) were major disappointments appearing tired and worn out, but this reboot directed by Michael Vaughn (Kick Ass) adds new life to the series by bringing back all the elements that made the first two movies so enjoyable. I've got to hand it to Vaughn. He does a kick ass job (pun intended) delivering a fast paced, fun, action packed adventure with a entirely new and solid cast. Bryan Singer, who directed the first two films, returns as producer and co-writer.

Rather than another sequel, First Class is a prequel that takes us back to the beginnings and origins of the X-Men team of superhero mutants. The focus is on two pivotal characters, Charles Xavier (played here as adult by James McAvoy) and Erick Lehnsherr (a magnetic, star making performance by Michael Fassbender dripping with charisma and sex appeal) and explores the circumstances that led to them becoming friends and allies to eventual adversaries known respectively as Professor X and Magneto (their elder counterparts were played Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in the previous films). Although polar opposites with distinctly different backgrounds, personalties, and views of human society, they share one thing in common. Both are a product of genetic mutation, the next stage of human evolution, and possess a unique and powerful ability.

With the backdrop of the early 60's, at the height of the Cold War, factual historical events and fiction are woven together to create a backstory that begins during World War II in 1944 with the introduction of two young boys experiencing entirely different lives on separate continents.

In a Nazi concentration camp in Poland, a young boy, Erik Lehnsherr (Laurence Belcher)witnesses the brutal killing of his mother by Klaus Schmidt, a ruthless Mengele-like doctor, (a deliciously evil Kevin Bacon) who has witnessed Erik's power of telekinesis in action and wants to harness, develop and use it for his own malicious agenda.

In a world apart, another boy, Charles Xavier (Bill Milner) living a privileged life in a Westchester mansion taps into his ability to read minds, after he is confronted in his kitchen by an imposter looking like his mother. She turns out to be a young, scaly, blue skinned shapeshifter, Raven (later to be known as Mystique). Happy to discover he isn't the only one like himself, Charles immediately bonds with the girl and takes her in as his sister/best friend and eventual assistant.

Fast forward eighteen years to 1962 and a grown up Erik (now played with fierce conviction by Fassbender), consumed with rage, anger and revenge, has one thing on his mind, to find and kill the doctor responsible for his mother's death even if it means traveling the world.

Schmidt now goes by the name Sebastian Shaw and runs a gentlemen's club in Las Vegas. By his side is his right hand woman, an icy, diamond skinned, telepath named Emma Frost (played with suitable, cold, emotionless superiority by Ad Men's January Jones, displaying an overabundance of cleavage), along with two equally villainous mutants Riptide (Alex Gonzalex) and red faced demon (Jason Flemyng) eager to unleash their own extraordinary powers.

Meanwhile, in England, Charles, now a charming ladies man and idealistic Professor of genetic mutation at Oxford, shares an apartment with his faithful, fellow mutant Raven/Mystique (a strong, sensitive performance by Winter's Bone Oscar nominee, Jennifer Lawrence).

Eric and Charles eventually meet after a pretty CIA agent, Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne, presently seen in the comedy 'Bridesmaids') enlists the aid of Charles in an operation to stop megalomaniac Shaw, himself a mutant with the power to absorb and redirect energy, from starting a nuclear war between the superpowers.

Joining forces to fight a common enemy, Eric and Charles begin recruiting other young mutants for their team, starting with Dr. Hank McCoy, aka Beast (Nicholas Hoult) working right under their eyes as a scientist for the CIA, a 'high flying' stripper with wings named Angel (rocker Lenny Kravitz's daughter, Zoe) who can also spit fire balls; sonic screamer Sean/Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones); the adaptable Armando/Darwin (Edi Gathegi); and Alex aka, plasma blasting Havok (Lucas Till).

Using the Cuban Missile Crisis as a plot device, the mutants on both sides of the fence are interjected into the revisited and reimagined scenario that includes actual archival black and white footage of JFK and Nikita Khruschev. There is also a subplot regarding Raven/Mystique's personal inner turmoil and complex relationships with several male characters that sets the stage for a future alliance.

MacAvoy is as good as ever but it is Fassbender (Inglorious Basterds, Jane Eyre), that took hold of my attention with his commanding presence. This guy is hot AND he can act!

By far, the best X-Men flick since the original, X-Men:FC is a stylish and suspenseful fantasy blending James Bond-like espionage elements with political intrigue and eye popping CGI effects.

X Men fans will get a kick out of the humorous quick cameos by two stars as key characters they originated in the prior installments. The film also answers the question as to what caused Professor X to eventually be wheelchair bound. My only gripe is although the year is supposed to be 1962, liberties were taken in depicting hairdos, fashions and dance moves that weren't in style until the mid 60's.

Dismissing that, which many may not even notice, X-Men;FC is sure to be among the summer blockbusters. As first class entertainment, it makes the grade.