Michael Fassbender

Review: X-Men: Days Of Future Past 3D

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Strong candidate for worst poster of the year. Hugh Jackman looks like the love child of Chris Pine and Freddy Krueger for starters.
Strong candidate for worst poster of the year. Hugh Jackman looks like the love child of Chris Pine and Freddy Krueger for starters.

The Pitch: X-Men: Days Of Sideburns And Flares.

The Review: I was never much of a comic book reader as a child, other than traditional British fare like The Beano and The Dandy. It wasn’t that the concept of comic books didn’t appeal; far from it, as I spent large chunks of my adolescence in comic book stores, I was just there for the latest TV and film merchandise from my favourite franchises. Comic books always felt somewhat alienating for their complex universes, and I never felt comfortable attempting to pick up in a franchise that had sixty years of back story. Slowly but surely, the film franchises are heading the same way, and the Avengers and X-Men series are both at a point where coming in fresh to the franchise will prove alienating and frustrating.

For those keeping score in the XMCU (X-Men cinematic universe, as probably no-one apart from me is yet calling it), the tally is so far one decent, one amazing and one muddled film in the original trilogy; one dire and one passable Wolverine spin-off; and one fun, fresh and revisionist take on the younger versions of the characters that seemed almost impossible to reconcile with what we knew was to come. Undaunted, many of the key players in both the franchise’s high and low points behind the scenes have returned to attempt to draw these plot threads and characters together in a single film. In theory it’s a simple premise: Kitty Pride (Ellen Page) has been using her powers to send someone’s consciousness back a few hours and use the future knowledge to help win otherwise impossible battles with highly advanced, adaptive robots called Sentinels in an era when both humans and mutants are all but extinct. Deciding the only way to win the war is to stop it before it starts, the franchise’s own odd couple Professor X and Magneto (Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen) decide to send someone back using Kitty’s power, but only Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) can survive the trip. Once back in the Seventies, he must stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing Sentinel designer Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), but will need to get younger Charles and Erik talking first (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender).

If that paragraph didn’t make a lick of sense to you, I suggest you give up now and turn back. Those also expecting detailed explanations at how the future mutants have either regained powers or survived should also lower expectations now. While many of the film’s set-pieces can be enjoyed on their own – especially the opening future battle showcasing a host of new mutants with exciting powers and no time to get into their character traits, and the standout scene with new super-speedy mutant Quicksilver (Evan Peters) and a Pentagon break-in – whether or not the character arcs stand up on their own is more debatable. In terms of development, there are only three characters who get any serious work: once again, the focus is on young Magneto, Xavier and Mystique. Fassbender continues to exhibit the same directness as McKellen did, while Lawrence is a mass of whirling limbs and is in blue more often than not. The standout this time is McAvoy, who gets to explore his own evolution more thoroughly and his struggle on whether or not to use a drug created by Nicholas Hoult’s Beast to enable him to walk at the cost of his powers carries the most dramatic weight.

Pretty much everyone else is a cypher, even Jackman as Wolverine who here is little more than a plot device who gets to react to the latest dramatic development. The biggest waste has to be Peter Dinklage, effective but woefully underused in the rush to give everyone a line of dialogue or two. With even minor mutants from the original trilogy and First Class populating the background, some of whom I didn’t even remember on first watch, there is an occasional feeling of the plot straining at the seams under the sheer weight of mutants. You may be too entertained to care, as Days Of Future Past rattles past at a fair old lick, and Singer directs with the same flair he brought to the series high of the first sequel. I also hope you’re not too attached to the original trilogy, as by the time the dust settles it’s unclear how much of them even happened in this new timeline, but in this case if you’re thrilled by this instalment, it’s probably enough. The USP, and strength, of the X-men series has been their service as an analogy for any groups suffering segregation, abuse and injustice, and while these themes are still at play, they’re slightly more to the background here and DOFP is more action movie, first and foremost; that’s no bad thing, as there are only so many times you can wheel out the same moral or message before it feels stale. Where many other comic book franchise episodes feel like they’re biding time before the next chapter, this X-Men movement has substance and feels pivotal while still leaving you wanting to watch the next in the series. It’s to the credit of all involved that there still feels plenty of life in this franchise, but let’s hope the coming Apocalypse can thin out the X-roster a little and keep the series relatable.

