Wednesday, 8 June 2011
CINEMA: X-MEN FIRST CLASS
So, here we have it: the movie origin of the X-Men.
1944 and ten year old Charles Xavier meets the even younger Raven/Mystique in his mansion where she's broken in to steal food and becomes his foster-sister. At the same time, the Jewish child Erik Lensherr is mentally tortured and brutalised by concentration camp commandant (who later assumes the alias of) Sebastian Shaw into developing his mutant powers. 1962 and Charles has just received his PhD when he meets CIA agent Moira McTaggert and they begin working together. Erik has been hunting and killing escaped Nazis in his quest to find and kill Shaw (who shot his mother in front of him). They meet and begin working together along with young genius scientist Hank McCoy. Learning that Shaw (who is a mutant) has his own gang of mutant killers, the two friends look for and find their own gang of young mutants, two of whom are right on their doorstep. And the scene is set for the true story of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 where we learn how Erik became Magneto and Charles became a cripple and founded his school for mutants.
So, is it any good?
There are two answers to that. The first is from the general cinema goer's point of view, that is someone who isn't steeped in X-Men lore but likes a good super-hero/sf type of movie. It's not bad, easy enough to follow and despite the number of characters all are quite identifiable, a little talky perhaps, but with good special effects, good acting and some spectacular scenes. Just one thing: by the end of the X3, Charles Xavier and Magneto would have to be 80something and they look nothing like it. Probably a 7/10, worth seeing but maybe not a second time.
From the X-Men fan: Arrrgghhh!!
Okay, it's sorta consistent with Stan and Jack's (that's Lee & Kirby) original comics which came out at that time, but they changed things that were better off not being changed. Moira McTaggert was a Scottish scientist but I suppose this version suits the plot better and she (Rose Byrne) does have chemistry with McAvoy. The original Banshee was a mature Irishman only a little younger than Xavier, not an American teen, and was a better character for it; at least they get the costume right. I can live with Mystique being Prof X's foster sister at a stretch. But Hank McCoy was never a skinny kid. He was always big and boisterous even if that did hide a sensitive nature, and the hairy makeup was crap in X3 and it's crap here. Nick Hoult, good actor though he is, was totally wrong for the part. On the other hand, James McAvoy is great as Xavier with his gentle humour and humanity and, in great counterpoint, Irish (not German, Roger Ebert) actor Michael Fassbender is just as good as proto-Magneto, all ruthless intensity and bitterness. January Jones is suitably sexy as Emma Frost. The best bit though just might be Wolverine's ten second cameo. There are also lots of in-references for the fan to pick up on. So, good but could have been better.
And both points of view are pretty much how I feel about it.