Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Movies 150: X-Men: First Class

Director: Matthew Vaughn
Starring: James McAvoy, Micheal Fassbender, Kevin Bacon and Jennifer Lawrence
Run Time: 132 minutes.
Rated: PG-13
Plot: Before Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time. Before they were archenemies, they were closest of friends, working together, with other Mutants (some familiar, some new), to stop the greatest threat the world has ever known. In the process, a rift between them opened, which began the eternal war between Magneto's Brotherhood and Professor X's X-MEN. Written by Twentieth Century Fox

This movie is the prequel to the X-Men trilogy, chronicling the lives of Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Micheal Fassbender) as friends turned foes that unite to defeat their common enemy, Scientist Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) during the 1960s. For Erik, his motive for defeating Shaw is deeply personal: to avenge the murder of his mother, while Charles is roped into the situation through CIA agent Moira MacTaggart (Rose Byrne).

The legacy of the series aside, this film has most of the key ingredients to concoct a summer blockbuster: the large scale special effects, the dramatic dialogue, and the interesting juxtaposition of romance and humor. Fortunately, though, they aren't overtly over-the-top, they can't be considered a bad thing nor do they detract from the straightforward plot. In fact, these elements help enhance the film's overall impact. Regardless, as I go onto to explain the full plot/setting, you'll realize it's necessary to suspend disbelief.

The plot essential provides an alternate scenario for the 1960's Cuban Missile Crisis, which as the name suggests, is very foreboding. Scientist Shaw has formed his team comprised of his right-hand woman and telepath, Emma Frost (January Jones), teleporter Azazel (Jason Flemyng), flying fire-spitter Angel (Zoe Kravitz), and tornado producer Riptide (Alex Gonzalez). Together, they are determined to intervene with Russia and United States relations to induce WWIII.

Meanwhile, Charles and Erik seek out Mutants to enlist as government operatives to combat Shaw. Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) was an obvious recruit; she and Charles have been like brother and sister since little children. Hank/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) was already an active member of the CIA, Alex/Havok (Lucas Till) was rescued from solitary confinement and Sean/Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones) was a teenager unable to impress girls. Each have unique abilities that, when danger is imminent, are fine-tuned under the instruction of Charles aka Professor X.

Also, as a minor storyline, Raven/Mystique and Hank/Beast struggle to accept their respective Mutant appearances and become "Mutant and proud."

Generally, all performances were decent, but a few stood out. Bacon, for instance, delivers a spot-on performance of a man evil enough to conspire such a plan as nuclear war. He also spoke an impressive three languages (English, German and Russian). Landry Jones stole a lot of the scenes between the youngster, providing timely comic relief. Fassbender, however, was the real star as a tormented soul, desperate to kill Shaw despite everything, including his friendship (okay, speculative "bromance") with the young, potentially naive Professor X, brought remarkably to life by McAvoy.

Clocking in past the two hour mark, this movie is certainly long. Fortunately, though, very few scenes lag and the story is compelling enough to not lose the audience's attention. Seriously, the suspense build-up is tremendous. I think I should mention that the movie does contain some risque material and therefore isn't necessarily suited for the kiddos. That said, its PG-13 rating is appropriate.

The movie ends on such a note that possibly suggests a sequel. I guess we'll have to look out for it summer 2013.

Overall, it is a solid summer movie that everyone, not just die-hard X-men fans, should definitely check out this June.

You can watch the official trailer here.

Rating: 8/10