Why see it at the cinema: It’s another big Hollywood mash-up, and with a decent supply of humour and some epic visuals – as anyone who’s seen the trailer will testify – the cinema is the sensible choice to get the most out of this one.

Why see it in 3D? The two main issues for any 3D film are both related to seeing what’s going on clearly. In terms of editing, Singer favours long takes and steers away from choppy editing, and in this sense the third dimension works well. Much of the future setting, though, is very dark and although I could always work out what was going on, sometimes I was straining hard to see everything.

What about the rating? Rated 12A for moderate fantasy action and infrequent strong language. I’d hate to be a director of a major studio tentpole knowing that the best you can aim for is “moderate”, but as moderate films go, no complaints here.

My cinema experience: A Tuesday night at my local Cineworld in Bury St. Edmunds, another person to show my ancient Cineworld card to and to convince them it still works, and a sizeable audience taking advantage of cheap Tuesday prices which meant

The Score: 8/10

The X-Men Movies From Best To Worst (because these things matter to some people):

1. X2: X-Men United

2. X-Men: First Class

3. X-Men: Days Of Future Past

4. X-Men

5. The Wolverine

6. X-Men: The Last Stand

7. X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Review: Frank (2014)

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Frank 2014

The Pitch: Getting inside your head.

The Review: Never having been a great sleeper, at least until I settled down for domestic bliss with Mrs Evangelist, I’ve watched a lot of late night TV over the years, most of which in the Nineties in the UK on a Friday night would have been somewhere between a talk show, an old fashioned revue and a freak show. Saturday morning TV was also a student staple that carried over from childhood, and was generally a lot more wholesome, if often just as irreverent; oddly, there was at least one character who managed to fit in comfortably with both, a relentlessly cheerful man who sang songs, occasionally had a hand puppet and spoke in a broad northern accent. All the while, he dressed in a suit, wearing a giant papier maché head in the style of a Max Fleischer cartoon and calling himself Frank Sidebottom, when he was actually called Chris Sievey. He had a band called the Oh Blimey Big Band and one of its members, now journalist Jon Ronson, has co-written a film using Frank as his inspiration.

Rather than a jovial Mancunian, Frank is now an American trying to make it with his band of eccentrics on the UK music scene. With an unpronounceable band name (The Soronprfbs) and a collection of dysfunctional members, Jon (Domnhall Gleeson) ends up filling in for their drummer when he’s found raving in the water on a local beach. Before he knows it, Jon is holed up with the rest of the band attempting to record an album in an Irish holiday home, with only the sympathetic manager Don (Scoot McNairy) on his side. Desperately unable to channel his own musical input into the band and seemingly only able to antagonise Frank’s right hand woman, highly strung theremin player Clara (Maggie Gyllenall) and can’t even communicate with the others, so his only outlet becomes expressing his frustrations on Twitter and posting videos of the band on YouTube. Unwittingly, that strategy might be the path to fame and fortune that the whole group craves, if they can keep themselves together for long enough.

You have to disassociate the real life Frank from the fictional one here; while Sievey might have kept his head on for an hour or two after performances, Michael Fassbender’s Frank never takes his off, a conceit played out for a number of teasing moments through the course of the film. There’s nothing to really give away that Frank is Fassbender; he disappears into the head convincingly and thoroughly, and he’s a charismatic oddball that offsets the angst and misery of his fellow bandmates. It’s needed because everyone else in the band is resolutely one-note, as much – maybe more so – caricatures than Frank and his giant head are. Gleeson perfected his ginger Hugh Grant, slightly shy English routine in About Time and gets another chance to roll it out here, but he’s no more sympathetic than any of his emotionally frigid colleagues (Frank excepted). The humour derives from a mixture of desperation and pathos, and while there’s a number of stand out moments, the tone is uneven and uncertain, causing the film to occasionally feel like its lurching about blindly. The social media overlay, with Sherlock-style onscreen text for Jon’s Twitter and YouTube postings, somehow feels at odds with the shambolic, gangly and old-fashioned thread of the band’s story, and the two never gel satisfactorily.

