X-Men: First Class, as the title sheepishly suggests, tells the story of the beginnings of the X-Men crew. On the screen, this translates to a group of young and attractive people who get together to save the world using their overdeveloped genes. The first few minutes of the film are spent jumping from 1944 to 1962 and criss-crossing between different locations several times, providing us the back story of Charles, Raven and Erik. Charles (James McAvoy) is a genius who has the power to read and control minds. Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) is a blue-skinned, yellow-eyed, red-haired mutant who can shape shift into anyone else.
Erik (Michael Fassbender) is a survivor of the Holocaust and the evil protege of Sebastien Shaw (played by Kevin Bacon) who has the magnetic power to control metals.
These early introductions are crammed together tightly and cover vast ground – and in such an indulgent amount of time – that the film begins to drag by the end of the first act. X-Men: First Class doesn’t actually get on track until it slows down to explore the personal dynamics between these characters; the film’s best moments arrive when Charles and Erik finally meet and the two actors get to show their remarkable chemistry. McAvoy proves, yet again, that he deserves to be one of the cinema’s biggest superstars and Fassbender exhibits the charms and charisma that has kept audiences wondering about the odds of him taking over Daniel Craig as the next 007. Jennifer Lawrence, too, is a standout in this film, fleshing out her character into something more believable and interesting than written for her on the paper.
X-Men: First Class, unlike most of Marvel’s recent outings, doesn’t give the impression that its sole raison d’être is to take $12 from the audience’s wallets and put it in Marvel’s own. If one can get on board with the logic of this film, it is one hell of a ride. The visual effects are neatly composed and even though they too often look artificial even when they’re not meant to
Yet, the basic logic of the premise remains inescapably outlandish. A thrilling action ride this is, but one that remains unsatisfying because it cannot transcend the trappings of its genre. This is not to say that all superhero films need to utilize the same sense of hefty self-importance as Christopher Nolan’s Batman series in order to be successful, but pure entertainment such as this will not linger in the memory if there is no attempt at thematic or emotional resonance. For a film with such limited ambitions, X-Men: First Class is a passable exercise, and an audience more attuned to the appeal of superheroes than this writer will surely find it a more gratifying experience.