XMen has easily been among the better superhero trilogies out there. Although not having achieved the popularity or the box office performance that some others have managed, like Spiderman, the XMen holds up its own. However, after the the third installment of XMen was out, the franchisee took an interesting turn. Instead of coming out with another sequel, the studio and producers decided to film prequels, each exploring the background of the primary characters and their relationships.
Two years back, in 2009, was released the first of these prequels – ‘Xmen Origins: Wolverine’. As the name suggests, it looked at where Logan/Wolverine came from and how his relationship with Stryker(who was a major character in X2) formed. Overall, it was disappointing. Although Logan/Wolverine was an interesting character, much of the interest came from his mysterious past. Revealing it to be pretty underwhelming did not do justice to him.
This year, we have Xmen: First Class, which looks at, arguably, the most interesting and complex characters in the whole Xmen saga – Prof. Charles Xavier and Eric/Magneto. Directed by Michael Vaughn, Xmen: First Class is excellent. It ranks among the best superhero movies of all time – right up there with ‘Batman Begins’, ‘The Dark Knight’ and ‘The Iron Man’. It doesn’t falter in any department – storyline, script, characters, special effects, acting, background score are all top notch.
The movie begins with a young Eric being separated from his mother in a Nazi concentration camp in Poland, which is how the original Xmen too began. Here his special powers are discovered by a german Officer, Sebastian Shaw(Kevin Bacon), who is after the mutant gene. The stage for battle between the two is set here, when Shaw murders Eric’s mother in cold blood in a bid to release the latters powers. Charles Xavier too is introduced, along with Mystique.
Cut to the 1960s, where the CIA is now after Sebastian Shaw, who is something of a megalomaniac, discovers the mutants surrounding Shaw with their special powers. In a bid to stop them, the CIA decides to build their own team of mutants. This is where Xavier and Eric come together(though after a riveting sequence). Using his psychic powers, he seeks out other talented mutants and has them join their team. The scenes showing the teams training are also well handled. I was most impressed with the gradual increase of Erics influence over Mystique.
Matthew Vaughn, the director, melds together the 60s Cuba nuclear crisis situation very well with the face-off between Xavier/Erics team of mutants and Shaw. The special effects in these scenes are very video-game like, but nevertheless enjoyable.
Michael Fassbender as Eric/Magneto is superb. When he is on screen, you watch him and no one else. His posture, dialogue delivery exudes menace and awe. This is not to say that McAvoy as Xavier is not good, its simply that Fassbender is literally magnetic in this role. Kevin Bacon as Shaw is good too, enough for the audience to start hating him. The supporting cast is fine, no one really stood out but none of them was disappointing either.
Henry Jackman has produced an excellent OST for the film. The cue for Eric/Magneto remains with you. The subtle interplay between the classical violins and grunge music is very interesting too. Never also does the background score shadow the scenes, they remain in the background and wonderfully complement movie.
All in all, Xmen: First Class is among those superhero movies which come out rarely and exceed all expectations. I will be surprised if a more enjoyable blockbuster comes out this summer, or indeed this year. A must watch!