X-Men: First Class (2011)
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Written by: Ashley Miller, Bryan Singer, Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn, Sheldon Turner, Zack Stentz
Starring: James McAvoy, January Jones, Jason Flemyng, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Bacon, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne
At a German concentration camp in occupied Poland during 1944, scientist Sebastian Shaw forces young Erik Lensherr to move a coin with his mind by shooting his mother. Elsewhere in New York, young Charles Xavier encounters a shape-shifting girl called Raven in his kitchen and invites her to live with his family. Moving forward to 1962, Lensherr is out for revenge against Shaw for turning him into a monster and Xavier is in England, an Oxford University graduate. CIA agent Moira MacTaggart turns up and recruits Xavier to help her track down Shaw, who might just be out to cause a nuclear war, but Lensherr might get to him first…………
I didn’t expect much from X-Men:First Class, especially considering none of the previous X-Men movies, whilst perfectly okay, have really done it for me, with the possible exception of the third, which, against general opinion, I found more enjoyable than both the first and the second [and certainly the fourth]. I was wrong though-this is the best of all the movies, a clever, highly entertaining adventure whose tone is perfectly balanced by director Matthew Vaughn. The story is done mostly seriously, but, unlike Bryan Singer [the man who has no feel whatsoever for the superhero genre but has somehow managed to make three movies of that nature], Vaughn, who also co-wrote the script, throws in some nicely judged lighter sequences [ such as when Xavier is trying to recruit some more mutants and a hilarious cameo], and keeps the pace thundering forward. Scenes are mostly short and to the point, while the action scenes, though often a little short for my liking, are inventive and exciting. Unfortunately the final set piece, while it has some stunning moments, sometimes goes overboard with the fast cutting and becomes almost incoherent, and the film throughout suffers from some really poor CGI. Honestly, the effects are really inept at times, so much so that sometimes the backgrounds resemble a cartoon! This is also the most brutal of the films, with knives impaling hands to tables, coins smashing through heads and barbed wire crushing soldiers, and I’m not sure it’s needed. Still, with fine performances all round, a throbbing score from Henry Jackman [the first full score he’s done], not to mention some great new mutants, this ticks most of the the boxes required and may end up being the best superhero movie this year.