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X-Men: First Class

X-Men: First Class
20th Century Fox
Rated PG-13
Now Showing at: most major theaters.
Review by: Larry Thomas

Sometimes, as the old saying goes, ignorance is bliss. I had never seen an X-Men movie before. I had never read the comic book series. I had no idea who all these characters are supposed to be. And that’s just fine. I entered X-Men: First Class with a clean slate and no preconceived notions about anything occurring on-screen.

Normally, I would avoid one of these summer “tent-pole” movies like the plague, but X-Men: First Class did offer some interest for me. The director, Matthew Vaughn, was in charge of helming last year’s Kick-Ass, which turned out to be one of my favorite films of 2010. The cast comprises a blend of talented pros and fresh faces, all of which are up to the task. And the story chronicles the beginnings of the X-Men, beginning during World War II continuing through the Cuban Missile Crisis.

James McAvoy, who came to prominence with his roles in The Last King of Scotland, and the first film of the Narnia series, plays Professor Xavier, founder of the X-Men, a secret band of genetic mutants who possess extraordinary super powers. Michael Fassbender, who was terrific in his brief role in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, is equally terrific here as the dark and troubled Erik, a victim of unspeakable crimes in his youth, who has the power to control large metal objects. His is a layered performance that is as riveting as it is moving. And the multi-talented Kevin Bacon also impresses as the uber-villain of the piece. Louisville native, and Oscar-nominee for Winter's Bone, Jennifer Lawrence, is fine as Raven, whose mutant self is a bright blue, but who is able to assume the look of anyone she chooses. From TV’s Mad Men, January Jones plays the icy, in every sense of the word, Emma Frost. And for serious movie geeks, there are small roles for the likes of James Remar, Michael Ironside, and Ray Wise, along with a couple of surprise cameos which shall not be revealed here.

Needless to say, the whole point of films like the X-Men series is to display amazing action, stunts and special effects, and to that end, you won’t be disappointed. It’s all impressively created to give maximum effect to the “WOW” factor. Rising young film composer Henry Jackman contributes the requisite dramatic strains to accompany the action. It’s not a memorable score, but it’s refreshing to hear something that’s more than a rehash by composers who have done the same thing too often. He will likely be working a lot more in the future.

If I were to have a complaint about X-Men: First Class, it’s that since there is so much plot and characterization needed for all the introductions, the film does seem a bit long at 132 minutes. It’s never boring, but it just feels like there’s too much to absorb in one sitting.

But, quibble aside, X-Men: First Class is just that…a first class summertime popcorn movie that entertains. And as an added plus, at least for me, I think I shall have to explore the other films in this series, just in case there are others worth enjoying as well.

The PG-13 rated X-Men: First Class is now saving the world at a theatre near you.


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