Copyright © 2011 by 20th Century Fox
A prequel to X-Men, it is set in 1962 with the Cuban Missile Crisis serving as the backdrop in shaping and severing Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto’s friendship (Michael Fassbender). It heavily focuses on the early years of their lives and how the the X-Men are recruited to combat the malicious threat of the Hellfire Club, a secret society bent on world domination. It is through the actions of the group leader, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) that prompt Magneto to form his very own Brotherhood of Mutants.
Seeing as to how this is not about Wolverine for once, Matthew Vaughn, the director of said flick and would-be director of Last Stand draws inspiration from Bryan Singer’s original and repeats the opening sequence where we first discover Magneto’s ability. It still evokes goose bumps every time I see it. Here, we discover that the young Magneto is forced to use his gift by a Dr Klaus Schmidt aka Sebastian Shaw and failure to do so will lead to the end of his mother’s life. We would not have a movie if he succeeded, right? Through the death of his mother, his anger unleashes his magnetic powers and thus sets the tone for the rest of the film.
Although the film spends a great deal of screen time fleshing out Xavier and Magneto’s characters, without a doubt, Magneto wins hands down for being the showstopper of this prequel. I have nothing against James McAvoy’s portrayal as the younger and sexier Xavier (it is just oozing with charm), but when you are up against with a more tormented and damaged character, there is only so much you can bring to the table. Any lesser actor taking on this role, he would have completely vanished from a star turn performance by Michael Fassbender as the grief-stricken orphan. With such magnetism, we are fully immersed in his plight for revenge and vigilantism. It is a bit of a downer whenever the focus shifts to the other cast members.
The film makers should have just made a Magneto spin-off instead of incorporating his back story into this prequel. From what is shown here, it seems like it is just a tip of the iceberg to his complicated past. One can hope for more in the upcoming sequel but it is unlikely that such emphasis will be to his favour as Days of Future Past (the next chapter) will have an even bigger challenge of juggling a huge cast from events in both First Class and Last Stand. However, it is admirable that Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult), who played supporting roles in the earlier installments are finally given the chance to shine.
All mutants ever wanted are to fit in with the rest of the world. Through the noteworthy performances from both of these young thespians, we understand the difficulties of being different and living in a time with a lot of intolerance, it is sometimes better to be like everyone else. Of course it would never be complete if there isn’t an antagonist who is trying to rein mutant supremacy over the human race. As the main villain, Kevin Bacon hams it up as Shaw and does incite some relevance on his decision to level the playing field, which Magneto mirrors in X-Men.
Seems to be quite a handful to handle in a 132-minute movie, right? Fret not, in the capable hands of Vaughn and a well-written script, what we get is a return to form with superb acting from the main players, consistent pacing and some nifty action sequences (particularly the one when Shaw’s boat receives a new facelift from Magneto). The only thing I would have liked to see done differently if the secondary characters (Xavier’s first batch of students) are given more to do, rather than just being merely there to drive the plot forward. We will just have to wait with bated breath for the next one to grace our screens to address some of the inconsistencies faced between the older trilogy and this preboot.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some sexual content including brief partial nudity and language