Wednesday, June 8, 2011

School is session with "X-Men: First Class"

By Melissa Murray
Staff Writer
Photo from
Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy star as younger Magneto and Professor X in "X-Men: First Class."
Just when it was beginning to fizzle, director Matthew Vaughn manages to revive the waning X-Men franchise with another movie that may surpass them all.
"X-Men: First Class" details the relationship between Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr prior to them becoming Professor X and Magneto,  proving to be a first class prequel to the four previous X-Men films.    
Set during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the film elaborates on the experiences that cause these two close friends to develop contradictory ideologies on the relationship between mutants and humans and become the archenemies so revered from the comics. The movie also establishes the origin of the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants, two opposing groups of mutants that are the focus of the other films. 
Due to the large cast, many of the secondary characters are underdeveloped. The mutants in the Hellfire Club and the Brotherhood of Mutants lack distinct personalities and only avid fans of the comics will understand the relationship between them. The casting of these characters was spot on except for that of the evil Nazi scientist and mutant Sebastian Shaw, who was played by Kevin Bacon. One can only imagine why the singing and dancing star of "Footloose" was chosen to play the villain. His portrayal of Shaw was neither supremely evil nor over-the-top.
What makes the film such a success is the casting of James McAvoy as Professor X and Michael Fassbender as Magneto.  McAvoy creates a charming and flirtatious Professor X, while Fassbender is much more intense and domineering as Magneto. Both actors give their character a level of depth not seen in the previous films and the relationship between the two is so genuine and supportive that it is hard not to sympathize with both men.
While the film will greatly appeal to new viewers, current fans of X-Men will be pleased to see familiar faces from both the comic books and previous films, though many references are not completely accurate. Mystique and Beast are given adequate background stories and readers of the comics will be able to distinguish minor characters from the books. Hugh Jackman makes a hilarious cameo appearance as Wolverine.
"X-Men: First Class" is full of action and an intriguing plot that successfully provides those who are new to the X-Men franchise an introduction to its most significant characters, while still satisfying current fans with a descriptive origin story of their favorite rivals.

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