Review: X-Men First Class

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Peace was never an option

X-Men First Class takes place in the 1960s following James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier and Michael Fassebender’s Erik Lensherr. Before they were archenemies, they were closest of friends, working together and forming the first class of the X-Men. Working with CIA they intend to stop Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) from starting a third world war that would lead to the death of humanity and the rise of mutants.

The main problem with X-Men First Class (and I’ve now seen it twice) is the amount of story and characters the film has to get through. It bolts through its narrative starting in New York, before heading to Poland, Oxford, Switzerland, Las Vegas, Washington, Argentina and Miami, all within the first half an hour or so. This leads to many brief scenes in which character and plot details need to be laid down before we’re off to another location and another part of the story. It’s often breathless and exciting stuff as Vaughn and Goldman try to keep the film on the tracks. It’s a pace the film runs at for the good majority of its first hour but it feels as if they are too many concurrent storylines and too many characters for the film to fully satisfy each one.

This leads to the film giving most of its attention to Xavier’s and Lensherr’s warring ideologies. Its good stuff with each actor embracing their viewpoints and, for all intents and purposes, forming the fractured relationship that audiences would see in the X-Men trilogy. When the film focuses a little more on its secondary and tertiary characters, things aren’t quite as good. Apart from Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) the other characters are fairly one-dimensional and underdeveloped, Darwin being a case in point as he becomes (spoiler!) little more than mutant fodder (end spoiler!). Kevin Bacon excels as Hellfire Club owner Sebastian Shaw, a former Nazi scientisr and generally unfeeling bastard who has a lot of fun in his role. Nonetheless the lack of character development strikes again in the form of Shaw’s cohorts as they’re barely given a personality and, in the case of January Jones Emma Frost, she fails to impart any in the scenes she’s involved in.

Reflecting on First Class, it’s a fast, enjoyable entry into the X-Men franchise. Certainly better than the turgid Wolverine, the jam-packed The Last Stand and the first X-Men film. It lacks the polish (in its visual effects especially) to compete with franchise’s best moments in X2-X-Men United, however considering the brief development time it had, First Class meets expectations and then some, but only just.

7/10

 

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Posted on 23/06/2011, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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