Disassociating Fassbender-Frank from Sievey-Frank also serves another purpose: to be able to go along with the basic conceits of the film, that there must be a reason why a man chooses to wear a giant paper head 24/7, rather than “just because”, and that creativity is borne most successfully out of pain and suffering. The resolution of the first thread does at least allow Fassbender to deliver some great work, but feels over-engineered. It also serves only to underpin the idea that creativity is a burden to be exploited by tortured souls, and never feels more than a passing thread, an idea looking for a better script to hang itself on. Frank the film is stranger than both its fictional and real-life counterparts, but has only fleeting pleasures and ultimately rings as hollow as the famous head.

Why see it at the cinema: If you don’t have a home cinema set-up, then the opening minute or so will be something of a cinematic novelty as every speaker gets a workout. There’s a decent enough selection of laughs as well, for which you’ll hopefully have a full cinema to make the most of it.

What about the rating: Really, BBFC, this should come with a [SPOILER ALERT]. But it’s rated 15 for very strong language, strong sex and a suicide scene.

My cinema experience: Saw this as the second part of a double bill with Blue Ruin at the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse. With no gap between the two, I made sure I had my e-ticket on my phone to be scanned in, rather than one of those messy bits of paper. However, I confused the heck out of the person on the door when I walked out of the cinema and presented him with my phone; normally it’s the other way around.

Also, teeny bit of a grumble that the Corridor Of Uncertainty at the Arts seems to be hitting 20 minutes regularly when it used to be a nailed on 15 minutes before the film. Getting dangerously close to multiplex territory.

The Score: 5/10

Review: Prometheus 3D

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The Pitch: At the foothills of the mountains of madness.

The Review: It’s been thirty-three years since Sir Ridley Scott first announced himself to the world at large with Alien. Inspired by the epic sweep of Star Wars and the potential that such images and ideas had in the cinema, he took a small crew into space, ripped them to shreds and terrified audiences everywhere. During that thirty-three years, we have come to find ourselves living in a world of sequels, where seemingly no story is ever truly concluded, and so the thought of Scott returning to that world, in which many others had played with different ideas but only James Cameron had received similar acclaim for, excited audiences the world over. The potential of another Alien film like Alien seemed too good to pass up, a chance for a further exploration of the world, and one which had many unanswered questions, not least what else was on LV-426 when the crew of the Nostromo set down on company orders. In the months preceding the release of Prometheus, excitement reached fever pitch, then rapidly turned to angst; the trailer seemed to deliver enough Alien related goodness, but when discussion even turned to the classification that the film would receive, with seemingly nothing less than a 15 / R rating satisfying the fans, all watching previous Alien movies in anticipation, could anything ever hope to live up to the high expectations set for it?

Except in the rush to proclaim this an Alien prequel, with the expectations of the same qualities as the original, everyone seemed to forget that no two other Alien movies have ever sat in the same genre. Alien was effectively a haunted house movie in space, for all its sci-fi trappings and unbearable tension; Aliens the classic war movie, the Dirty Dozen sent to pick off the enemy in black; Alien³ was a nihilistic prison movie, despairing at the nature of life and death; and Alien Resurrection had mutant DNA running through its core, the darkly comic contrasting with the horror of the cloned creations. It should come as no surprise to anyone willing to give it a moment’s thought that Prometheus is keenly ploughing its own furrow, looking to explore not only how the aliens may have come about, but also how we came about as well, and Prometheus could well be the first pure sci-fi of the series.

