Wednesday, June 08, 2011

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS - Stylish and Classy

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (fantasy adventure)
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence, Oliver Platt, January Jones and Nicholas Hoult
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Screenplay by: Ashley Edward Miller & Zack Stentz and Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn
Time: 1301 mins
Rating: * * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Michael Fassbender, Caleb Landry Jones, James McAvoy, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence and Lucas Till

PREAMBLE: Matthew Vaughn's X-Men: First Class should give a new lease of life to the flagging X-Men franchise. It is stylish and classy, it has a good balance of interesting narrative and action set pieces - and it maintains the X-Men's wow factor that attracts audiences in the first place.

SYNOPSIS: This 'prequel' is the origin story of Prof X and Magneto, and some of the other X-Men. Before Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) took the names, Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time. Before they were arch-enemies, they were closest of friends, working together, with other Mutants (some familiar, some new), to stop the greatest threat the world has ever known. In the process, a rift between them opened, which began the eternal war between Magneto's Brotherhood and Prof X's mutants.

Kevin Bacon and January Jones (as Emma Frost)

HITS & MISSES: Departing from the main plot of the comics, the new caper (created by Sheldon Turner and original X-Men director Bryan Singer and written by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz along with Jane Goldman and Vaughn), makes use of historical events like the Nazi concentration camp, the US-Soviet conflict and the Bay of Pigs incident to flesh out its story. The cinematography (by John Mathieson) is first class and Chris Seagers' production design is opulently detailed. Still, the best parts are the verbal and emotional tussles between Charles and Eric, between Eric and Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) and between Raven and Hank 'Beast' McCoy (Nicholas Hoult).

I am not one to glaze over the CGI effects but there are lots of them here to take our breath away - sans the gimmick of 3D glasses. Vaughn's yarn is fast-paced and it flips all over the globe so much so that the 130 minutes fly by without our glancing at our watches. There are many notable performances too, the top of which is Fassbender's (right). His rendition of Eric is captivating and 'magnetic'. Kevin Bacon lends the requisite evil touch with is portrayal of Sebastian Shaw and Rose Byrne has a small but effective role as a CIA agent. The most eye-catching role is Lawrence's Raven - a huge departure from her lead in Winter's Bone. Some complaints that X-Men fans may have is that many of the characters and subplots are underdeveloped and under-explored. Which basically leaves us looking forward to more!

THE LOWDOWN: A real classy prequel.



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