X-Men: First Class - ***
(Or as it should otherwise be known: The Fassbender Identity)
Matthew Vaughn returns to the big screen with another comic book adaptation (his last being the wonderful Kick Ass) collaborating with Bryan Singer, director of X-Men (2000) and X-Men 2 (2003). What comes of this is actually a pretty conventional though entertaining origins story which succeeds, mostly, where Gavin Hood’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) failed.
Beginning with a familiar scene in Auschwitz, 1944, the child Erik Lehnsherr is subjected to the murder of his mother as a punishment for failing to display his powers before the Nazi Doctor, Sebastian Shaw. The film, cutting back and forth between Xavier’s early friendship with Raven (Mystique) and his later professorship and Erik’s violent hunt for Shaw, spends a long time with introductions, which though necessary proves to be dull and restrictive. Fassbender’s Erik is also so tightly wound and ultimately untouchable that suspension of disbelief only lasts so long before his ropey dialogue becomes an key issue: ‘I’m Frankenstein’s Monster’.
However, despite all this, the character development soon picks up pace and reclaims interest. Once the recruitment begins, First Class becomes an enthralling exploration of the conflict between difference and acceptance. We soon see the pieces of the origin puzzle fitting nicely together with the birth of Magneto and the reason for Xavier’s disability. There’s even an amusing cameo from the ageless Wolverine (Hugh Jackman).
If you’re looking for an intelligent, effects laden, coming-of-age, coming-of-evolution adventure story then this is definitely one to watch. Coming out of the screening, however, you’ll feel as if having awoken from a dream; First Class is believable amongst the cinema seats yet ridiculous in the foyer.