Consequently, it stands alone as a film that can be watched without pre-knowledge of the series, but one that also calls on the themes of each of the earlier (or is that later?) films, even if the key call out to Alien Resurrection initially appears to be incredible basketball skills. The core motifs of the series – other than a giant black alien with two mouths and acid for blood – are all present and correct. There’s the strong female lead in Noomi Rapace, a different twist on the gradually empowered Ellen Ripley who’s looking for answers she may not want to find; the corporate tool, in more than one sense of the word, as Charlize Theron lays down the law and takes matters into her own hands in equal measure; the friendly grunt (Idris Elba) who’s unshakably on the side of good, and the absolute standout here, David the android (Michael Fassbender), who’s working to his own agenda but avoids the more Pinocchio-like clichés of other obvious robots. This sense of familiarity in the characters, coupled with Prometheus telling a new story using many of the story beats of the other films, gives Prometheus an oppressive sense of familiarity, and for anyone familiar with the series a gut-wrenching sense of inevitability sets in as whatever’s still on the planet starts to reveal itself.

Prometheus then becomes a fascinating mix of the old and the new; grappling with new ideas that extend well beyond the claustrophobic scope of any of the films with Alien in the title, but at the same time having some fun with the old ideas and investing new life into them. The one thing guaranteed to disappoint those most hoping for another film cut from exactly the same cloth as Alien, rather than just cut into a similar style, is that this is more sci-fi than horror, looking to engage your mind rather than send it screaming. On the ideas front, the only failing is the insistence to have to explain some events in total and absolute detail, especially given that this leaves as much open to speculation as Alien did; to attempt to leave much unexplained, and then practically shout explanations in your face for the remainder, is both disconcerting and ultimately disappointing. For anyone else who’s ever contemplated either the nature of existence, or even what that blue fluff collecting in their belly button is, there should be a decent amount to enjoy. When Scott does turn his hand, in a few brief moments, to horror it’s the equal of anything in the series, queasily uncomfortable scenes that could leave you clasping your belly, Ripley-like, in sympathy. Prometheus is about two minutes too long (and those are absolutely the last two minutes – if you’ve any sense you’ll leave when you see the duffel bag, and you’ll enjoy it more on its own terms if you do), but the marriage of big, unexplained ideas and gorgeous cinematography and production design mean that there’s life gestating in the warm body of this franchise yet. Fancy another go, Cameron?

Why see it at the cinema: Visually stunning, which almost goes without saying being a Ridley Scott film, and there are just a couple of sequences that you’ll want to see so you can chat with your mates in the pub afterwards.

Why see it in 3D: Ridley Scott does about as well as anyone has with 3D in terms of creating a depth of field, and the crisp images and bold shots work pretty well with the extra dimension. Despite the dark sets and gloomy images, the image has been sufficiently brightened that you can still watch indoors with sunglasses on and make out everything that’s happening. If you’re a fan of stereoscopy, then do make the effort for Prometheus.

The Score: 8/10

Review: Haywire

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The Pitch: Of Woman Bourne.

The Review: Steven Soderbergh films are like buses; you wait ages, then two come along at once. In some ways they’re actually better than buses, as if there’s one you don’t like the next one will probably be completely different. So it should be no surprise that after last year’s taut but slightly underwhelming Outbreak-remake Contagion Soderbergh has arrived on an entirely different bus, but actually one that left the depot two years ago. (I think I’d better park this bus metaphor now.) The difference between Contagion and Haywire is a prime  example of Steven Soderbergh’s experimental and varied nature, but it also means that you can’t guarantee that you’re actually going to like every Soderbergh film. This time, the Soderbergh experiment is to take a female mixed martial arts star and to attempt to make her a movie star; but does this attempt to put the fair fight in My Fair Lady actually work?

