DIRECTED BY MATTHEW VAUGHN
STARRING: JAMES McAVOY, MICHAEL FASSBENDER, JENNIFER LAWRENCE, ROSE BYRNE, NICHOLAS HOULT, OLIVER PLATT, MATT CRAVEN with JANUARY JONES and KEVIN BACON
Matthew Vaughn is widely regarded to be a fresh new face to mainstream filmmaking, both figuratively and literally. He entered with the quirky action-flick in ‘Layer Cake’, took a smoldering diversion deep beyond the Wall in ‘Stardust’ and returned in form of his terribly misdirected ‘Kick Ass’. From the man who has dealt with three different genres in his only three films, we have a fourth. His versatility speaks for itself, his inventiveness – in lesser volumes. With that, I do not deny that he’s a remarkable director, he seems to be fine with just ‘good’. And ‘X-Men: First Class’, in all its promise, suffers exactly from its maker’s syndrome. A convincing back-story is all that it tries to be, and in that it succeeds. Which is a shame, because I felt it could have done a whole lot more.
You don’t need to have a fondness or a sort of reverse-nostalgia towards the future ‘X-Men’ to appreciate this ‘First Class’, but you need that to like it. I didn’t. Somehow, I still can’t get past the idea. Mutation is a necessary evil – necessary because it drops anchor on sustenance and development to facilitate it further. ‘Evil’ because it’s preposterous to the existing generation; it’s base-betrayal. We witness a race that considers itself as beyond even American liberalism, let alone the ‘all men are born equal’ communism that governs the Soviets. But there is a split – on the one hand we have the snake-charmer. On the other, we have the wildlife enthusiast. The admirer embraces his pet, even more when warned of its fangs. The film progresses to an antagonism of common threat. The rest is history.
What then, I ask, of destructive mutation? What of mutation that cannot even ask for equal rights? Would the entire spastic society of the world back me on this war for betterment? Is there an actual society? Would that even make sense in the first place? How much longer do we sustain this ‘no questions asked’ rule of commercial cinema that exists for no reason but to better itself?
It seems that we’re in the era of the prequel. George Lucas perpetrated it with his reestablishment of his ‘Star Wars’ spectacle – we fed on its maker’s still-enduring frivolity, lost in faith. Christopher Nolan then emerged, his reimagining of the Dark Knight a rare combination of ideology, inventiveness and solid screenwriting. ‘Batman Begins’ could be the best of hero-films on my list, I was amazed. We gear up for a ‘Spiderman’ kick start with Marc Webb (‘(500) Days of Summer’) at its helm. There’s a scare of even an ‘Indiana Jones’ prequel as the fifth installment. The world does not understand how easy it is on the writer’s part to work on existing characters; it’s a question of information against imagination. And if to succeed meant to dare, then Matthew Vaughn scores a lukewarm five against Nolan’s hard ten. What’s even worse is that he’s okay with it.
Still, I liked the film for its briskness despite signs of slack; for its eagerness to entertain for a pat on its head. I even liked its predictability for it let me say “I told you so!” But I hated its art-direction where I felt it was under-emphasized. As for the usual jab at the actors, I beg to differ. Sure each had a substantial acting performance under his/her belt (James McAvoy – 'Atonement'; Michael Fassbender – ‘Fish Tank’; Jennifer Lawrence – ‘Winter’s Bone’; Nicholas Hoult – ‘About a Boy’, ‘A Single Man’), but is that enough reason to not do this film? I don’t think so. What if their pasts were to be a revelation told in a Xavier-like premonition? Films as these are a part and parcel of every actor’s chronology, where it’s not as much about the performance as it’s about the energy of the same. Vaughn’s pack seems robust: They work, unquestionably.
But the same cannot be said in the case of the film. I questioned its necessity, but I found myself entertained. What can I say, it’s adequate! It definitely emulates both Bryan Singer and all his efforts, but let me maintain that it’s still faint praise that it calls for. And again, that’s all it seems to need.