by Stefan Abrutat
Hollywood studios are renowned for their herd-like mentality when a particular genre of movie proves successful. Fickle producers, like unruly infants, fling whatever they’re doing to the floor, freak and shriek like hyper-excited engagement party virgins and scramble after the latest film fad like a sagging acting career for a Woody Allen part.
Consider the recent spate of fantasy movies that followed Lord of the Rings and the resurgence of the western after Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, one can perhaps understand why movie money men chase a cheap facsimile of novelty, but I never thought I’d see the day when reboots would be in vogue, even when they’re not needed. This is especially true of the X-men series of movies, which seemed to be going from strength to strength, X-Men Origins – Wolverine, the last offering in 2009, opened at $85 million, and grossed $375 million worldwide: hardly a flagging franchise. Now we’re watching a prequel reboot? What for? Because Batman did?
But the Batman franchise was foundering, and really required refocus. And because Batman Begins achieved such success, everyone else is clamoring to reboot too. Hey, let’s have an Ironman reboot! A Spiderman reboot! An Avatar reboot! Hell, let’s re-imagine a movie that isn’t even out yet!
So while I entered the screening of the X-Men: First Class dreading its surplus, I was rapidly turned around by what a good movie it actually is. Fast-paced, engagingly acted, and swathing through significant arcs for all the main characters. Its impetus overshadowed even the notion of teenagers thinking themselves mutants, a perfunctory wink at the audience from the filmmakers that caught me unawares enough to temporarily choke on my popcorn.
James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender play Xavier and Magneto, and handle the roles admirably considering the shoes they’re filling. (Prefilling? Formerly filling? About to be filled with? Bah, you know what I mean…) Kevin Bacon plays the evil Sebastian Shaw, the supermutant that kicks all sorts of ass. Apt, as First Class was directed by Matthew Vaughn, who also directed last year’s sleeper hit Kick-ass, and was obviously an excellent choice this time around too.
I’d go so far as to say this is the best X-Men movie yet. This bodes well for the future of the franchise, and a brief cameo by Hugh Jackman as Wolverine shows he perhaps isn’t as central to the X-Men story as one might initially think.
PG13. Running time: 2 hrs 11 minutes. Opened on June 3rd.