Thursday, 23 June 2011

Green Lantern Review

Green Lantern
Out of all this Summer’s super-hero films, Green Lantern was the one I was least looking forward to. After numerous terrible looking trailers and TV spots, my initial perceptions were one of dread. However, as a film critic I believed that a serious approach would be necessary to write a balanced and respectable analysis. Therefore I refused to read any reviews, or discussions prior to my viewing. With a good turnout at the cinema, I sat down and watched. To some degree my lack of knowledge of the Green Lantern franchise may have hindered my ‘appreciation’ of the comic-book film. I imagine that fuller explanations of characters, powers, plot-lines and other elements of the film would be found in the source material. However, as a ‘Green Lantern’ film, it fails to develop anything substantial about the Green Lantern Universe. As a comic-book film, it fails to be enjoyable, entertaining or action packed. And a ‘Summer Blockbuster’, it is certainly not.  
The story follows the talented but cocky fighter pilot, Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) as he is chosen to become the first human ‘Green Lantern’. Who are the Green Lanterns? According to the film, they are protectors of justice and peace in the Universe. Each of them carries a ring of pure will-power, that enables them to craft anything they can imagine. However, an enemy called Parallax threatens the Universe as he consumes the fear of populations. Earth and Hal Jordan are now their last chance. Meanwhile, Dr Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) becomes infected with Parallax’s DNA, giving him telepathic and telekinetic powers. He threatens the relationship between Hal and Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), and wants Hal’s powers. 
It appears that the film’s plot had been streamlined and simplified for the wider audience. However by the end of the film, more questions had arisen then been answered; Why is one human, ‘newbie Green Lantern’ able to beat an enemy that ‘established Lanterns’ have failed to destroy? Why didn’t they destroy Parallax when they initially captured him? Another big failure was the lack of definition towards Green Lantern’s powers; My understanding is that the ring of power allows Hal Jordan to create anything he imagines in the form of ‘will’ energy. He being a pilot, therefore results in a much more militaristic approach to his imagination. Therefore planes, guns etc. However, it never explains the limits of his power. Why can’t he create a Death Star and decimate anyone? In the end, the Green Lanterns seem weak and unintelligent, and the ‘ultimate threat’ seems feeble. The film's pace is also flawed; the first two acts are far too slow with the third act being far too rushed. For instance; in the third act Dr Hector Hammond becomes evil and suddenly wants Hal’s power. He kidnaps Carol, whilst Sinestro (Mark Strong) and the Guardians of the Green Lanterns craft a ring of ‘fear’. Meanwhile Parallax invades Earth, and Hal comes to terms with his duty and new power. There’s a lot to take on and its all over in seconds, never really fully concluding.     

