Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 23
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
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Cinema

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

IT’S YOUR MOVE: Charles Xavier, aka Professor X (James McAvoy, left) plays a game of chess with Erik Lehnsherr, aka Magneto, (Michael Fassbender) one evening after they have been brought together by the CIA as part of a team of mutants, similarly endowed with superhuman powers, in order to fight the evil Dr. Shaw (Kevin Bacon, not shown), who is trying to take over the world.

X-Men — First Class:“Origins” Prequel Reveals Roots of Mutants’ Superpowers

Kam Williams

The release of a prequel is normally a sign that a series is running out of story ideas. But that isn’t the case with X-Men: First Class, which is an extension of the Marvel Comics stories. The movie is devoted to the emergence of Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr’s (Michael Fassbender) superpowers and to their alternate identities as Professor X and Magneto respectively.

The film opens during World War II inside a concentration camp where we find Erik, a suspected mutant, who is being pressured at gunpoint to demonstrate his ability to move a coin without using his hands by a Nazi scientist (Kevin Bacon). When Erik fails to comply, the sadistic Dr. Shaw callously shoots and kills the boy’s mother before his eyes.

Enraged, Erik is suddenly able to summon his superhuman magnetizing skills to kill a couple of guards but Dr. Shaw manages to escape. Understandably, the trauma of witnessing the murder of his mother leaves Erik obsessed with exacting vengeance for the crime.

At the same time that Erik is interned in Europe, Charles is living in New York City in the lap of luxury. The orphaned 10-year-old heir to a family fortune has been teaching himself how to harness his own special gift of mental telepathy.

Fast-forward about 20 years and Erik is still chasing Dr. Shaw. The quest has taken Erik to Switzerland, Argentina, and Miami. Meanwhile, Charles has returned to the States after earning his PhD at Oxford where he majored in Mutantology.

Their paths intersect soon after the CIA seeks Dr. Xavier’s aid to assemble a top secret team of genetic anomalies in order to thwart the efforts of an evil monster bent on world domination, who turns out to be the diabolical Dr. Shaw. Initially, pacifist Professor X and revenge-minded Magneto work as allies until the Professor’s peaceful nature conflicts with Magneto’s personal agenda, at which point they become archenemies.

Unfolding against the backdrop of the Cuban missile crisis, X-Men: First Class takes considerable license with history, although the film cleverly weaves the Marvel characters with actual events in an entertaining fashion. The result is a fanciful, revisionist history that implies that the mutants played a pivotal role in the resolution of the missile crisis.

In this regard, the film is reminiscent of Inglourious Basterds, a Quentin Tarantino film in which Hitler was assassinated in a movie theater by an interracial couple, when he actually committed suicide in an underground bunker.

Excellent (4 stars). Rated PG-13 for violence, sexuality, and brief profanity. In English, French, and German with subtitles. Running time: 132 minutes. Distributor: 20th Century Fox.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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