X-Men : First Class (Matthew Vaughan, 2011)

What's it about? The fifth instalment in the X-Men franchise is a prequel set mostly in the early 1960s. We meet Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) before they have become Professor X and Magneto respectively, as they join forces to battle against former Nazi and megalomaniac mutant Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), who has brought the world to the brink of nuclear war by secretly engineering the Cuban missile crisis, and who callously killed Erik's mother in a WWII concentration camp. Along the way, we meet a number of faces from the X-Men universe, including Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Emma Stone (January Jones) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult) amongst others. If you are reading all this in total bewilderment, best get up to speed here and then check out one of the first four films or the comic books.

Is it any good? Assessment feedback: A reasonable effort, competently laid out and showing some understanding of genetics, history and ethics. The parts focusing on Erik and Charles' relationship provide the most interesting material, although this is diluted with some unnecessary tangents and a lot of padding is evident, not least in January Jones' bra. It is also a bit uneven in tone, which raises the suspicion that more than one person contributed to the writing, but I will not pursue this with the authorities, since I do like the evidence provided which demonstrates that Jennifer Lawrence has the ability to make my jeans mutate, or at least shift in shape. Please take these comments into consideration during the next assignment. Grading: 2:1 class.

I don't trust you. What do others think? By general consensus, it was a smart move to go back to the origins of the X-Men, and to pretty much ignore any continuity with the disappointing X-Men : The Last Stand and X-Men Origins : Wolverine. Whilst this instalment never reaches the heights of the superlative X2, it was still well recieved, with notable praise for the brooding Fassbender (from the critics) and for Jones' scanty outfits (from grubby, hairy-handed teenage boys).

Jennifer Lawrence and January Jones. Lovely girls.
Anything else I should know? Throughout the X-Men stories, the differing viewpoints presented by Charles/Professor X and Erik/Magneto about the status of mutants in the world has proven to be a satisfyingly serious metaphor for the real-life persecution of, and prejudice against, various religious, ethnic and sexual minority groups. In this film, this is given some extra weight with the backstory about Erik's torture by Nazi doctors during WWII - part of what makes Magneto appealing as a villain is that you can't help feeling he has a pretty good point about the failings of 'normal' humans. As in the other films, different mutant characters highlight social prejudices against looks, skin colour and deformity, but sadly an early nod towards the most persecuted minority group of all is disappointingly not developed. Maybe they'll deal with that in the next film; X-Men : Revenge of the Red Head.

What does the Fonz think? X-Men : Upper Second Class

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