The acting is respectable with Ryan Reynolds performing relatively well, but nowhere near as impressive as he was in Buried. For the most part, he plays the Ryan Reynolds we know from Van Wilder; cocky, and massively unfunny. Yet, in someway it’s fresh to see a super-hero character that isn’t as stern and tragic as Batman, or wimpy as Peter Parker. Peter Sarsgaard, who plays the mad Dr. Hector Hammond, performs well even with the terrible dialogue and a poorly developed character. Meanwhile, Blake Lively’s performance is disappointing after her amazing job in The Town.  Here she plays the cliché love interest, Carol Ferris, and is the Vice President of the aircraft company she and Hal are pilots for. Her dialogue is dry, and she has no interesting or significant purpose in the story. She says some lines, interacts with Hal and gets captured by Hector, the typical damsel in distress. Another letdown is Mark Strong, who plays Hal’s mentor and ‘leader’ of the Green Lanterns, Thaal Sinestro. With a weirdly shaped head, and red complexion, Strong gets a considerable amount of screen time. However, there’s no personality or power to his performance. I don’t know whether that is his tone in the comic books, or just bad writing and direction. It’s a real shame as Strong usually gives a well-rounded and memorable show. 
The supporting cast is full of familiar faces, but their characters are never fully developed. More than often, we are introduced to an individual in one scene and then nothing becomes of them. The Wire’s Angela Bassett plays government agent Dr. Amanda Waller, however she is introduced, says something and that’s about it. It is only through a contrived and cheap montage of events that we understand anything about her character. Geoffrey Rush and Michael Clarke Duncan lend their voices and play themselves, except in CGI alien bodies. Tim Robbins is forgettable like many of his recent roles, and Taika Waititi is awful as the comedic relief. The majority of the blame is on the writers of the script. As with a lot of recent super-hero films (Thor, X-Men), the script has been the major flaw with the feature. The same is here with Green Lantern. While the actors and actresses deliver, the dialogue is dreadful. The jokes are flat, the speeches are weak and its all very cliché. It manages to transfer the camp, ‘state the obvious’ approach of typical comic-book material, and make it lazier and worse.  
Another massive problem with Green Lantern is the lack of action scenes. Action is one of the foundations of any ‘Summer Blockbuster’. From the likes of Michael Bay’s Transformers film franchise, to the recent Harry Potter films, explosions and ‘light-shows’ are employed to entertain and induce amazement in the audience. As I stated in my Thor review, good action-scenes were missed in that film. Yet Green Lantern seems to reduce the lack-lustre approach of Thor and have a ‘camp’, underwhelming tone to its action. Even the final confrontation is boring and over in a flash. For all the build up of Parallax; his ability to defeat the toughest Green Lanterns and consume populations of planets, its all over in a matter of seconds. If a super-hero film doesn’t entertain the audience with over-the-top set pieces and an awesome final battle, then it fails to be a true ‘super-hero’ film. 
Linked to the poor action is the ‘below-par’ special effects. CGI has become a big concern with my film-going experiences, it’s either done right or wrong. Green Lantern has some good-looking CGI, especially with the sequences on Oa, but everything else is poor. Ryan Reynold’s costume is laughable, especially his mask. The mask looks like it’s painted on, moving with the facial expressions of Reynolds. It all looks cheap and very unnatural. The end fight with Parallax involves a hell of a lot of CGI, but being shot in wide-angle it looks more like a giant space octopus shooting fireballs at a green speck. It's just looks hilarious. 
Overall Green Lantern is far from a ‘Summer Blockbuster’. Its boring, filled with plot-holes and..... its boring. My initial apprehensiveness appears to have been realised, and I left the cinema angry and puzzled. With the Green Lantern franchise having a smaller fan-base when compared to the likes of Batman and Super Man, the film fails to build any solid platform for the public to be interested in the comic-books. A bad impression from a film doesn’t compel people to run to their local bookstore and buy the comic/ novel. In so, Green Lantern fails as a ‘comic-book’ film. And without explosions or interesting/ memorable characters it fails at a being a ‘good’ film. Lets hope DC sees the faults with Green Lantern, and doesn’t feel the urge to make a Justice League feature. God knows what an Aquaman film would be like.


Oh and if you’re taking your film seriously, don’t have the character advertise milk. It makes him look like a pathetic ‘super-hero’: 

