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This Week's Movie ReviewX-Men: First Class
Four stars

POSTED BY MICHAEL A. SMITH, June 2, 2011    Share

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Kevin Bacon
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 2 hours 12 mins
20th Century Fox

Poland. 1944. A young boy accompanies his parents along the fence of a foreboding compound. Suddenly, the boy is pulled away as the adults proceed inside. Desperate to be with them he struggles against the guards holding him back, reaching towards his parents. Without warning, the metal gates begin to bend, as if reacting to his grasp. At the same time in a well to do mansion in upstate New York, another boy walks into the kitchen for a snack only to come across a young girl raiding the fridge. Though they’ve never met he instantly understands her plight. “I knew I wasn’t the only one,” he tells her.

Based on the comic book series by Marvel, “X-Men: First Class” continues the popular trend of taking a popular storyline and revitalizing it by starting over at the beginning. I wasn’t reviewing films when the original “X-Men” film came out in 2000, but the three that followed (2 sequels and the stand alone “Wolverine” film) averaged a little better then three out of four stars for me. And I’m happy to say that this new film is worthy of those that came before it.

The film’s short World War II era prologue is just enough to whet our appetite for what is to come. Erik Lehnsherr (Bill Milner), the young boy in Poland, soon finds himself testing his skills at the behest of Dr. Schmidt (Bacon). He hones his talents but never forgets the horrors he has seen. Meanwhile, the young Charles Xavier (Laurence Belcher) respects his talents and those of others he encounters. When both boys become men, Erik (Fassbender) finds himself hell bent on revenge while Charles (McAvoy) finishes college and offers to assist our government in finding “others.” When Herr Schmidt, now calling himself Sebastian Shaw and having seemingly found a fountain of youth, resurfaces in an attempt to take over the world (bet you didn’t know that he was the cause of the Cuban Missile Crisis) the two become wary allies in a battle neither are prepared for.

If you aren’t familiar with Michael Fassbender, or if you just know him from his role in “Inglourious Basterds,” get used to it. Like Daniel Craig in “Casino Royale” or, staying in the genre’, Hugh Jackman in the first “X-Men” film, Fassbender leaps off the screen in what is sure to be a star making role. His character runs the gamut of emotions and Fassbender nails them all without a hint of pretense. McAvoy is also strong as the young Professor Xavier. And while we know that soon they will be better known as Magneto and Dr. X, the fun in the film is discovering the budding mutant talent soon to come. Mystique. Beast. Riptide. Azazel. One by one they reveal themselves, and their powers, to each other. Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence (“Winter’s Bone”) gives a brave performance as Mystique, allowing the audience to understand the character and the choices she will later make. The film’s biggest bad ass just might be President John F. Kennedy. Shown in newsreel footage of the day, JFK draws the line in the sand (water) and dares the Russians to blink!

Director Vaughn, who delivered a different kind of super hero movie last year with “Kick Ass,” has a keen eye for both action and character. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the outstanding musical score that keeps the action, and the film, flowing by Henry Jackman (no relation, as far as I can tell, to the Wolverine that shares his last name).

This Week's Movie Review of "X-Men: First Class" is ©2011 by Mike Smith. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2011 by Nolan B. Canova.

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