A lot of that rests on Carano’s broad but still delicate shoulders. Coming off somewhere between Jet from Gladiators and Cynthia Rothrock, what she lacks in personality and acting ability and more personality she makes up for with a steely glare,  a slight grumpiness when asked to wear a dress and an unerring ability to beat the senses out of men twice her size. Sensibly, the story constructed is very much designed to show off the sense-beating, grumpiness and steely glares and minimise the need for personality and acting ability. It’s pretty much a Bourne clone; there’s running, fighting, driving, all in the name of Carano finding something about about the people who she’s fighting, driving past or running away from. The fights themselves have a real physicality and heft about them, and when Carano and Michael Fassbender start laying into each other, it’s verging on cartoon violence and quite satisfying, if you like that kind of thing.

In order to draw attention away from any perceived lack of abilities on Gina Carano’s part, Soderbergh has surrounded her with some of the finest acting and action movie talent known to man. Ewan McGregor sports a dodgy haircut and his usual unlikely American accent and does most of the exposition, and the likes of Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas and Bill Paxton also pop up in supporting roles. Here lies the first of two major problems with Haywire: the bits in between the running and the fighting are deathly dull, written as if the Enigma machine had turned its hand to screenplays. There’s lots of obtuse references to lots of things which aren’t stated explicitly, and then in the last ten minutes reams of further exposition turn up to make sense of it all. By that point, if you didn’t enjoy the fighting and the running, you may have also stopped caring.

The other drawback of Haywire is that, for all of Steven Soderbergh’s experimental nature, it actually feels about as fresh as a three day old nappy at times. There’s a little Ocean’s meets Bourne feel going on, thanks to David Holmes’ unmistakably trendy, januty score which creates a familiar ambience, but Soderbergh has been experimental so many times, and often much more so than here, that actually the familiarity of the material can breed contempt in the quieter stretches. There’s a great stretch in the middle of the film where Carano goes on the run across Dublin, beating up security guards and running over rooftops, and somehow an extended version of this sequence, stripped of the babbling exposition and filling the short but overstretched run time, might have actually been an improvement. Soderbergh’s talking about taking a sabbatical after his next two films and on this evidence he might need to recharge his batteries, as Haywire’s a lot of fun when its star is handing out violence like it’s going out of fashion, but the rest of the time you’ll wish you had Jason Bourne’s Swiss-cheesed memory, as the non-violent scenes deserve to be forgotten.

Why see it at the cinema: Yay fighty bits! Yay running about on rooftops! The rest might be a little scrambled, but whenever Carano’s kicking butt or running about in pursuit of some other low-life, then you’ll thank yourself that you saw it on a screen that did it justice.

The Score: 6/10

Review: Shame

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The Pitch: The naked truth.

The Review: Willy. Dinkle. Ding-dong. Schlong. Dick. Penis. Silly words, aren’t they? Got that out of our systems for now? Good. When I was at school, and the time came for sex education, our teacher put in the shiny new VHS cassette, pressed play and within five minutes a man and a woman appeared, walking around their house like the fruity naturists they obviously were, with not a stitch of clothing on. To a room full of eleven year olds, this was worthy of plenty of laughing, pointing and discussion, until we were told if we continued, the tape would go off again and wouldn’t come back on. But that urge to giggle at the mere mention of genitalia, never mind seeing them on screen, is still suppressed deep down in a great many of us, and it’s also that need to suppress the nature of discussing or seeing something that pretty much every one of us has that has seen Shame get a lot of attention for mostly the wrong reasons. It’s felt at times as if Shame has been categorised along with the pornography that its lead character is so fond of, yet the comparison feels as sensible as likening Goodfellas to The Three Stooges on the basis of slightly funny looking people with strong accents.

