Film Reviews

X MEN: FIRST CLASS

By • Jun 8th, 2011 •

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It’s the love story of Charles and Erik.

Mutants hate their special gifts. Why?

Gone and good riddance are the beloved old guys. It was time to re-cast the teenage mutant with unknowns and re-energize the franchise. It works, thanks to Michael Fassbender.

The night before seeing X MEN: FIRST CLASS, I watched writer/director Andrea Arnold’s 2009 film FISH TANK starring Katie Jarvis and Michael Fassbender. With X MEN: FIRST CLASS Fassbender will be a legitimate sex symbol. He has been re-made by very good, subtle plastic surgery and a new set of teeth. Fassbender’s dangerous sexual allure was evident in FISH TANK (as a lower class working “creep” involved with both a single mother and her 15 year-old daughter) but is in full bloom in X MEN: FC. He dominates X MEN: FC.

Whatever was done since FISH TANK to enhance Fassbender’s facial features, he has a look of cruelty that comes across on screen without much effort. I don’t know if it is his high forehead, dominant chin, sculptured nose, broad cheekbones, chiseled square jaw, or the way Fassbender holds his mouth. Maybe it is the ratio of his eyes to his nose. Whatever it is, his face allows us to believe he is capable of casual cruelty. And this will prove to be intoxicating to audiences.

The drumroll is already beginning – when Daniel Craig leaves James Bond – Fassbender should be the frontrunner to take over the iconic role. He’s got the accent.

X-MEN: FC’s director, Matthew Vaughn, clearly showers Fassbender as Erik (the future Magneto) with appreciative close-ups, a sexy turtleneck wardrobe, and masculine posturing. James McAvoy, as Charles (the future Professor X), not so much.

As you all know, X-MEN: FC brings us the beginnings of Erik and Charles. Gifted 12-year-old Erik Lehnsherr is in a Nazi Germany concentration camp separated from his mother. Camp doctor Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) finds out that Erik has unusual abilities and demands Erik display them or he will kill his mother. When Erik refuses, Shaw kills his mother thus altering Erik’s psyche forever. Erik is damaged goods. It’s the foreshadowing of Magneto.

As for Charles, he is blessed with a childhood of privilege in Westchester, New York. Charles and his adopted sister/best friend Raven (Jennifer Lawrence as an adult) have mutant powers.

We quickly move to the 1960s, JFK, Khrushchev, and The Cold War. The CIA is looking for mutants and recruits Charles and Raven with the help of a rich nameless CIA operative (Oliver Platt) and a no-nonsense agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne). Everybody is upset about missiles in Turkey.

Meanwhile, Erik is still looking for revenge. Shaw has developed super-super powers and conquered aging. Shaw has a beautiful mutant girlfriend, Emma Frost (January Jones), who has telepathic abilities and can change herself into a diamond of, I assume, the highest quality of the 4C’s (cut, carat, clarity and color). Shaw’s entourage also consists of two interesting nameless mutant men with impressive powers.

Charles finds an array of other teenage mutants with various obscure special talents that are useless for a future career in the real world. The cast of teenage mutants is rather mundane. They hate being outsiders. They are not especially well-drawn by screenwriters Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn. It is understandable since the four screenwriters had a lot to do integrating the Soviet Union, Cuba, the KBG and the CIA in the story.

I liked Charles’ obsession with mutantology through evolution. The evolution of mankind needs lots of practice runs – so let’s encourage population growth! My new campaign is to not hold back populations but encourage it. Evolution occurs through mutations. The more people, the more chances a mutation might prove beneficial.

There’s no getting around the fact that X MEN: FC is a love story. Vaughn cannot avoid Charles and Erik gazing at each other with admiration and longing. They seem to only have eyes for each other.

I liked the clever cameos but could have done without the battle scenes. Bacon, the old pro, knows that villains are happy fellows. He plays Shaw as a gleeful, billionaire monster with fabulous toys. I could easily gripe about Charles behaving like a charity event psychic – with his fingers to his forehead every time he showed off his telepathic skills – and Erik’s outstretched, clenched fist and contoured face – when he shows off his powers.

X MEN: FC has a darker and meaner storyline, richly executed by Vaughn.

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