Monday, 13 June 2011

Departures(送り火と) Review


In the history of the Academy Award’s ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ category, Japan has never won the award. The likes of Akira Kurosawa and Hiroshi Teshigahara have been nominated, and have gained ‘Special/ Honorary Awards’, yet failed to gain the prestigious  title. However in 2009, Departures managed to beat stiff competition and succeed in the 81st Academy Award ceremony, to which many film critics were surprised. Yôjirô Takita, the director, has never really ‘exported’ his work to the audiences of ‘West’. His 2003 ‘When the Last Sword is Drawn’ was his last film targeting a larger crowd, and managed to gain a positive reception. However, he has tended to stick to his Japanese ‘routes’, with over-the-top, demonic samurai films, until 2008. In some regards, Takita took a huge risk in Departures. While death is seen as a very formal and almost ‘beautiful’ ceremony in the film, the reality is that it is a strong taboo in Japan. The director and the executives backing the feature, were worried at the reaction of its Japanese audience, not predicting the commercial and critical success it would become. In relation to a Western audience, it’s fascinating to see an aspect of Japanese culture that has never truly graced the screen. It’s a film that does justice to the subject matter, whilst encasing it in a realistic, emotional yet engrossing drama. 
The plot follows Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Matoki), as he finds himself unemployed after  the orchestra he plays cello for is dissolved. Therefore he takes the decision to move back to his hometown with his wife, and find work. Stumbling on an classified ad stating ‘Departures’, he believes that the opportunity is that of a travel agency. But, he soon finds out that it is for a position as a funeral ‘encoffineer’ (cleaning, and ceremonially preparing the deceased for the afterlife). It’s a profession that his wife, friends and the locals look down upon, yet Daigo finds a sense of pride, fulfilment and importance to his work. The story is a simple one, and doesn’t attempt to alter the characteristics or foundations of a drama piece. The unique essence of Departures is the subject matter, Nokanshi. Though the film is based on the solemn reality of death, Takita doesn’t try to overwhelm the audience with a constantly ‘depressive’ atmosphere. This somber crux is prevalent through the film, yet it is intertwined with an entertaining human drama. It takes a more ‘comical’ approach but still understands that it is a serious and heart-felt event in life. The first scene manages to do this brilliantly well. The formal nature of the ceremony and the despondent characters, mixed with the sorrowful score creates a really emotional scene. Yet, when Daigo finds out that the departed ‘girl’ has a ‘thing’, the music stops and the dialogue is awkward but humorous. This scene in particular manages to create the atmosphere and tone of which Departures is taking. 

The acting is great, and realistically played out. Masahiro Matoki is fantastic as our lead character, Daigo. We fully witness his initial anxiety at his new job and his embarrassment, leading to a gradual realisation and transformation in his personality. Matoki clearly prepared heavily for the part; he learnt to play the cello and studied the processes involved in Nokanshi, performing them on the screen. He manages to play his part with enough charm and earnestness, to convincingly portray the character, whilst adding humour. Tsutomu Yamazaki, who plays Daigo’s new boss, Sasaki, is perfectly cast and performs brilliantly. The stern exterior, but laid back personality of the character suits Yamazaki’s style of ‘deadpan humour’. However Ryōko Hirosue, who plays Daigo’s wife Mika, whilst charming feels too ‘childish’ to be convincing in her role. She performs well and a strong relationship is built between husband and wife. But she is somewhat lacking when compared to the other actors/ actresses. But overall the acting is superb and help transpire the story, and film’s tone. 

The cinematography heavily takes advantage of the sweeping vistas of the scenic landscape and setting. It also cleverly uses the changing imagery of the seasons, from the blossom of Spring, to the snowy-capped mountains of Winter, in order to complement the growing nature of the characters. Connected to the visual ‘personality’ of Departures is the musical essence of the film. With Daigo’s character playing the cello, orchestral pieces are constantly integrated into the scenes. Joe Hisaishi composes the score, and as usual, it’s fantastic. Flowing tones and emotional harmonies, create further passion and manage to portray the characters’ experiences and reactions well.
Overall Departures is an amazingly heart-warming drama, which deserves the global recognition and not the flack many have given it. Sure its predictable, and in some manner a little cliché. But it’s all done magnificently well, and better than half the tripe that is nominated for ‘Best Picture’. It explores a side of Japanese culture many haven’t witnessed, in an engrossing and respectful manner. Beautifully shot and superbly acted, its an emotional tale that doesn’t get too involved in ‘artsy’ sentimentality. Its definitely a great watch, and another fantastic export from Japanese cinema. 

