X-Men: First Class (12A)

Directed by Matthew Vaughn
On general release from June 1st 2011

Reviewed by Ross O’Toole

More Business Class than First, but still worth the trip...

Surprisingly, First Class feels like a sixties spy film more than your average superhero fare. Visually inspired by the the Bond films of that era, it features arch-baddies plotting ambitious plans in submarines and wetsuit-clad infiltrations of luxury yachts. Set within the context of the 1960’s Cuban Missile crisis, against a familiar backdrop of poker-faced Soviets, it feels as futuristic as it does retro.

The main plot is centered on the friendship between Magneto and Professor X. Magneto, convincingly played by Michael Fassbender, provides the tension with several fantastic performances that are almost Tarantino-like in prose. A young and egotistical Professor X is played by James McAvoy, who employs his powers in the pursuit of women just as much as saving the world. McAvoy plays this sort of character well, but this didn’t prevent me secretly yearning for Patrick Stuart.

The original movies were critically acclaimed for being more than mere Hollywood blockbusters, with their narrative of social exclusion and persecution wrapped up in a context of genetic mutation. First Class once again introduces similar themes, as any good Sci-Fi should, but often seems tired by comparison. It also feels overwrought with characters that suffer from a lack of depth, leaving them feeling somewhat pointless. I would love to see a film that was solely focused on Fassbender and his search for retribution, for these early scenes easily make up the best moments of the film.

I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed with First Class. It is perhaps an above average action film that despite the flashes of brilliance and moments of comic absurdity, feels weighed down and ultimately unable to digest its own ambition.

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