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X-Men First Class


Stars: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence, January Jones, Nicholas Hoult, Oliver Platt

Director: Matthew Vaughn

After the “so-clever-it-hurts” tosh that was director Vaughn’s overrated Kick-Ass, this splendid prequel to the ‘X-Men’ series comes as a pleasant surprise.

Vaughn (co-scenarist with Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz and Jane Goldman) has reinvigorated a series that had become a tad tedious, with well-cast McAvoy (Patrick Stewart in the previous films) as Xavier, who brings together a group of extraordinary young mutants whom he mentors - and lubricates their burgeoning friendships before deploying the squad against mad mutant Bacon (living up to his name with an enjoyably hammy performance) who has set out to bring the world down in a nuclear Armageddon. And who would have guessed mutants played such a pivotal role in the Cuban Missile Crisis?

The blend of first-rate special effects, briskly staged action and reaction is pleasingly leavened with humour (notably McAvoy’s ‘tribute’ to his older self’s baldness and an unexpected and entertaining guest appearance) and strong performances. A great deal happens (the film runs over two hours) but I was never bored. Vaughn keeps the show briskly on the road, elicits effective performances all round and, in the grim opening sequences where the young Magneto (played as an adult by Fassbender) is subjected to the horrors of the round up of Jews by the Nazis and his subsequent treatment in a concentration camp, X-Men First Class takes on a seriousness that is both chilling and highly effective.

In a year when we are being subjected to a glut of superhero movies – Thor, Green Lantern etc, etc - X-Men First Class is going to be very hard to beat for sheer entertainment value. I’d actually be happy to pay to see it – and that’s not something that you hear very often from a reviewer.

Alan Frank

USA 2011. UK Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox. Colour by deluxe.
131 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 31 May 2011