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Death Notice: Ikigami (イキガミ) Review

Death Notice: Ikigami  イキガミ (2008)
Based on a popular manga, Death Notice: Ikigami is another Japanese title that deals with a ‘controversial’ concept, yet frames it in a emotional ‘drama’. I’m currently reading the manga, and its clear that selecting certain story-lines and characters would be difficult to structure in a 133 minute long film. Yet director Tomoyuki Takimoto successful creates a film that balances the multiple plots perfectly and with enough substance, that it allows the audience to gain an emotional attachment to these ‘doomed’ characters. Set in the near future, the film’s plot focuses on a piece of new legislation that the Japanese Government has past. In an attempt to boost national prosperity and create a more discipline society, one in every thousand child is randomly injected with a ‘lethal time-bomb’, which will end their life at the age of 25. Therefore, a Death Notice has to be handed to the sacrificial victim, notifying them that they have 24 hours left to live, and are free to do whatever they want. 
It’s a interesting plot, that certainly follows the ‘controversial’ style of Japanese cinema. This isn’t a Battle Royale-esque film, there’s no over-the-top gore of heavily explicit content. Instead Death Notice is a well constructed film by Takimoto, that focuses on the drama surrounding the ‘victims’ of the ‘Prosperity law’. The film is split between the stories of the 3 ‘victims’ and that of Kengo Fujimoto (Shota Matsuda), one of the deliverers of the Ikigami. We see the various changes, and emotions the characters express towards their imminent death. From a Yakuza member who has the chance to permanently help his ‘disabled’ sister, to a son of one of the MPs supporting the legislation, we explore a range of characters that react very differently to their Ikigami. Some will shock, others will sadden. Alongside these individuals is Kengo who is reluctant to continue his ‘evil’ job. Yet strict surveillance and his personality which separates him from fellow co-worker ‘automatons’, cause a character torn between what he really believes and the forceful nature of his duty. 
Acting-wise, the film is filled with recognisable faces from Japanese cinema. Takayuki Yamada, recently involved in Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins, plays Satoshi Iizuka who is one of the victims of the policy, and Departures’ Takashi Sasano, plays Director Ishii in charge of the ‘deliverers’. Its a great cast that performs perfectly to convey the realistic drama. Nothing is over-the-top or cutesy as with many ‘live-action’ adaptations, instead Death Notice: Ikigami is serious yet emotional. From the stern looks and remarks of Akira Emoto, who plays the Counsellor, to Riko Narumi playing the charming and likeable, ‘disabled’ sister of the Yakuza member, the film constructs the ‘feel’ and ‘tones’ of the manga quite well. 
Overall, Death Notice: Ikigami has an interesting concept, that while similar to William F. Nolan’s and George C. Johnson’s Logan’s Run, remains ‘unique’ and refreshing. The social commentaries on unemployment, bullying and social withdrawal are used well and not in a forceful, obvious manner. Tomoyuki Takimoto also does a great job, moving away from the stereotypically ‘over-the-top’, ‘comicy’ tones of popular Japanese cinema, to portray a more serious and realistic feature. Yes, the story is that of a manga, but Takimoto frames it in a touching ‘human drama’ that has the ability to induce ‘teary-eyed’ reactions, and doesn’t require knowledge of the source material. It’s a great directed, acted and written film that when the concept is to show the characters question the subject of life, it certainly evokes the audience to do so too.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Pumping Iron Review (Arnold Month)

