Friday, 23 May 2014

X-men: First Class [2011]

X-men; the mutant super heroes, revered and feared in equal measure, fighting a never ending battle with prejudice and ultimately, themselves. First Class takes us back, following on in the ever present need for a franchise prequel. A young Charles Xavier befriends an equally youthful Erik Lensherr embarking on a quest to locate and educate the undiscovered mutants of Earth. In addition, they collectively launch a curiously, highly developed and steadfast defence of the potentially warring US and Soviets, whom have been ignited into action via the
actions of Kevin Bacon (Sebastian Shaw), so often the appropriate face of the designated 'bad-guy'. With the many superhero movies on the 'big' and 'small/large' screens, it is very easy to get swamped with details, knit picking at characters, the way they look, their age (so often a wonder given that they are played by actors, older during the prequel than the original movies; Hugh Jackman for example), the director's interpretation of events and costume...the list goes on. And in exploring these facets one could inevitably whip comic-book fan-boys (and girls) into a frenzy of critique-critique. Nobody knows a comic book character and overall narrative better than they. There is an answer and opinion for everything, based on years of research, knowledge and passion; and quite right. With that in mind, I will on this occasion, refrain from any plot analysis, referring entirely to the parts I 'liked'.

Though not entirely entertained by this X-men outing, there was plenty for me to enjoy; the twenty-something emphatic film-watcher that finds enjoyment in almost (I say almost, knowing there will likely be exceptions) every movie he watches. With X-men: First Class there were a few stand out moments.

1/ Hugh Jackman - plays almost no part whatsoever in a pre-Wolverine X-men, but included perhaps to keep everyone happy and provide pub quizzes across the UK with a decent film/entertainment question for years to come. It is hard to believe, but has Hugh featured in every single X-men movie released since the modern day re-imaginings in the year 2000?! Taking up the role that has made him a Hollywood superstar and forced him into being in the best physical shape of his life, here he contributes a big fat: "Go fuck yourself." I mentioned in previous Marvel commentary that there appears this all-to-apparent shininess which ironically takes the glint away from these movies for a viewer such as myself. This brash, almost real piece of potty mouth script goes a long way towards dirtying the surface and thus (in my opinion) making this moving picture more appealing.

2/ Michael Fassbender - has had an interesting career to date and is someone I frequently enjoy watching on screen. There is something about the look he can give down the lens of a camera that is captivating and confusing at the same time; yet almost always appropriate for the character portrayed. Here he deftly contorts his chiselled features just enough to cut a mentally scarred and painfully angry boy in a powerful mutant-man's body. Most impressive still (as highlighted in Tarantino's: Inglorious Basterds) we see his ability to turn a phrase in another tongue. His German appears impeccable (though with a surname such as his, you would be forgiven to expect it), French-believable, English more than convincing; and when 'super-angry' (see the last 10 minutes) out comes his Irish accent, almost as though a freshly poured, ice cool Guinness has spilt and the battleships of men are solely to blame.

3/ Raven/Mystique - if Raven was masculine, a Greek statue of a being, parading around in a skin hugging, blue, textured body-suit, would he be as easy on the eye to the female onlookers as Rebecca Romijn and Jennifer Lawrence have proven for men? There continues to be little left to the imagination with this lapis lazuli, scaly skinned young woman, two nipples and a pubis short of total nudity. Strangely alluring, she works to hold attention and provide that little hint of sex expected in any big-budget blockbuster (perhaps more subtly dealt with than soft core efforts by the likes of Transformers).  

 Generally this film was fun and passed the time swiftly. It must be said that I think my better half (the one who usually likes films less than I) enjoyed the spectacle more, partly as it was a 'snoozy' Saturday night curled up on the sofa together, partly a continuing discovery of new interests with heightened appreciation for such delights as comic book narrative and heritage (she has just finished a book named 'The Amazing Adventures Of Cavalier And Clay', apparently on the very topic). For me, the special effects were somewhat below par, occasionally a minor distraction, while moments when acting styles and attempts to convey a particular sense visually caused a deep breathed, inner sigh of exasperation (see James two-fingers-to-the-temple McAvoy or the I'm-probably-going-to-wink-right-down-the-lens-of-the-camera, frat-boy swagger of some of the younger mutants).

It takes something truly awful for me to come away feeling perturbed and X-men: First Class managed to avoid frustrating me where X-men: Last Stand succeeded. Still, nothing in the franchise has matched the promise of the 2000 X-men offering (in my humble opinion, of course), but some good performances, plenty of laughs and loads of engaging action sequences to keep one interested. And Mystique of course.