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A Movie A Week#14: X Men: First Class

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In 2010 Matthew Vaughn’s Kick Ass gave the complacent superhero genre a roundhouse kick to the chops. It was a move that didn’t go unnoticed. So when Bryan Singer, Hollywood’s inky-page to silver screen usher was pondering a suitable heir to his throne, the choice was simple.

For his first foray into Marvel’s hallowed ground Vaughn comes up tops.  X Men: First Class is perhaps the studios most mature movie to date – a coming of age tale set against a 60’s backdrop of social change and nuclear threat. It’s Professor X and Magneto: The Early Years, harking back to before they were frenemies and introducing us to Charles and Erik, a couple of young men struggling for acceptance. It’s this helter-skelter relationship that forms the spine of First Class, with Kevin Bacon’s energy stealing Sebastian Shaw and his plan to manipulate the Cuban missile crisis to rebuild humanity providing a common enemy for the power duo.

James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender avoid the limitations of their elder counterparts by making the roles their own. Fassbender equips his holocaust survivor Erik with the calm resolve of a vengeful killer – he’s seen the worst of humanity and it’s clouded his moral compass. McAvoy meanwhile presents his wheelchair-less Charles as a not yet fully formed leader. A toff genius who isn’t above using his intellect to pick up girls. They’re two different sides of the same mutated coin and it’s a clash that totally pays off. Be it in their laugh out loud attempts to enlist some new talent or their touching training sequences – when these two share the screen Vaughn strikes gold.

A few new mutant recruits provide some spectacular story decoration; from January Jones’ diamond skinned Emma Frost, Nicholas Hoult’s reluctant Beast to Jason Flemyng’s red devil Azazel. Unfortunately even a hefty 120 minute running time just isn’t enough to do everyone justice.  Expect to leave the cinema longing for more character exploration and in certain cases, some more lines. However by giving First Class the unrelenting nerve of Nolan’s Batman saga, the points Vaughn loses in character-cramming he more than makes up for in integrity. As a result he manages not only get his cast to don the yellow and blue tights but makes them look effortlessly cool wearing them. No easy task. These fanboy faves might finally be in the right hands, here’s hoping year two is just as thrilling.

Verdict:

Sharp, stylish and sinister.  Matthew Vaughn’s franchise reboot unravels with the charm and suspense of an expertly executed graphic novel. The summer blockbuster bar has been set.

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