After the terrible X-Men: Last Stand and the crap-fest known as X-Men Origins: Wolverine, director Matthew Vaughn successfully and literally brings the franchise back to its roots. This reboot/prequel, set in the 1960s, sees a young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) help CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) to prevent Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) starting Nuclear War. Meanwhile, Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) seeks revenge for the death of his parents and teams up with Xavier to tackle the same enemy.
Michael Fassbender steals the show as the troubled Magneto, reflecting Vaughn’s intention of a serious attempt at the X-Men franchise. Fassbender manages to balance the sense of friendship between Erik and Charles with his own tragic past and personal agenda. He’s brutal and relentless as he rips through ex-Nazis, but understanding and fragile when collaborating with Charles. Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Raven/ Mystique, is another one that shines above the rest. There’s an energy and charm to her character, even when her backstory isn’t explored. She plays the role well, and was a wise choice by Vaughn. One key aspect that X-Men: FC has over the likes of Thor, Captain America and the horrendous Green Lantern is action set-pieces. A superhero film isn’t supposed to delve into the realms of romantic drama, or be an absolute ‘borefest’. Audiences want to see over-the-top action and crazy fights, and Vaughn nails this with some intense and energetic scenes that don’t impede the general story.
The major weakness of X-Men: FC is the patchy script. The majority of cinema within this genre has been derived from comic book source material. Therefore, the campy narrative styling and cheesy dialogue unfortunately permeates into Vaughn’s film. Clichéd lines from Admirals and Generals: ‘God help us all’ and contrived speeches from various characters, especially McAvoy, don’t quite match the serious tone established at the beginning, becoming rather comical. Another problem is the general period atmosphere and design. Set amidst the ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’ and the ‘Red Scare‘, the 1960s has a distinctly modern look. Apart from archive footage of John F. Kennedy and the CIA’s Chevys, it doesn’t immerse or give a realistic experience of the era. One thing that will never be resolved is the fact that NO-ONE can surpass Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier. And a mumbling McAvoy is certainly not a contender. Overall, X-Men: FC is the best of this Summer’s superhero films, but never really astonishes or amazes.
20th Century Fox doesn’t seem to have much love for the DVD generation, and is clearly pushing the Blu-ray media. While the Blu-ray version comes with various featurettes including a ‘Making Of’ documentary, deleted scenes, an interactive ‘Mutant Database’ (Cerebro) and others, the DVD version comes complete with deleted scenes and a digital copy. If you’re serious about your extras and the X-Men franchise, then purchase the Blu-ray version.