In 2000, Bryan Singer‘s adaptation of the X-Men comic book series gave the modern superhero genre a kick in the pants, seeding action thrills with deeper ethical conflicts, and laying the groundwork for both the commercial success and some of the more artistic-minded noodling of a wide variety of genre followers. A prequel to the original films, and presumably the beginning of a story arc that could stretch out over a trilogy of its own, X-Men: First Class doesn’t quite touch the inspired blend of brain and brawn that the best of its predecessors had to offer, but neither does it embarrass itself. It’s a slick piece of pop entertainment marked by smarter than average characterizations and some solid performances, and it shows that mainstream studio films can indeed, with some effort, accommodate muddied heroic intentions.
In particular, McAvoy and Fassbender each deliver fine, captivating turns. The former ably communicates Charles Xavier’s goodheartedness with a bit less on the written page than one might like, while burgeoning talent Fassbender, showcasing an appealingly dangerous, quicksilver charm as the man who would become Magneto, forever settles the actor-versus-movie-star argument surrounding him: he’s both. For the full, original review, from Screen International, click here. (20th Century Fox, PG-13, 132 minutes)