One thing’s absolutely for sure; Steve McQueen isn’t afraid to shy away from the big issues or themes. His first film, Hunger, was a triumph of style marrying grimness to substance with his story of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands. Michael Fassbender took on the lead role both then and here, but the characters couldn’t be more different. Put him in a crowd, and Fassbender’s Brandon might be the coolest looking there, but he’ll be the one at the back, doing whatever he can to avoid drawing attention to himself. Your eyes might be drawn to him if you’re an attractive woman; you can be sure, if that’s the case, that his eyes will already be on you, and will have discreetly looked you up and down, mentally undressing you both physically and emotionally. But Brandon might also be hanging back for fear of commitment; physical contact and emotional gratification are right up his alley, if you’ll pardon the pun, but the thought of emotional connection to a woman, even his own sister Cissy (Carey Mulligan), seems to be the furthest thing from his mind.

First things first, then: Shame isn’t really about sex. It’s been loosely described as being about sex addiction, but that might be no more than an attempt to put a 21st century label on the fractured psyche of a man who just can’t say no to himself; but then again, why should he? In our internet led society of instant gratification and ready access to whatever you might desire, is it any wonder that someone channelling their OCD and overactive libido ends up following a path such as Brandon? it’s easy for Brandon to keep his deeper desires and needs to himself, but whenever his life rubs up against normal society, the relative innocents – or sister Cissy, about as far from innocent as Brandon – are what brings Brandon’s peccadilloes into sharper focus. Fassbender is fantastic, possibly in a career best performance in what’s been a busy few years, and retains just enough sympathy to keep your investment in the story, despite his more obvious character flaws. Again the charm and smoothness that’s picked him out as a future Bond in the likes of last year’s X-Men prequel are put to good use, but even Bond might blush at some of what Brandon gets up to, and it’s a neat trick in creating a character that both compels and repulses, often at the same time. Mulligan has a smaller role, but she’s almost up to the same standard, and her brashness and brittleness offer a strong dramatic counterpoint to Fassbender.

But Shame would be nothing without a director willing to take on material like this, and Steve McQueen succeeds in taking Shame up another level from his previous film. Hunger was almost a film in three distinct acts, the second of which was a standout single take scene between Bobby Sands and a priest. Shot from a fixed viewpoint, the conversation gripped despite being two people at a table, but even then, McQueen knew just when to cut to a more conventional shot for heightened effect. Here, his visual style is taken up a notch; from the crisp, functional blandness of Brandon’s apartment to the golden shimmer of New York nightlife, Shame looks gorgeous, and it’s not the occasional shots of genitalia at the edge of frame that will linger in the mind after the film finishes. The long single camera set-ups are put to more frequent use, but none outstays their welcome. The tight close-up on Mulligan’s face during her slow jazz rendition of New York, New York might get the most attention, but another scene were Fassbender has a dinner date is even better, allowing the slow burn of the chemistry between him and his prospective partner to ooze off the screen, every tiny detail captured in the frame.

As outstanding a debut as it was, Hunger still felt as if it would be as comfortable in an art installation as it would in a cinema. Shame feels made with only one possible destination in mind, the tricks less apparent when taken at a distance and the performances raw and resonant.  By the end, the vice-like grip that’s slowly been exerted throughout the film takes hold and refuses to let go amid scenes of almost unbearable tension. Through it all, the flesh on display is kept to a few scenes and used to best effect each time it’s seen; you might need to repress those inner-child giggles when the first male member appears, somewhat briefly and briskly, but by halfway through it’s to the credit of all involved that no matter what’s seen on screen, it feels perfectly in service of the narrative. The real shame in all this is that from the US’s NC-17 rating to the judgemental looks from the usher as your ticket is checked, Shame has been judged by its reputation, which might deny the film the level of viewers its quality deserves. (Balls.)

Why see it at the cinema: McQueen and Fassbender are genuine talents; the long sequences demand to be seen in a cinema to allow you to soak in every single detail. I cannot recommend strongly enough that you immerse yourself in Shame.

The Score: 10/10

Review: X-Men: First Class

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The Pitch: The origin of the species’ next evolution.

