FILM REVIEW: X-Men: First Class ***
James McAvoy and the great Michael Fassbender in Matthew Vaughn's X-Men: Origins
X-Men purists scoff when I say I enjoyed X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Apparently the first few films in the franchise were more faithful to the spirit of the X-Men (though there are question marks over Halle Berry’s infamously bad wig in the first film). So fans everywhere should be relieved to learn that the latest reboot of the franchise, X-Men: First Class, is not bad and is even at moments intensely enjoyable.
The film is an interesting combination of the buddy/bromance genre that Judd Apatow and company have made de rigueur in Hollywood in recent years (witness The Green Hornet, Batman and Robin) and, well, X-Men comic book stuff.
We get a lot of the background facts that established the ground-rules in the later movies and learn the back stories of the major characters: we find out how Professor X ends up in a wheelchair, what turns Magneto ‘bad’ (though the point of his character is to make such a simplification complex) and why some of the other characters end up romantically linked. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) makes a cameo appearance and so do some characters who will later become villains.
All in all, this profuse back-story stuff is too much and weighs the narrative down. The characters never come to life and we feel like their function is to fulfill a purpose within the X-Men mythology whenever they appear onscreen.
But what makes this film good is Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy who have a good chemistry and unusual depth for the parts. Fassbender is an excellent actor (rightly made famous for his tour de force performance in Steve McQueen’s Hunger) who manages to invest in each role, yet maintains a certain degree of malleability (he appeared in Inglorious Basterds and is due to appear in Cary Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre). UPDATE: There is also some fun stuff involving the Cuban missile crisis!
ALSO SAW: The Eagle
Channing Tatum in The Eagle
This week I also saw The Eagle, another bromance but this time involving a Roman slave, Jamie Bell and Channing Tatum. No, it’s not a gay porn film, I swear!
The movie, by Kevin MacDonald (who did the Last King of Scotland) is ambitious and manages some power. But somehow you leave with a sneaking suspicion that things were changed by Hollywood suits in an attempt to make the film more appealing. The film bears the imprint of a film which was intended to be a sobering vision, made less sobering because of commercial imperatives. That said, there were lots of Romans and they always look good on-screen.