By Sumaya Samarasinghe
X-Men First Class is the prequel to the X-Men trilogy and one of the best of the series which was sadly losing its appeal and slowly sinking into ridiculous plots and characters – this being often the fate of sequels and prequels.
The movie, which is set mainly during 1962, probably one of the loveliest eras to film, also has the most absurdly good looking cast one could imagine and for the viewers luck, they happen to be excellent actors, starting with Michael Fassbender as a young and troubled Magneto, James Mc Avoy as the idealistic Charles Xavier and future Professor X who is great, but has to, for script purposes spend too much time with his hand on his temple summoning telepathic signals, Jennifer Lawrence whose amazing performance in her first film Winter’s bone” won her an Oscar nomination comes as Mystique, Rose Byrne who became known to a large audience by holding her own against Glenn Close in the mini series Damages and has since then appeared in several successful features is a CIA agent and finally Kevin Bacon needs no introduction since he starred in Footloose in 1984, is excellent as a former Nazi Dr. Schmidt and later as the power hungry Sebastian Shaw.
The film begins during World War II, when a young Erik Lehnsherr, who will later become Magneto watches his parents be taken away by Nazi guards. Terrified at the idea of being separated from his mother and father, Erik seems to be able to, from the power of his mind only filled with anger and anxiety, bend the metal gates that are keeping him away from his loved ones. This attracts the attention of the evil and sadistic Dr. Schmidt who decides to use Erik’s power for his malicious needs. Meanwhile, we see young Charles, living a lonely life in a huge castle until he meets Raven, a mutant whom he raises as his sister.
The film takes a 15 year leap forward and we now see an adult Erik played by the charismatic and talented Michael Fassebender, globe trotting around the world looking to take his revenge on Schmidt. At the risk of sounding unfair to the other cast members, the best sequences of X- Men First Class are those with Fassebender in them. In one scene, Erik is trying to get some information out from a Swiss Banker who is being difficult.
He uses his power to torture him and extracts one of the banker’s metal teeth. This scene could have been taken straight out of Marathon Man and gives one clear indication: Erik is ruthless and when pushed, he is dangerous, which of course, makes him the most interesting character of the film.Shaw, meanwhile, has developed a strange energy absorbing power which has magnified his physical strength and de-aged him.
Erik and Charles are recruited by a CIA agent played by Rose Byrne who wants to use their mutant abilities to stop Shaw from engineering a missile crisis which would magnify his power.He is helped in this venture by Emma Frost, played by January Jones from Mad Men who is a super powerful mutant with extremely developed telepathic abilities, way superior to those of Charles Xavier, but can also transform her body into an indestructible diamond veneer.
To fight the evil powers, Charles and Erik will have to recruit a new team of mutants who for some bizarre reasons all seem to be teenagers!This is one of the flaws of the film as the teen mutants increase, the depth given to their characters lessens. Despite having these fantastic powers, they remain in their heart of hearts kids ready for mischief and unfortunately they are not credible as teenagers living in the 60’s, except perhaps in their wardrobes.
Once the battle between Shaw and the rest of the mutants begin, the script somewhat loses a little of its clarity but those lapses are easily forgotten thanks to the overall outstanding performance of the cast and the super energetic filming of British director and producer Matthew Vaughn. This is one of the best X-Men produced, the fans shouldn’t miss it and for those who are not familiar with the world of mutants, here’s your chance to get acquainted.