X-Men: First Class

Year: 2011
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Matthew Vaughan
Producer: Bryan Singer
Writer: Matthew Vaughan/Ashley Edward Miller/Zack Stentz/Jane Goldman
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Bacon, Rose Byrne, January Jones, Jason Flyming, Nicholas Hoult, Oliver Platt, Ray Wise, Michael Ironside, Hugh Jackman

Critics and audiences are falling all over themselves in their near-unanimous praise of this film, and I'll happily admit it had an edge over the other origin story, first doubts, niche-finding, well-worn paths we're going to see in films like Thor and Captain America (and that's only this year).

I'm happy to admit it had a suave, Bond/Playboy-themed 60s vibe, with design and costuming throwbacks to another era to the extent you expect a Monty Norman track in the soundtrack. I'm happy to say the story was strong, the performances were adequate to the genre and the stuff scattered here and there for fans of the comic or other movies were welcome, particularly the laugh-out loud Wolverine cameo.

I'm happy to admit to all that, but when all's said and done it's still just another Marvel comic book movie. And I'll add a criticism that isn't even inherent in it being another comic book movie – at times the special effects were ridiculous. Not just ropey at times, like they were in the submarine beaching scene – they formed the basis for some ridiculous action, like the guy who can keep himself aloft by screaming flying around being chased by the girl with dragonfly wings.

Young mutant psychic Charles Xavier (McAvoy) has been lifelong friends with Raven (Lawrence, looking very hot in a short 60s skirt and knee high leather boots) since he caught her as a shapeshifter stealing from the kitchen of his palatial family home.

At the same time, Erik (Fassbender) is a prisoner in the Nazi concentration camps when megalomaniacal Shaw (Bacon) tries to develop his powers to control metal for his own desire to rule the world.

The two young men meet as mutants are learning more about themselves and each other, bought together by the CIA to form a top-secret team to fight the Soviet threat orchestrated by Shaw. Against the backdrop of the Cuban missile crisis they're set to show the world they exist, but the real conflict is between Charles (who thinks they should be peaceniks who are better than the warlike humans) and Erik (who wants revenge against Shaw's killing his mother and knows full well the humans will hate and fear them all).

It sets the scene for the two becoming arch-enemies in later films and ties the characters in to the rest of the series really well, but despite the impressive stylings you don't see in many of these films, it just can't help being another comic book film. That means it comes complete with the romantic subplots, political misogyny, earth-shattering climactic battle and all the usual trappings.

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