The Review: You’d be forgiven for having lost patience with the X-Men saga by now, after the complete mess that The Last Stand and the Wolverine spin-off turned out to be. Blame for that could feasibly be put at the door of two particular individuals: Bryan Singer, who ran away from the franchise to make a bloated, overly reverential Superman movie, and Matthew Vaughn, who stepped in to direct but then got cold feet over the resources he had to work with and disappeared off to make Stardust and then Kick-Ass instead. But obviously the call of the mutant still remained strong for both men, as Singer returns to produce and Vaughn to direct what was described in some quarters as a reboot but is actually positioned as a fairly direct prequel to the original trilogy. Given how poorly treated many of the mutants on both sides were treated by the original trilogy’s final chapter, it’s also a chance to redress the balance for many of the characters.

But if you’re going to go back forty years, then your most immediate challenge is to find someone to fill the younger shoes, and eventually wheelchair, of Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. Vaughn has turned to two of the hottest up and coming actors, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. Avoiding the trap of direct impersonations that so dogged Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi, McAvoy and Fassbender instead bring the same ethos and conflict to their pairing, but both with a twist; McAvoy’s Charles Xavier starts out by using his mind control powers to pick up women in the pubs around Oxford, but eventually his sense of responsibility takes over from his more lecherous tendencies, and Fassbender’s Erik Lehnsherr is almost the anti-James Bond, globetrotting in a mission of revenge that has its roots very much in the character’s origins right back at the start of the original movie. Both of the youngsters are up to the challenge, Fassbender very much with the more interesting and shaded role but McAvoy his equal in the more tense moments. Their relationship is the core of the movie, possibly even more so than in the originals, and they both keep you interested and invested every time they’re on screen.

So First Class is the origin story, and in this case it’s the origin of the differing viewpoints of Professor X and Magneto. Given their ages and the timeframe, the rest of the cast is mainly new mutants, although Mystique is slow enough in her ageing to have been around in the Sixties, here portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence, and Hank “Beast” McCoy old enough, so Nicholas Hoult picks up the role. While neither rise to the heights of the two leads, both have some great moments and are absolutely right for their characters. Outside of these four leads the other new mutants get very little to do on the good side, but they do at least fare better than the baddies, where only half of them even get speaking roles, with mixed success. Kevin Bacon is deliciously evil as the head of the Hellfire Club, but January Jones appears to be in a competition of her own making to see how badly she can act and get away with it, as she looks diamond some of the time but acts plastic for the rest of it. The other main role is handed to CIA stooge Rose Byrne, who takes her clothes off to get into the Hellfire Club and then spends most of the rest of the movie earning back her dignity.

Vaughn has also taken the opportunity to populate the rest of the cast with a fantastic array of familiar faces to fans of sci-fi and action genres, with the likes of Oliver Platt, Glenn Morshower, Matt Craven, James Remar, Rade Serbedzija, Ray Wise and even Michael Ironside popping up, and giving the whole film a feeling of consistent qualityJones is pretty much the only weak link in the whole film. There’s also some fantastic connections to earlier films, both in terms of visuals and personnel, but the depth of the acting quality and the reasonable structure would mean little if the story wasn’t up to much. The concept is great, putting the action in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis, although you’d be advised not to have your brain fully engaged, otherwise some of the silliness of the concepts may become too apparent. But Vaughn keeps the movie going at a cracking lick, with montages and split-screens used sparingly and effectively, and some set-pieces which have a scale which doesn’t feel out of place in the company of the other summer blockbusters. Singer’s hand as producer has achieved something on the fifth film of this franchise which he didn’t achieve on his Superman gig, which is to make a fifth film that can sit comfortably in the company of the first two. It falls short of the outstanding quality of X2, but there’s enough here to make you want to see what Singer, Vaughn and writer Jane Goldman can make of another trip round this universe.

Why see it at the cinema: Vaughn brings a scope and a scale to the whole enterprise that deserves to be seen on the big screen, and after the damage done to the franchise by the last two sloppy instalments, this will reward you if you’re willing to make the trip out.

The Score: 8/10