X-Men: First Class Blu-ray review
The worst thing that a superhero film can do is the origin story. Spider-Man 2 was better because it didn’t spend an hour developing Peter Parker’s ‘I can do what now?’ surprise. Same for The Dark Knight, which cracked away thanks to no time wasted on Bruce’s angsty backpacking years of self-discovery. So what of a movie that focuses on the birth of an organisation?
Good things – largely thanks to the assumption that you know the score. There’s no lengthy set-up and the opening quickly clarifies things. A young Xavier is an ale-drinking graduate researching genetics and using his powers to pick up girls, Mystique is a pouty young lady and Magneto is a tortured Holocaust survivor.
The main plot sees the CIA tracking Kevin Bacon’s ex-Nazi as he tries to start World War 3. When they learn he’s using mutants, they look for an expert, find Charles Xavier and the X-Men are born.
There’s a lot to fit in, but director Matthew Vaughn manages the cast and plot well, balancing comedy, characters and gravitas nicely. Set-pieces nestle against intimate moments and training montages, without ever feeling like a button’s been pushed to change pace.
That said, there’s a leaning towards Magneto. The first meeting between the young mutant and a Third Reich scientist fleshes out his motivations more than anyone else’s, while featuring a great turn from Bacon in full pantomime Nazi mode. Once Michael Fassbender takes over as grown-up Mags, it’s his film, as he struggles to ally his friendship with Xavier and his need for retribution.
Most other mutants have to rely on brief, awkward college-style rec-room meetings to develop their personalities. The cast’s enthusiasm, however, overcomes the fact that some of their back stories feel like Post-it notes stuck on to the script.
Mystique treads a nice coming-of-age line as a conflicted girl becoming a woman, and Beast gets some attention when he transforms. There’s a focus on being true to yourself, which would feel twee elsewhere, but when ‘yourself’ could mean ‘bright blue’ it proves a good way to highlight the mutants’ struggle for acceptance. It also outlines the split that forms between Xavier and Magneto.
Overall, this manages to have fun while handling its characters’ emotions well. The action’s big, and there’s just the right mix of story and sparkly powers being shown off. The ’60s setting freshens things up, too. There’s a bit of water-treading in the middle, but it’s entertaining throughout and one of the most satisfying super-movies in a while.