For many X-Men fans Matthew Vaughn’s ‘X-Men: First Class’ put to bed nightmares of Brett Ratner’s disastrous effort to end the original trilogy on any kind of a respectable note, bringing back a lot of the excitement and doing away with the Michael Bay-esque level of explosions and downright ridiculousness that encapsulated the entirety of Ratner’s disaster and replacing it with a much more interesting character study. This time Bryan Singer makes his return after having helmed the first two ‘X-Men’ films and manages to deliver a satisfying and highly entertaining follow up that has enough gravitas to get past the flaws and plotholes that its complicated plot was always going to generate.
Featuring an ensemble all-star cast that is an amalgamation of both old and new, the film is intent on packing as many characters in to its run time as possible, even at the expense of any serious screen time for some of the mutants. Despite this though, it manages to ensure that we’re in touch with them and understand the gravity of the situation that has befallen mutantkind as a whole, even if the sheer scale of mutants with cameos may just be fanservice. It features some very strong performances, particularly from the likes of James McAvoy who does a great job of capturing Professor X’s insecurities at a time in his life when things are a lot less composed than they are when we get to Patrick Stewart’s professor and also a wonderfully understated Peter Dinklage who plays the villain of the piece, the diminutive, intimidating Dr Bolliver Trask whose vision for the world is what becomes so destructive to the mutants in the first place and the film builds on this clash of ideologies very well, never letting up the pace, even managing to be funny as well as intense, often at the same time.
A lot of that is down to a good performance from Evan Peters as Quicksilver, whose scenes are invariably a delight to watch and don’t disappoint, often in fact making for some of the most iconic of the entire movie altogether. The way the characters work off each other is always important and Peters’ Quicksilver bounces off with all those surrounding him, managing amusing conversations with everyone from Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine to McAvoy. The tone is nicely contrasted with that which Michael Fassbender as a young Magneto has with McAvoy’s Professor X as their conflicting approaches to solving their problem of imminent doom once again come in to conflict with each other and it’s that sense that these characters know that they have a rare opportunity to affect a future that is inevitably going to be a horrible one if they don’t act that gives the movie its added power. A mention must also be given to Jackman who continues to be flawless and takes on a slightly different role to usual in this film, working as our window between the two worlds and being much more of a diplomat than he’s ever had to, or wanted, to be before.
Having dealt with the influx of characters and timelines, the film’s unabashed desire to provide us with a bit of superhero spectacle feels a lot less forced than it could have, and while the final act is totally bonkers and probably wouldn’t have worked in any other context, Singer makes it fit in to the wider context of this barmy film like a hand in a glove. Miraculously we have that rarest of things as a result: a hotchpotch of random ideas that for once do fit in to each other nicely to make a highly entertaining, clever if not always the right side of downright ridiculous ‘X-Men’ film that can easily be called the most ambitious of the series so far, and the one that has reaped the most rewards for its daring.