The REAL freak show
Given the mutant that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, it’s almost safe to say that the entire backstory to the live-action series is well beyond saving, right? Matthew Vaughn defies the common view to bring X-Men: First Class to life…without as many birth defects as the previous titles. This prequel to the original trilogy sees the establishment of the two warring mutant superpowers: Professor Charles Xavier/Professor X (James McAvoy) and the X-Men, and Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and the Brotherhood of Mutants. The film also spotlights their destructive relationship in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the reigns of the Military and the mysterious Hellfire Club.
For a film that focuses on the circus freak show gone wild, there’s a surprisingly sense of profession about it. CG effects take their full swing immediately, with each character shooting bright lights and exploding in such a way that it feels breathtaking. Vaughn has it shot beautifully and wastes no time in crafting a cinematic masterpiece that pulls its punches and delivers with such flawless dynamism. Every moment is absorbing; it’s not long before you feel catapulted into the drama and First Class takes you on an exhilarating ride that seems to defy the imposed gravity of the series until the thrilling climax.
But to credit the value of the film to such effects and direction is nothing without the actors. Specifically, McAvoy and Fassbender have great chemistry and do a great job in driving the pace and action; slowly and step by step we are made aware of their tragedy and suffering, the hurt that has made them who they are. Each snippet into their lives builds the drama like a pyramid, unfolding and connecting each scene. There’s a great sense of purpose the direction and acting, and even though there’s everything from flying acid-spitting humanoids to teleporting demons, it makes it seem genuinely ‘real’.
The thematic idealism is somewhat limited, but there’s enough to point out the potent subject of revenge explored through Magneto; does killing bring peace? Does one wrong action deserve another? Although there was a lot of potential to explore this further, the film does a good enough job in showcasing the idea of revenge and it’s side effects – specifically, the destruction of everything else surrounding one’s life.
With the excuse of a rushed romantic attitude and the nostalgic smell of a clichéd battle charge, the film is nothing short of brilliant. For a revival that’s based back in the 1960s, there’s plenty of evidence that the X-Men series can ride the horse for a good while to come.