Pumping Iron

While now infamous for his contribution to Hollywood Cinema, Arnold Schwarzenegger started his career as a competitor in the world of bodybuilding. This 1977 “documentary”/ drama primarily focuses on the ‘Austrian Hulk’  as he contends for the title Mr Olympia. The film also includes the actual ‘Incredible Hulk’ from the 70s/80s TV series, Lou Ferrigno , and Franco Columbu, who played minor roles in Running Man and The Terminator. It’s a film that deals with bodybuilders with immense goals and personalities, and this comes through the entertaining interviews with the individuals. 
Elements of the film have been exaggerated and ‘acted’ such as Lou Ferrigno’s Dad, who in reality had little to do with Lou’s career. However, his ‘performance’ is hilarious and brings further humour to the film. Its a simple piece of cinema that gives further insight into the monstrous, sometimes grotesque and addictive nature the sport has had on its athletics. The sheer lengths and regimes they endure is fascinating, and keeps the film interesting.
Overall, I can’t criticise Pumping Iron in the traditional ‘film critic’ sense, but it is a very well-done documentary/ drama piece of cinema. It has gained ‘cult’ status due to Arnold’s early involvement, and that of Ferrigno’s. Though I’m personally not interested in the world of bodybuilding, it’s various interviews with the early look at the 'stars' are surreal, yet entertaining. Its a great ‘sports film’ with a lot of human drama.

The following section of text is a quote taken from the film. It describes Arnold’s ‘addiction’ to his bodybuilding lifestyle, in a slightly obscure but hilarious manner: 
"The greatest feeling you can get in a gym or the most satisfying feeling you can get in the gym is the pump. Let's say you train your biceps, blood is rushing in to your muscles and that's what we call the pump. Your muscles get a really tight feeling like your skin is going to explode any minute and its really tight and its like someone is blowing air into your muscle and it just blows up and it feels different, it feels fantastic. It's as satisfying to me as cumming is, you know, as in having sex with a woman and cumming. So can you believe how much I am in heaven? I am like getting the feeling of cumming in the gym; I'm getting the feeling of cumming at home; I'm getting the feeling of cumming backstage; when I pump up, when I pose out in front of 5000 people I get the same feeling, so I am cumming day and night. It's terrific, right? So you know, I am in heaven." 
Here is the video: 

