Monday, June 06, 2011

"X-Men: First Class" (2011) - Movie Review

For all the above average mediocre fun the X-Men series have presented, Matthew Vaughn makes it up in “X- Men: First Class”. A thoroughly entertaining prequel in this series it takes a step above those in presenting James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as Professor X and Magneto respectively in their young glory days and why they are the way they are.

As much as I would generally dislike the obligatory introduction scenes from the main characters’ child hood, Matthew Vaughn sets up that tone from these two main characters that become their core nature of their personality and grow with them unperturbed. Charles Xavier is a kid who graciously accepts a young girl Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) in his home as he realizes that he is not alone in being different. There is an ingrained sense of compassion in this person and he grows to be James McAvoy. Not so much for Erik, the young Magneto who is under the cruel torture of a Nazi doctor to move a coin by his power or Erik’s mom will be shot in front of him. Soon we realize the revenge transforming him to the man he will be. Despite the outcome in these two characters the film treats them as young men in the same predicament approaching it in different ways. Both become great friends learning wisdom and differences in them. Their bond makes this film a better one than the rest of the films in the series.

The film intelligently takes the historic incident to its plot and deviates it just enough. In the edge of cold war becoming a real war, the diabolic Dr. Schmidt who shaped Erik for who he is, is now Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) and is in the process of launching his plan for world domination by invoking a nuclear war between USA and Russia. His beliefs in him being mutant and the idea of human’s predictable reaction of fear and hatred motivates this grand scheme of known plan. Erik is in the pursuit of knocking down the Nazis in hiding waiting for the opportunity to get even with Sebastian. Meanwhile Charles is at Oxford expanding his knowledge and living with his foster sister who is going through the angst of not being herself and unable to find a balance in her life.

After Charles and Erik meet up in confronting their common enemy, the strength of Charles is laid out and given how he models these mutants into using their power effectively and more importantly wisely. Charles is the ultimate good but also naive in the way the world is going to turn out on them. Erik knows the truth as he has witnessed the worst in the humans through the holocaust and cannot wipe out his cynicism towards these predictable personalities. Yet both of them join hands in working with the CIA to get Sebastian’s evil plans foil.

They begin to assemble a team of their own to battle the evil. The recruiting process not only provides fun to the audience but you can see how these two people are enthusiastic in finding these mutants hiding in plain sight. And there is a superb cameo who delivers the one “f” word allowed for a PG-13 efficiently. They find young kids on the cusp of being decimated into permanent identity crisis and rescue them. There is a CIA scientist with a large foot identified immediately by Charles and that is Hank (Nicholas Hoult) who empathizes with Raven. But Erik sees the struggle in Raven and always in the lookout for opportunities to remind her to accept herself for who she is. Easy for him to say being Michael Fassbender.

There is beyond a doubt some splendid work from James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender in providing these comic characters the very much needed characterization. While Fassbender is my personal favourite as he provided performance of a life time in “Hunger” and easily incorporates the young Magneto in this film, James McAvoy somehow excels him. McAvoy has always been the stereotypical nice guy including the bloody “Wanted” but here he exemplifies this noble character and balances him in between idealism and reality. The friendship between him and Erik is truly believable and when the time comes on choosing their path it is little heartbreaking to see these two depart. Knowing the eventual rivalry in the future, it reminds us how friendship can spring from different places and depart at the same.

Matthew Vaughn resurrects this lukewarm series into much more than it would have ever anticipated. While this is not the best comic book film, it is a much better film in providing actors believing in their role and the belief their characters hold. They do not become a caricature in a formulaic comic book film and enhances into something more. Matthew Vaughn’s screenplay alongside Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz and Jane Goldman have their moments of wisdom especially the Zen like advice Charles provides Erik in using his power to maximum and to perfection. While “X-Men: First Class” is no “Batman Begins” or “The Dark Knight”, it is definitely better than the overrated “Iron Man”.

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