X-Men flick rises above comic book fare

As one of the seemingly few who actually enjoyed the X-Men’s previous big screen outing, 2006’s Last Stand, I don’t know if I’m a real expert on giving advice for the latest mutant adventure, X-Men: First Class. Perhaps there’s just something about this story that intrigues me, good or bad.

Submitted photo Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender

As one of the seemingly few who actually enjoyed the X-Men’s previous big screen outing, 2006’s Last Stand, I don’t know if I’m a real expert on giving advice for the latest mutant adventure, X-Men: First Class. Perhaps there’s just something about this story that intrigues me, good or bad.

I do know this much, though. X-Men: First Class isn’t as great a comic book movie as it is a solid film, period. A prequel to the Hugh Jackman-led trilogy, First Class is a wonderfully told story; the manner and style in which director Matthew Vaughn (Kick Ass) unfolds his tale is darn close to magic. This engages, it entertains, and most impressively, it won’t alienate non-fans of the franchise and that’s not a simple thing to do.

How can I be so sure? Easy. I wasn’t a fan of the X-Men growing up. My comic book preference always leaned more towards DC than Marvel (ask your kids to go into detail what that means … long story short, I’m more hyped about this summer’s Green Lantern than Captain America), but again, there’s something so irresistible about the concept — it’s almost too smart to be labelled typical comic book fare, yet too much fun to be  considered art.

‘Course, an outrageously great ensemble cast doesn’t hurt. Michael Fassbender (Inglorious Basterds) plays Erik Lehnsherr, a guy who barely made it out of a Holocaust camp, where it was discovered by an evil scientist (Kevin Bacon) that he could bend and shift metal without ever touching it. Erik obviously becomes Magneto, and First Class is largely about his early friendship with Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), who eventually becomes Professor X, the leader of the X-Men.

The origins of other familiar players like shapeshifter Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence of Winter’s Bone), airborne Angel (Zoe Kravitz) and fuzzy blue Beast (Nicholas Hoult) are paraded out, yet it doesn’t reek of obligation to introduce these characters — Vaughn makes every one of them fit beautifully and feel essential to the proceedings. Where other Marvel material has sometimes piled on a variety of creatures at a rapid fire pace (Iron Man 2 and even some of the Spider-Man sequels were probably guilty of overcrowding the bench), First Class never gives off the vibe that there are too many cats at the party. Best X-Men film yet? In my opinion, yes. But, as we’ve already established … take that with a grain of salt.

Out of a possible five stars, I’ll give X-Men: First Class a four. The feature is currently playing at the Pen-Mar Cinema Centre in Penticton.

Jason Armstrong is a movie reviewer living in the Okanagan.