X-Men: First Class: movie review

( PG-13 ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

Michael Fassbender is magnetic in 'X-Men: First Class,' a leap up from the last 'X-Men' installment.

Murray Close/20th Century Fox/AP
Michael Fassbender portrays Erik Lehnsherr in a scene from 'X-Men: First Class.'

Considering how awful the last installment was, I wasn’t expecting much from the new Marvel Comics-derived “X-Men” movie. The absence of 3-D glasses this time didn’t bode well, either – less diversion from the badness.

The sort of good news is that Matthew Vaughn’s “X-Men: First Class” is sort of good, at least until it starts taking its mutants-are-a-higher-species stuff too seriously. After some early material set in Auschwitz, the film settles down in 1962. It turns out that the Cuban Missile Crisis was actually fomented by mutants!

Working Auschwitz into this comic-book universe is distasteful, especially when, much later on, the terrorized boy, Erik, who grows up to be Magneto, proclaims “Never Again!” (The original 2000 “X-Men” also began in Auschwitz.) Some universes should remain separate, even in fantasy. But at least Erik/Magneto, as played by Michael Fassbender, is, well, magnetic.

Other actors have their moments, too, including James McAvoy’s telepath Charles, the future Dr. X, and Kevin Bacon’s concentration camp doctor-turned-mutant guru. He makes most Bond villains look like sissies. (This movie, with its large cast, should greatly enlarge the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon possibilities.)

Jennifer Lawrence, however, who was so lacerating in “Winter’s Bone,” is not given much to do except look pretty and worried as she morphs in and out of her blue-skinned, red-haired, yellow-eyed Mystique incarnation. If Lawrence allows herself to morph into just another franchise film hottie, it will be a disaster far more calamitous than anything on view in this film. Grade: B (Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexuality, and a violent image.)

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