Friday, February 11, 2011

Yawn - X-Men: First Class trailer is no Batman Begins

Click Here for the Trailer - Youtube

Given that superheroes have been with us since at least the 1930s, it's hardly surprising that film studios are currently exploring the period angle to comic-book movie creation. Marvel's forthcoming Captain America will see the character begin life in the 1940s before being reawakened in the present day, and the recent Green Hornet felt like it existed in a strange halfway house between 1930s and 2011 Los Angeles. Watchmen also ploughed a fine period furrow, depicting its superheroes cutting a swath through the 20th century like modern-day Titans in tight-fitting clothing.

Next comes X-Men: First Class, the first trailer for which has just hit the web in a blaze of Facebook-fuelled publicity. This one is set, Mad Men-style, in the early 1960s during the Cuban missile crisis, and centres on Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr before they became Professor X and Magneto respectively. Matthew Vaughn has picked an entirely new cast to banish all memories of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen.

There had been rumours that the new trailer would kick off with voiceovers from said actors, but I'm pleased to report that X-Men: First Class has avoided such a move, which would have linked it inextricably to those older films. Why am I so delighted? Well, there are plenty of people out there who see the first X-Men movie as the beginning of what some have called a golden age of comic-book films from the start of this millennium. Yet for me, the whole of the previous trilogy suffered from a lack of characterisation and an emphasis on action over ideas. Too much spandex, too many explosions and not a whole lot of depth. I'm hoping the new film will offer a richer, more grownup take.

By the look of the new trailer, I may be disappointed. In theory, X Men: First Class ought to offer Vaughan the chance to really get under the skin of Xavier and Lehnsherr and explore the politics and ideas of the mutant state as these are just beginning to form. But much of the promo looks rather like the same old X-Men: in its one minute and 51 seconds I counted at least nine mutants showing off their various powers. Imagine the army of largely miscellaneous characters that's likely to make it into the final cut.

There's January Jones as Emma Frost transforming into diamond mode. There's Nicholas Hoult as the Beast/Hank McCoy, and there's Winter's Bone's Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, preparing to change into some new and dangerous form. All fabulous actors and excellent choices, but will there be enough seconds in the movie for any of them to have more than a few minutes of individual screen time? Vaughn and his screenwriter Jane Goldman really do have their work cut out for them here.

There will be those, of course, who will breathe a sigh of relief that the new movie doesn't look like it's about to upset the comic-book movie apple-cart, and even more of you who will ask: what was I expecting? This is an X-Men film, after all, and X-Men films are all about preposterous numbers of extravagantly bright and shiny mutants with spectacular superpowers beating the living daylights out of each other for two hours. Just because the director who shot the seemingly less ambitious but ultimately more fruitful Kick-Ass is in charge, doesn't mean the series is going to suddenly transform into a sort of comic-book character study piece.

And yet this is supposed to be the beginning of a new X-Men series: the Batman Begins of the "franchise". It's early days and this is just the first trailer, but it doesn't look anything like that revelatory so far.

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