We just can’t get enough of the superhero movie thing, can we? Well, yeah, I guess we can. I’m getting spandex fatigue, I swear, which is bad for even good superhero movies, like this one.
X-Men: First Class is the story of how Professor X comes to set up his school for exceptional children and Magneto becomes an anti-human villain. The movie starts with a fleshed out version of the scene shown in the first X-Men movie (from eleven years ago) with the future Magneto being torn away from his parents at a Nazi concentration camp. Then it flips to, I dunno, Westchester County or someplace in New York, I think, where Professor X finds a naked, underage Mystique in his kitchen.
The Boy and The Flower had trouble with telling young Magneto and Prof X apart, which caused some confusion early on. I would have, too, actually, but I had a clearer view of the narrative going in.
Professor X grows up to be James McAvoy and Magneto grows up to be Michael Fassbender, so there’s no shortage of acting in this movie. Naked child Mystique grows up to be Jennifer Lawrence, who is mostly clothed throughout the rest of the movie—unlike previous Mystique, Rebecca Romijn, who remains the only actress in modern movie history who actually looks sexier than the comic book character she’s based on.
Also, unlike Rebecca Romijn, Lawrence’s features don’t seem to translate all that well to being blue. Which is actually nothing compared to January Jones’ Emma Frost, who looks positively homely somehow. Maybe it’s just me, though. People seem to like her on that Angry Man show. Er, “Mad Men”.
But this is getting lost in the weeds. Lawrence is a fine actress who does a fine job.
Also doing a typically fine job is Kevin Bacon, as the Nazi torturer/mutating mad scientist bent on destruction of the non-mutant world.
The backdrop is the Cuban Missile Crisis, as X and Mag rush to create a group of mutants to defeat Bacon’s mutants and prevent the world from being destroyed by World War III. (Memo to self: Tell kids that the Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved without mutant help, most likely.)
This allows the costume department to dress up the girls in cute mod outfits, and for McAvoy to say “Mutations are groovy, baby” (or something similar) when trying to pick up chicks. It also caused a twinge for me, as the film featured Citroëns like the kind my dad had when I was a kid. (He actually offered me one of them when I hit sixteen but they were really old and my mom nixed that idea.)
Good acting all around, even in the smaller parts (including Rose Byrne of Bridesmaids and Insidious) and even bit parts, which feature Oliver Platt, Ray Wise, Michael Ironside, James Remar—just tough to complain.
The actual action is occasionally muddled, especially in the two big fight scenes, which really didn’t grab me much. Director Matthew Vaughn did better with the more mundane fighting his last effort Kick Ass. Though it’s only decent to point out Vaughn’s 4-for-4, with his other two movies being the entertaining and very different Layer Cake and Stardust.
It didn’t really thrill me, though. All of us walked out with the same approximate attitude: Fun, entertaining, but a little long, and not really knock-your-socks-off great. Which, come to think of it, is how I felt after Vaughn’s other three films: Pleased. Warm, even. But not excited.
Might be the director or might just be comic book fatigue, as mentioned earlier.
In any case, I would recommend it if you’re not adverse to comic book movies, or not feeling over-saturated with them.