‘In 1962, Charles Xavier starts up a school and later a team, for humans with superhuman abilities. Among them is Erik Lensherr, his best friend… and future archenemy.‘
After the disastrous last two X-Men movies (X3 & Origins: Wolverine) I went into this movie with very low expectations. Thankfully, the movie was much better than I expected – but it doesn’t really compare to the first two X-Men movies. And the fact that this movie is a prequel is a large part of the problem. We all know where these characters are going to end up, and many of the movie’s finer moments lack tension because they seem to be ticking the necessary boxes to fit into the established timeline.
Actually, the movie seemed to be missing any real tension throughout. The characters tell us that the stakes are high, but I never really believed it. The movie seemed to fizzle out towards the end, even though that was where the majority of the action scenes took place. But again, this seemed to be ticking the necessary boxes to make this an ‘exciting action movie’ rather than creating any real conflict. The special effects were impressive, and it was fun to see the various mutants play with their powers, but it wasn’t really anything we haven’t seen before.
Where this movie succeeded was in the relationship between Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender). These two have a great chemistry, and watching the friendship build between these two very different characters was far more interesting than anything else in the movie. The scenes of the two of them going around America recruiting new mutants for their team were fantastic, and not afraid to feel a little silly like something out of a buddy movie. It would have been interesting to see them throw the action set pieces out the window and make this a character drama about the origins of these two great characters. I think it could have worked, but it will never happen.
Unfortunately, the focus on Charles and Erik left almost every other character out in the cold in terms of any real development. The mutants in this movie are defined by their powers rather than their personalities, and even when we seem to start learning more about things like Beast and Mystique’s desire to be accepted, the camera gets pulled back to the central two characters. There were some interesting moments with the team of mutants, and I think with more time they could have delved deeper into their history and motivations, which would have made us care a bit more about what happened to them. As it was, when one of them was killed off in what was obviously supposed to be a touching moment – I had no investment in the character and thus didn’t really care.
Overall, I was entertained throughout the movie, but I never found myself excited for any of the movie’s developments. This will go down as another forgettable comic book movie, but hopefully they can build on what worked in the inevitable sequel.
What I liked – The dynamic between Charles and Erik, especially in the recruiting scenes. A willingness to be a little silly as befits the time period. The Wolverine cameo was fun.
What I didn’t like – The lack of tension. Most of the mutant characters were very one-dimensional.
Rating – 3 out of 5 (Average)