Monday, May 30, 2011
X-Men: First Class - Official Trailer
One might have thought that after four previous films (and that ill-fated Wolverine excursion), crafting a convincing X-Men premise would be nigh on impossible, even if one goes for the origins.
But, as he proved with the raucously perceptive 'Kick-Ass" Matthew Vaughn is not your run-of-the-mill comic story adapter. Starting in Nazi-occupied Poland, and wending his way across the globe to the big Cuban Missile Crisis finale, Vaughn gives us X-Men (and women) that are more human than mutant, despite their obvious gifts.
The centrepiece is the uneasy bond between Charles Francis Xavier (later Professor X) and Erik Lensherr (later Magneto); the former living a sheltered life in the Us amid the chaos of WWII, the latter enduring his own private hell - including seeing his mother murdered before his eyes - while in a Nazi camp. Around the pillars of Xavier's telepathy and curiosity and Lensherr's drive for revenge and metal-bending prowess, the team of gifted kids is built in a kind of "American Idol" for heroes.
All of this is occurring while bad guy extraordinarire Sebastian Shaw (played with the right amount of smarminess by Kevin Bacon) is busy pitting Cold War adversaries US and the USSR against each other. His plan: to initiate a nuclear conflict that will wipe out much of humanity. This will clear the way for mutants, like himself (his gift: absorbing and re-directing energy from things like.... explosions). Throw in a stereotypically bureaucratic and skeptical CIA team (with the exception of one official - Oliver Platt) and you have an intriguing set up.
The combination of the geopolitical and interpersonal conflicts are well handled and Vaughn gets good service form his cast, especially the two leads, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. The latter actor in particular offers a compelling mix of violence and intelligence, holding his own in verbal sparring with Xavier, or driving a steak knife through an intended target of his vengeance.
As "serious" movie, this X-Men somehow manages to never forget that its also a comic book, and that balancing act alone makes it a worthy ticket.