Thor Review


The character of Thor always seemed a bit of a laughable concept for a superhero. In a historical sense Thor was part of Norse mythology. He was a god that wielded a hammer and controlled thunder and lightning. Thus, an ‘almighty being’ as a superhero always seemed a cheap effort by Marvel, who are usually more ‘creative’. However with Marvel putting heavy focus on the creation of The Avengers franchise with Captain America, and the recent Iron Man 2, Thor was inevitably going to gain his own blockbuster film. From the start I was very apprehensive towards the idea, and with Kenneth Branagh directing, he would inevitably inject a ‘Shakespearian’ twist or influence into the production. The trailers furthered my sceptical perception towards the film with bad-looking CGI and terrible dialogue. However the casting looked promising with the likes of Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgard and Idris Elba.  And after the very positive reviews surfacing around the web, I gave in and went to see it with a sense of ‘open-mindedness’. The result was a ‘superhero’ film that failed to be ‘super’ or entertaining. It was dull, stupid but sufficiently watchable and had some noteworthy performances. 
The film begins with the waging war between Odin (Anthony Hopkins), the king of Asgard and the Frost Giants. However after centuries of peace, Odin’s son, Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) arrogance sees the threat of war reappear. He is thus banished to Earth and removed of his powers. After being ‘discovered’ by a group of scientists (Natalie Portman/ Stellan Skarsgard/ Kat Dennings), he must lean his lesson and defend Earth from a dark threat sent from his homeland. It’s a simple story that Branagh structures well and portrays  confidently. It’s free from the over-indulgent use of flashbacks, and includes some neat twists and turns that keep it somewhat interesting. 
The cast is full of fantastic names such as Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgard and Tadanobu Asano. However, the problem is they aren’t fully developed and are fairly underused. For example, from my limited knowledge of the Thor universe, the Warrior Three (Fandral, Hogun, Volstagg) play a substantial role in the comics. In relation to the film, they merely appear on screen, say a few lines, a few jokes, fight....a bit and move along. There’s no energy, no spark and little personality. Instead Natalie Portman and her band of scientists are the main focus, and their story isn’t very interesting. A romantic relationship between Jane Foster (Portman) and Thor is inevitably constructed, yet fails to materialise, meaning her character is completely redundant. Chris Hemsworth, remembered mainly for his minor role in J.J. Abram’s Star Trek, plays the strong, blond haired protagonist. While he certainly looks the part, he fails to bring any character or anything likeable. While many will laugh at the hilarious shenanigans of Thor trying to adapt to Earth life, it felt very cliché and pointless. The standout performance is that of Tom Hiddleston as Loki. He packs so much charisma and energy into his performance that he overshadows everyone else. We see a character that is intelligent yet devilish, and this comes across in each scene Hiddleston is in. He does especially well with the terrible script that has been written, and this is a big problem with Thor. 
Understandably, everyone in Asgard talks like they’re royalty, which come through with Branagh’s ‘Shakespearian’ style. Yet the majority of the script seems to simply point out what has just happened, or the obvious. Speeches by the various characters are generic and cliché, and lack gusto or ‘uniqueness’.  This links into another major problem of the film; the lack of anything ‘epic’ or grand. The setting of a small New Mexico town, really limits the ability to expand and explore. We are shown the grandeur of Asgard and the Rainbow Bridge, but apart from those locations it sticks to the barren, sandy New Mexico. It all seems lacklustre and humorous when compared to the likes of other superheroes; Superman protects Metropolis, Batman has Gotham and Spiderman has New York City, while Thor has a small town in the middle of nowhere. There’s no ‘epic’ scale, substantial threat or significant consequence. Maybe this was intended to allow for a more character focused film, yet it fails to do this successfully as well. Even the final act fails to be explosive, energetic or amazing, which the majority of 'comic book' movies manage to do well. Another problem that has me worried for future Marvel’s films is the dominance of S.H.I.E.L.D. Like Iron Man 2, S.H.I.E.L.D plays a predominant role in Thor and it’s really beginning to ‘hurt’ the films. While Nick Fury’s organisation (Samuel L. Jackson) is essential to the formation of ‘The Avengers’, there are so many stupid moments with the agency. They seem to have no intelligence and act as ‘canon-fodder‘ for the enemies. This isn’t helped by the shear pain Clark Gregg, who plays Agent Phil Coulson, is to watch. His acting is terrible, and every time he’s on screen, he’s dull and lifeless, which may suit the ‘official’, no-nonsense character(?).
Overall Thor isn’t a terrible film, its just a boring one. As I stated, the character of Thor always seemed like a humorous attempt at a hero, and whilst Kenneth Branagh brings charm and ‘seriousness’ to the source material, it lacks in every department. Nothing stands out, the humour and dialogue is cringe-worthy, the action isn’t exciting or enjoyable and the acting is average. I pray Captain America doesn’t suffer similar problems. 

