Matthew Vaughn directs this flick with less style and creativity than his amazing film, "Kick Ass", but he gets the job done well. The story is a period piece and takes place in the 1960's, with the Cuban Missile Crisis at the core of the plot. Magneto, played by Michael Fassbender, is on a hunt to kill the man who experimented on him and killed his mother when he was just a boy during the Holocaust of World War 2. Along the way he meets Charles Xavier, played by James McAvoy, who is beginning to connect with other Mutants for the first time, assisted by the US government. As more mutants collect around the two leading men, and the object of their pursuit is approached, the place of mutants in society is explored and dividing lines are drawn more and more deeply.
The movie has plenty of cool mutant action and the special effects are enjoyable, despite not making any improvements over the last one or two Marvel mutant movies. It's enjoyable to watch new mutants learn to use their powers and the fact that the world has not discovered the existence of mutants yet adds a breath of fresh air and a clean slate from which to re-discover the exciting and imaginative world of super-humans. There are also a couple of cool cameos (one that's especially cool) by former X-Men cast members that help connect this flick to the others.
The performances by Fassbender and McAvoy stand out, especially in one moving scene in which Magneto's hardened heart is confronted as he trains to use his powers. But the rest of the cast never really made me care about them much, despite characters like Mystique and Hank McCoy having some great, potentially emotional material to work with.
Kevin Bacon plays the villain surprisingly well and provides a charismatic and extremely powerful threat for the heroes. Unfortunately, his final scene misses the opportunity to truly showcase that power and left me feeling just a little let down.
The "Mutant=Homosexual" metaphors of the first two movies are still present but much more subtle. This movie doesn't seem to be selling any particular worldview to the degree of previous franchise installments. Although the Marvel mutant concept itself is certainly in support of classic Macro-evolution. ("From Goo to You")
Many classic evolutionists believe that the massive explosions of new species we see in sudden "bursts" in the fossil record are times during which massive amounts of favorable mutation occurred, as opposed to the more slow and gradual change that is commonly associated with evolution the rest of the time. The X-Men movie franchise suggests that "mutants" are the result of a similar spontaneous (almost "miraculous") burst of favorable mutations. It might make for interesting conversation to ask someone who holds this position if they believe that the basic plot of X-Men could actually happen.
X-Men:First Class is a cool flick that genre fans will probably enjoy, although it doesn't reach the bar set by X-Men 2. Worthwhile conversation can be mined from this movie, but you may have to dig fairly deep unless you're with someone who especially enjoys discussing evolutionary theory.
Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexuality and a violent image.
For information about my scoring system, visit- spiritblade.net/reviewscores
Or listen to this review this weekend at- spiritblade.net/podcast