Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA/United Kingdom, 2011. Twentieth Century Fox, Marvel Entertainment, Dune Entertainment, Bad Hat Harry Productions, Donners’ Company, Ingenious Media, Big Screen Productions, Ingenious Film Partners. Story by Sheldon Turner, Bryan Singer, Screenplay by Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn. Cinematography by John Mathieson. Produced by Gregory Goodman, Simon Kinberg, Lauren Shuler Donner, Bryan Singer. Music by Henry Jackman. Production Design by Chris Seagers. Costume Design by Sammy Sheldon. Film Editing by Eddie Hamilton, Lee Smith.
It’s not enough to know that there are mutants with phenomenal abilities and powers, we need to know their origins! Following the success of the initial trilogy and a stand-alone Wolverine film (that has since been followed by another), the X-Men saga has gone back to the birth of the great superhero romance that started it all, the friendship between young Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) that led to human mutants forming something of an organization. The world has survived World War II but, at some point in the mid-sixties, it becomes known that the nuclear weapons developed to defeat Axis powers have also accelerated genetic mutation in many humans, giving them not deadly rapid cancer (as happened in real life) but incredible and varied abilities that are a wonder to behold and a source of fear to the population at large. McAvoy, who has the mental strength to read and control minds, and Fassbender, who can manipulate any kind of metal at will, seek out others like themselves in an effort to bring them not only in so they can be studied and sheltered by the CIA, but also to help prevent a mastermind villain (Kevin Bacon) with the ability to manipulate complex forms of energy from starting World War III with Russia. The clever manipulation of actual historical events, namely the Cuban Missile Crisis, is just part of the fun of a rambling narrative that has multiple tangents but keeps its focus forward and its pace bouncy. There are moments of excruciatingly bad dialogue (“We can’t even bury him”/”We can avenge him”), but it’s generally too much fun for this to be a problem and the film never commits the grave error that most of its kind do in taking themselves too seriously. The cast is particularly game, distracting if not always riveting (I’m pretty sure January Jones is the gum that comes in a pack of baseball cards), and it’s the most enjoyable X-Men movie since the second one.