Whatever the reason, the advent of X-Men: First Class was enough to get me scuttling to a local cinema, if only to see whether the "much better than the last ones" hype was justified.
"Are you going to call reception to say this room's got an insect problem, or shall I?"
So what did I think? Well, here are a few assorted thoughts (with mild spoilers):
- First of all, I loved the sixties setting - a little bit Bond movie, a little bit Avengers (the Steed and Emma Peel one, not the forthcoming super-fest), getting into the full-on Hellfire Club kitscharama groove (dig that submarine wallpaper!) while just squeaking clear of Austin Powers territory. In fact, I only wish they'd gone a little further down that road: the anachronistic hair-gelled blandness of the young X-Class was dull and unappealing compared with...
- ...the general fabulousness that was Charles and Erik and their delightfully Bodie-and-Doyle bromance. Yeah, I'm tragically predictable, I know. But the bit where they're swinging around the world to a groovy soundtrack, chatting up mutant crumpet wherever they can find it (including one hilarious failed pick-up) is the most cinematic fun I've had in ages, rivalled only by the part where it looks like everyone has moved to Downton Abbey for no reason (it's actually a different stately home), all the better for Professor X to finally unleash his REAL mutant power i.e. uplifting motivational speechmaking.
- So there is life in James McAvoy: who knew? It was news to me, given that I've never seen him be anything more than a limp spacefiller of an actor. But no, here he was funny and charming and seemed to be actually having a good time. Michael Fassbender, on the other hand, I'd never seen on screen before, but I shall be watching him with keen intellectual interest in future (hem hem). I see various critics have mooted him as a potential Bond on the basis of this movie: I'm not sure about that, but he'd make a fabulous Biggles (not every man can work brown leather, you know) or failing that, an ace Milk Tray man. I even found it endearing that he was able to twizzle huge metal things with a single ridiculous grimace and yet couldn't control his own accent, which kept being dragged unceremoniously back to Ireland. Clearly their national magnet is MUCH bigger than his.
- Alas, as is so often the case with movie superheroics, the female characters were the ones who got shortchanged. Acclaimed acting skills notwithstanding, Jennifer Lawrence didn't seem to have a clue what to do as Mystique, other than pout a bit and stand around like a lemon (well, a blue lemon). Emma Frost, meanwhile, had plenty of groovy little outfits but all the charisma of a water biscuit, and her "diamond form" looked like something that fell off the back of a Swarovski lorry. In fact the only woman who was any cop was Moira MacTaggert: shame the fact that she's tragically NOT a mutant got her sidelined in the middle of the story. Still, at least there were women in it who did stuff other than cringe glamorously when bad things happen to their boyfriends. That's a small mercy, I suppose.
- Because there's a cast of hundreds, there's quite a lot of fun to be had playing Where Have I Seen That Actor Before. Oh look, it's Dexter's dad! Oh look, it's Laura Palmer's dad! And oh look, it's little Kazran from the last Doctor Who Christmas episode as the mini-Charles Xavier!
- A thought struck me: the people who work at that big radio telescope must be REALLY peeved. "Why does our expensive and difficult-to-set-up equipment keep moving around on its own? Is it anything to do with those rich nutters over at that stately home? I bet it is. Overprivileged bastards."
- In conclusion: not a movie to shake the world, but pretty packed with the sort of larks that go down brilliantly with a bag of pick and mix on a rainy afternoon. I'd say roll on the sequel, but let's give Magneto a little while to get his wayward accent under control before he has to start shouting at his
* Usenet, 1994. Non, je ne regrette rien.