Thursday, 9 June 2011

X-Men: First Class and Why My Mug is Almost Always Up


I have deliberately avoided going to see most of the biggest hits of 2011. Films like Hangover II, Thor, Fast Five, Pirates 4 and Kung Fu Panda 2 are not my idea of a fun evening at the cinema and are not likely to get an upward facing mug from me (the chance that one or more would surprise me is always there but the odds are against it). Since I am not being paid to write reviews on my blog, my life is too short to watch films that are unlikely to get three stars from me. You may recall that my foundational criterion for giving a film three stars is that I am willing to watch the film again. If I am not willing to watch it again, it gets two and a half stars or less. But since I happen to believe that any film worth watching once is worth watching twice, it follows that any film I do not think is worth watching again is not worth watching the first time. So that, my friends, is why most of the films I watch and review tend to get a mug up.


I had pretty well decided to lump X-Men: First Class with the films mentioned above, but the reviews were better than those for the others and Katrina recommended it, so I gave it a chance this evening, going in with fairly mixed expectations. Sigh. On the whole, I found X-Men: First Class a rather tedious film. The truth, which I am sure I have shared here before, is that action generally bores me. The action in First Class was definitely of the boring variety and there was altogether too much of it. When the action stopped, I occasionally found the film diverting, especially when James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender were alone on the screen. So I would be willing to watch it again, thus assuring that my mug will once again be up.


X-Men: First Class takes us back to the early days of Charles Xavier (McAvoy) and Magneto (Fassbender). With the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 as a backdrop, they join together with a group of young mutants to take on another group of mutants led by Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), who had helped train Magneto, but also killed his mother.


The acting was mixed. I can’t say I was overly impressed by Bacon or January Jones (maybe that’s because they were the “bad guys”), but Jennifer Lawrence was very good as Raven (no surprise there after her fantastic performance in Winter’s Bone) and McAvoy and Fassbender were, as hinted at above, great to watch. The score was a little over-the-top, but that’s probably to be expected in an X-Men film. The cinematography was good enough but I am growing tired of CGI.


Needless to say, I found the violence in First Class quite disturbing, especially since kids of all ages are going to find their way into the cinema. I did appreciate the mutant versus ordinary human theme, as always, and Xavier’s generally pacifist mentality. He tries valiantly to keep Magneto from killing Shaw but in the end the filmmakers still seem to require that the ultimate bad guy (a nazi, no less) be gruesomely killed at the end of the film, and all sorts of violent mayhem was still apparently necessary to save the world. Sigh.


So, mostly because I enjoyed watching the three primary actors, X-Men: First Class gets *** and my mug is up.

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