Or Secret Agent X-Man.
Or even From Russia With Mutants.
Well, if you’ve ever wanted to see a 007 film with superheroes instead of James Bond, today’s your lucky day because X-Men: First Class just opened.
The absence of a Stan Lee cameo marks it as a Marvel Entertainment production that runs somewhat parallel to the others, and its six credited screenwriters marks it as a somewhat agonized construct of comicbook origins and tinseltown’s standard operating arrogance (including that of previous director, now producer and scripter, Bryan Singer, and new director Matthew Vaughn).
But, in truth, only the last fifteen (of 130) minutes is really an X-Men movie. The first two hours is a 1960’s spy thriller. Even the villain’s plan is straight out of Dr. No, You Only Live Twice, or The Spy Who Loved Me, among others – that is, get the super-powers to annihilate each other to create a haven for a self-proclaimed master race.
That part is kind of fun and funky, while the teen angst of the newly minted costumed mutant heroes never really takes hold. What keeps this production afloat is the fan-bait casting, including the welcome sight of Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt, Ray Wise, James Remar, and Michael Ironside (as well as some sweet, spoiler-alerting cameos by previous X-Men and Women).
In addition, stars James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender hold the screen ably. Sadly, such is not the case with Nicholas Hoult, Sean Cassidy, Lucas Till and the other newbie muties asked to create some sort of presence with very little help.
Meanwhile the heroines were a pretty, mixed, bag: January Jones filled her skimpy costumes swell, but showed little emotion otherwise. Oscar-nominated and newly Hunger Games-casted Jennifer Lawrence was a baby-fatted dead ringer for Linda Blair in Exorcist II, and Rose Byrne gamely attempted to fill The Girl from UNCLE role. Most annoyingly, however, was the plotters’ decision to quickly kill off the one African-American X-Man … almost as an in-joke. Here’s hoping Chris Rock doesn’t let that slide in his next HBO special.
Like several summer flicks before it, this new X-Men – blessedly not in 3D — is only first class in production value. It’s not bad … it’s just not great. Although entertaining enough, I started to get disinterested at about the hour mark, and, while I wasn’t bored with the rest of it, I also wasn’t thrilled. The lack of cool end credits and a post-credit sequence was also disappointing.
Not the best Marvel Comic adaptation, not the worst. Proceed on your own recognizance.