After a rubbish third film and the disappointing Wolverine film there’s not really a great deal expected from X-Men films from me nowadays. The trailers looked interesting but that doesn’t really say much because trailers are supposed to look interesting and get your attention, so I went in with an open mind and lowered expectations and was pleasantly surprised.
The story basically starts in the same place as the first X-Men film, in a concentration camp with young Erik as a child. He’s being taken away from his parents and in his struggle with the Nazi guards his anger and pain manifest in his magnetic powers pulling at the metal gates as the guards try to subdue him. Afterwards he’s meets the doctor of the camp, he’s running experiments and wants him to manifest his powers by moving a coin on command, when he fails to do it they bring in his mother and threaten to shoot her if he doesn’t do it by the count of 3. He can’t manage it so his mother is shot and killed, which sends him in to a rage and he destroys the lab with his power which impresses them.
Then we see the young Charles Xavier in his mansion, he hears someone in the house and goes downstairs with a baseball bat to confront a burglar, only to find his Mum in the kitchen, she tells him she was just getting a snack and she’ll make him a hot chocolate and send him back to bed, this makes him suspicious, as his Mum has never been in the kitchen and would order a maid to make him hot chocolate but never do it herself. Turns out it’s actually a little girl, Raven, she’s has the ability to mimic other people and was just in need of some food. Charles tells her she doesn’t need to steal, she can take what she wants, and he promises her she’ll have everything she wants and will never have to steal again.
Flash forward to the 60s, Erik is now looking for revenge and hunting down the doctor who experimented on him. He’s hurting, torturing and killing anyone he has to to find him. Charles is at Oxford University studying genetics and Raven is pretending to be his sister, while he chats up women at the bar. We then meet Moira MacTaggert, a CIA agent investigating the Hellfire club. She infiltrates the club by stripping to her underwear and pretending to be part of the “entertainment”. In the club she discovers the German doctor who experimented on Erik, now calling himself Sebastian Shaw, he and his partners, Emma Frost, Azazel and Riptide, are trying to get a general to vote to install a nuclear missile base in Turkey. The make him change his mind and then teleport him back to the vote, while Moira tries to inform her CIA bosses what happened, only to be ignored. But after seeing what the mutants could do she decides to enlist the advice of a genetic expert, who else but Charles Xavier, and try to convince her bosses of what’s going on.
With all those pieces in place the story becomes about mutants forming groups and picking sides, you know the general X-Men thing, but it works out pretty well as we see familiar character, or their forerunners, showing up and the story works pretty well. So the story seems pretty well done, with a few knowing references thrown in there about the future, but some choices seemed a little odd. Like why is Moira a CIA agent? I thought she was a genetics expert? Though I suppose these kind of things often happen in adaptations from one medium to another.
While the acting is for the most part good, there is some hamming it up here and there but understandable in some cases. While a couple of roles seem a little miscast I’ve got no real complaints there.
When it comes to effects, well some of the CGI looks a little cheap, the sort of thing that wouldn’t look out of place in a video game cut scene in a couple of places. Though there was a surprising amount of what seemed to be practical effects work done this also came across as cheap, too. The pacing for the most part is good, but it did sag a bit in the middle.
But despite these complaints I enjoyed the film. It’s probably my second favourite X-Men film, and it’s probably the best Marvel Comics film in 2 or 3 years.