Wednesday, June 8, 2011

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (2011)

At a Nazi concentration camp young magnetic mutant Erik Lehnsherr witnesses Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) gun his mother down after the boy fails to move metal objects upon demand.  Two decades later mind-reading Charles Xavier/Professor X (James McAvoy) plays foster brother to shape-shifting Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and lectures about genetic mutations, while Erik/Magneto (now played by Michael Fassbender) hunts for the elusive Shaw to exact his revenge.  In the meantime Shaw has gathered an army of mutants around him, including the icy Emma Frost (January Jones).  He aspires to world domination by initiating nuclear war between the U.S. and Soviet Union during the Cuban missile crisis.  CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) stumbles upon this plot and enlists Charles’ help.  Charles and Erik join forces and gather their own army of mutants, including the nerdy Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult).  The film’s story by Sheldon Turner and Bryan Singer has potential.  However, screenwriters Ashley Edward Miller & Zack Stentz and Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn squander it with clunky, clich├ęd dialogue and too many scenes that lack dramatic tension.  The most egregious example relates to Professor X and Magneto’s eventual philosophical split over coexisting with humans.  Though a foregone conclusion, director Vaughn and the writers make the mistake of treating it as such from the outset and kill any potential drama.  Vaughn’s action scenes are artless and incoherent, and he does a huge disservice to most of his actors.  Bacon feels miscast and self-conscious, while McAvoy, Jones and Lawrence are subdued and lifeless.  Byrne shows some spunk and spark, while Hoult’s Hank manages some geeky charm before being transformed into the wooden Beast.  The remaining mutant characters, however, aside from their specific abilities, are generic and barely register.  But the same cannot be said for Fassbender, who mesmerizes as the vengeful and mistrustful Magneto.  He deserves a much better film.

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