Sunday, 22 May 2016

Review: X-Men - First Class

X-Men: First Class (third-pass)
Cert: 12A / 129 mins / Dir. Matthew Vaughn / Trailer

Tuesday night, is not cinema night, apparently. It looks like the movie-marathon/midnight-showing fad is dying off (at least temporarily) here in the urbanised Cotswolds, as the much-awaited and arse-numbing*1 X-Men event had a somewhat less-than-stellar turnout. I won't embarrass my favourite cinema by specifying numbers, suffice to say that it was a talking point between movies. With me and the staff themselves, I mean. And the manager, who was also there, amused and despondent in equal measure. That said, this is the fourth comic-book flick in as many months, the third midnight-screening in as many months, and the second three-movie marathon. While I don't personally believe that superhero-fatigue is taking hold just yet, it certainly appeared that your average punter had decided to catch up with the first two 'new' X-Men movies at home and see Apocalypse in a more sensible timeslot.

So anyway, First Class, the first of what is widely regarded as the 'new' X-Men which, for all of its fresh-start ethos, isn't afraid to acknowledge the massive supporting legacy behind it (and that's only in cinematic terms). For some reason, I always forget that Oxford features in this film (y'know, since I live in Oxford), and that Charles Xavier was basically Austin Powers when he was at uni there. And I only mention that because it's a first-act nod towards having some fun with the X-verse; a facet which visibly fades as we progress through the McAvoy/Fassbender movies. The 1962 setting of the main story almost brings a sort of levity to proceedings, with the honourable exception of the Holocaust-survivor seeking revenge on his former captors. This, incidentally, is one of the strongest points in the film's favour, with Fassbender's proto-Magneto demonstrating that it really is what's on the inside that counts, but that also feels like it should be a standalone film in its own right.

Oh yeah, Fassbender. I know this has become something of a running joke at Blackout Towers, but what in the hell's going on with that man's accent in First Class? Matthew Vaughn may be a competent storyteller, but letting your Polish/Jewish character deliver his beach-soliloquy in an Irish brogue is atrocious direction, no matter how well-travelled he's become by that point. And not least because he can do a British™ accent when he damned well tries. The foremost issue here is that as much as I enjoy his performance itself, I never buy this as being a younger version of the Ian McKellen character, and even with the timeline-bending that's to come, this is meant to be a constant.

On a far less annoying but equally disconcerting note, this movie is only five years old and it's beginning to date already. While it was (and still is) stylistically poles apart from 2000's X-Men, there's still a certain naivety about the film which means its been overtaken in recent years by its genre-mates. Of course in 2014, The Winter Soldier upped the ante for superhero/political crossover flicks, and anything presented by First Class seems quite quaint in comparison, even accounting for the 1960s setting (although co-incidentally, this movie shares with Winter Soldier, the composer Henry Jackman and was also first to do the 'sprinting a lap really quickly whilst wearing grey sweats' joke).

And besides, the timeline-reboot in the next movie doesn't change the fact that Xavier uses Cerebro for the first time in 1962 to help locate all the mutants currently around the world. Doing this he sees a young Cyclops and Storm (one of the movies more prominent easter-eggs), even though they're due to be teenagers twenty years later in Apocalypse. While we didn't know what Days of Future Past would bring when First Class was released, the continuity here is 'fluid' at best. Although the cinematic X-verse has never had continuity as one of its super-powers

There was a time (ie 2011) when the X-verse was suddenly regaining its confidence and was on equal footing with the MCU. But this movie hasn't aged as well as The First Avenger. Then again, after 70 years on ice, it's evident that no-one ages as well as the first Avenger.

And y'know, First Class is still awesome...

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
The previous X-Men movies, to be fair…

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
If you get the chance, yes.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
It does.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
No, but that's not a strike against the film (more that the cast and director have been more fantastic elsewhere).

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Didn't hear one.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Dormé's in this.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 I went into the cinema at 6:30pm, I left at just after 2:30am. This is not something that normal people do, then again a) it pales to insignificance against my 12-hour, 5-movie marathon only days earlier in Wandsworth, and b) I'm not normal.

*2 And while DoFP effectively removes Origins: Wolverine from the canon, this movie still doesn't explain how Emma Frost was - to all intents and purposes - a completely different character in 1962 from her 1979 appearance. No you're right, I'm never going to let go of that one...

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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