Even 'X-men' have their issues
By now it's de rigueur to ascribe psychological issues to comic book heroes when their escapades are translated to the big screen.
We've seen this with Superman's abandonment issues, Batman's post-traumatic stress over the slaying of his parents and Iron Man's figurative -- and literal -- change of heart.
We humans seem to like our heroes to have feet of clay, going back to Greek myth and, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, the Bible's Old Testament (King David is a prime example).
So, why should we feel any differently about superheroes, albeit mutants?
With superheroes, you have super issues. With "X-Men: First Class," you have a squadron of superheroes and so many psychological issues it would take a village of therapists.
None of the X-Men hits the couch. They hit a lot of other things -- including each other. It's left to us, the audience, to listen and watch, ponder and diagnose. "First Class" provides the movie-goer ample opportunity.
While the movie has plenty of action, courtesy of computer-generated imagery, animation, rotoscoping and models, the pacing is leisurely and expositional, and, at two and one-half hours, the film-makers have plenty of time to get us ready for a sequel.
In 1962, Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) founded a school for humans with super abilities, hence the X-Men and the movie title reference, "First Class." Those attending include Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender), his best friend and future nemesis, Magneto, who established the Brotherhood.
With a cameo by Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), "First Class" references "X-Men Origins:Wolverine" (2009), and reminds us that before the "First Class" prequel there was "X-Men: The Last Stand" (2006), "X 2" (2003) and "X-Men" (2000).
Matthew Vaughn ("Stardust," 2007) directs "First Class" with a sense of purpose and matter-of-fact, economical style.
The screenplay by Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz (co-writers "Thor") and Jane Goldman ("Stardust") is based on a story by Sheldon Turner ("Up in the Air") and Bryan Singer ("X2," "Superman Returns").
"First Class" is cinematically crisp, rich in detail and with top quality production values. This doesn't mask that fact that the movie is basically a monster movie, what used to be called a B-Movie, a "creature feature."
The dialogue is perfunctory, dealing mainly with explaining the developing associations between the characters, providing plot information and adding a few tidbits about the characters' inner turmoil.
Scenes jump from a 1944 Poland concentration camp to 1960's Moscow; CIA Headquarters, Langley, Va.; and Cuba.
The plot implausibly links the Cuban Missile Crisis and President John F. Kennedy's and the U.S.S.R.'s response to the X-Men, who somehow enlist a modern-day Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird spy plane in the action.
That the X-Men are shape-shifting mutants, with two, Hank-Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and Raven-Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) resplendent in "Avatar" blue skin, is put to good CGI use.
The special effects are spectacular, so much so that we take them for granted. That "X-Men" is not in 3-D is somewhat of a bonus, in that scenes seem to be clearer and lighter than in other recent 3-D effects-laden movies.
The large cast includes Kevin Bacon (Sebastian Shaw), Rose Byrne (Moire), Jason Flemyng (Azazel), Zoe Kravitz (Angel), Lucas Till (Havoc), Edi Gathegi (Darwin) and January Jones (Emma Frost).
The movie is mainly for fans of "X-Men" comic books and Marvel Comics movies and the teen male and female audience.
"X-Men: First Class," MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13) for sequences of action and violence; some sexual including brief nudity and language; Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Science-Fiction, Thriller; Run Time: 2 hrs. 32 min.; Distributed by 20th Century Fox.
Credit Readers Anonymous: "X-Men: First Class" was filmed in Georgia and at Pinewood Studios, England.
Box Office, June 3: "X-Men: First Class" went to the head of the class, opening with $56 million, dropping "The Hangover Part II" to No. 2, with a still strong $32.4 million, $186.8 million, two weeks. "Kung Fu Panda 2" dropped to No. 3, $24.3 million, $100 million, two weeks;
4. "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," $18 million, $190.2 million, three weeks; 5. "Bridesmaids," $12.1 million, $107.2 million, four weeks; 6. Thor," $4.2 million, $169 million, five weeks; 7. "Fast Five," $3.2 million, $202 million, six weeks; 8. "Midnight in Paris," $2.9 million, $6.9 million, three weeks; 9. "Jumping the Broom," $865,000, $35.9 million, five weeks; 10. "Something Borrowed," $835,000, $36.6 million, five weeks.
Unreel, June 10:
"Super 8," No MPAA rating, as of press time: J. J. Abrams directs and Steven Spielberg produces the science fiction
"Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer," Rated PG: The adventure story, based on Megan McDonald's children's book, is about a third-grader and a series a series of dares she takes.
Two Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes