Kapiti Observer : June 16th 2011
35 THURSDAY, JUNE 16, 2011 ART AND ENTERTAINMENT First class? You better believe it Good to be back: Magneto (Michael Fassbender) stretches his muscles -- and some metal -- in X-Men: First Class, a playful and powerful addition to the X-mythology. X-Men: First Class Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence, January Jones, Nicholas Hoult, Jason Flemyng. Screenplay by Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman, directed by Matthew Vaughn. 132 minutes, rated M (violence, offensive language). Showing at Reading Cinemas Porirua, Light House Pauatahanui. Reviewed by Matt Dallas. X-Men fans would have been forgiven for thinking all hope was lost following the slap in the face that was X-3, and the adamantium claw to the balls that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine. But God bless him, English director Matthew Vaughn has made mutants cool again. It s somewhat ironic that a fran- chise centred on the next step in human evolution should reach back to the past to get its mojo back, but in mining the comic-book s rich mythology -- particularly the com- plex bond between Charles Xavier (Professor X) and Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto) -- Vaughn and has co- writers (including his Kick-Ass companion Jane Goldman) have rekindled the flame that burned so bright in Bryan Singer s X-Men movies. Friendship, philosophy and the burden of being different have been returned to the fore, and the main characters are given room to develop. The most enthralling scenes in First Class are not of Xavier (James McAvoy) and Mag- neto (Michael Fassbender) flexing their mutant powers in epic battles, but of them sharing a beer; finding common ground in their quest for mutant acceptance, and the heartbreak when Erik opts for mutant superiority. Much is being made of the swinging-sixties setting and Vaughn certainly uses it to his advantage, both in the aesthetic look of the picture, and its playful tone. CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) infiltrates a gathering of a secret club of power mongers in Las Vegas by stripping down to her bra and panties, before stumbling upon the secret lair of turtleneck- wearing nasty bugger Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) via a jazzy trap door. I half expected Austin Powers to pop his head in and say Groovy, baby! . But don t fear, the tone here is early James Bond, not the camp 1960s Batman show. Shaw, with the help of the icy Emma Frost (January Jones), a telepath who can turn her body to diamond, and a couple of other handy mutants, conspires to start a nuclear war between the United States and the USSR, culminating in the Cuban Missile Crisis. MacTaggert seeks assistance from Xavier and Lehnsheer, who in turn track down several young mutants struggling with their gifts and the social alienation it s brought them. X-fans will delight in seeing the young Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Mys- tique (Jennifer Lawrence) and Havok hone their powers and go into battle for Professor X for the first time. The recruitment scenes (including a brief but brilliant appearance from Wolverine) are an absolute blast, particularly as you try to figure out who fits in where in the retooling of X-Men lore (ie glorified soap opera). Alex Summer is Havok, whose son Scott will be Cyclops; the devilish Azazel (Jason Flemying) will turn out to be Nightcrawler s poppa, and so on. Whenever so many characters are juggled, it s always hard to give them each their due. But Angel (Zoe Kravitz) is the only one who proves to be a waste of space -- and surely a mutant with fly wings who can produce spitballs of fire should be named Dragonfly? It s all frilly thrills of course; the heart, soul and head of this picture is the Xavier and Lehnsheer dynamic, aided by McAvoy and Fassbender s stellar performances. Some of the scenes between these two is the stuff Star Wars fans would have dreamed of for Obi-wan Kenobi and Anakin Sky- walker in Revenge of the Sith before George Lucas green-screened the life out of them. X-Men: First Class does every- thing it should. It makes you forget about the last two X-movies; want to run home and watch the first two again; and eagerly anticipate the follow-up to this picture.
June 13th 2011
June 20th 2011