Thursday, 2 June 2011

X-Men: First Class Review

X-Men: First Class 

After my disappointment with Thor, X-Men: First Class was one that showed great promise from the various trailers, the choice of director and the cast. The X-Men film franchise recently took a ‘tumble’ with the terrible X-Men: Last Stand and the awful X-Men Origins: Wolverine, therefore it was in need of a reboot. Director Matthew Vaughn’s filmography has been relatively positive. His last film Kick-Ass showed off his talent and ability to deal with the ‘hero’ genre while creating a dark and gritty atmosphere. Therefore the thought of a ‘serious’ and raw X-Men film was pleasing to the ears. In terms of the cast, the likes of Michael Fassbender and the new talent of Jennifer Lawrence seemed relatively suitable and clever choices in regards to a youthful band of ‘mutants’. The result is a superhero film that entertains but lacks finesse, especially in its writing. 
Set in the 1960s, the film portrays young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) as he helps CIA agent Dr. Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) to stop Sebastian Shaw’s (Kevin Bacon) attempt to fuel Cold War tensions. Meanwhile, Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) seeks revenge on Shaw for killing his parents. The two join forces, with the help of other ‘mutants’ to take down the members of the Hellfire Club and prevent Nuclear War. The Cuban Missile Crisis and the ‘Red Scare’ setting never really comes through. While cars and technology and the archive footage of John F. Kennedy directly attempt to portray the era, you never fully experience it. If anything Watchmen did well, was its style and visual atmosphere that put you in various periods the film explored, from Noire to suburban culture. 
The story is one that introduces the more obscure characters of the series, which plays more to the fans. Cyclops, Rogue and Storm have been swapped for the likes of Havok, Banshee and Emma Frost. Vaughn does a respectable job of developing some these characters, yet doesn’t expand on the more important individuals. The character of Emma Frost features heavily in the Comic Book universe, and seems underused. Yet, the character of Raven Darkholme (Mystique) and especially Hank McCoy (Beast), are fully realised and are well portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult. Their energy and charm help to bring a sense of youthful charisma in amongst the seriousness of Fassbender and the soft quiverring of McAvoy. 

However, the primary focus of X-Men: First Class is the characters of Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr, and the growing relationship between the two. Patrick Stewart successfully became the face of the Star Trek but also managed to portray a charming, and noble Professor X, in the last four films. Therefore it was always going to be hard for James McAvoy to establish himself in the role. McAvoy’s recent career has taken a bit of a dive with the likes of Gnomeo and Juliet and Wanted, and this transpires into his portrayal of the Professor. His plucky, youthful character as graduate from Oxford University is entertaining and shows a different personality to the usually stern and moral Professor. However, when he finally does form the ‘X-Men’, McAvoy’s performance sags to a point where his soft, mumbling dialogue is lacking in presence. 
Michael Fassbender steals the show, with his portrayal of the troubled Erik Lehnsherr/ Magneto. He comes across as a complete ‘bad-ass’ on a path of enraged revenge.  Magneto’s character has been one that always intrigued me, and Matthew Vaughn has taken the time to developed him well and carefully. We see his pain and anger as he kills, destroys and tortures. My only nit-pick with Fassbender’s performance is his accent. The character of Erik is German which Michael’s own nationality successfully portrays. Yet his overall accent seems to generally change from American to Irish which is a minor niggle. 
What failed with Thor was the lack of explosive set pieces as a ‘superhero’ film. But Vaughn provides great action throughout the film, that moves away from simply ‘force pushing’ enemies as we’ve seen in a lot these comic-book movies. There is a real power and brutality to the various character’s powers, whether its Magneto stabbing a dude with a knife, or Azazel (Nightcrawler’s Dad) teleporting and dropping a guy from the sky. While the CGI isn’t the greatest, it does well to ‘realistically’ show these enjoyable and destructive set pieces on screen. 
However, X-Men: First Class suffers from some problems. The major problem with the film is its script. It is just poorly written and cliché, and not in an intended fashion. Comic Books have always had a ‘campness’ to them: the colourful costumes or the cheesy dialogue. Thankfully, Vaughn’s X-Men steers clear of the questionable outfit choices of the comic book characters. Yet when a film tries to distinguish itself from the previous series, and is a ‘serious’ reboot of the franchise, it is hard to forgive it for a rather laughable attempt at great storytelling. From the ‘God help us all’ from the Generals about to be killed, to the contrived speeches of Professor X, it all feels like it has been stripped from the printed medium. The various members of the writing staff were also involved in Thor and again the dialogue was below-par in that film. It’s a bit of shame after the clever, funny writing of Kick -Ass that X-Men: First Class fails to gain the similar ‘mature’ tones in amongst the adolescent nature of a Marvel film. 
Overall X-Men: First Class is an entertaining film, yet never really amazes. There’s great action scenes and well organised and well balanced character development. It certainly was more enjoyable than Thor and has a very different but fresh take on the X-Men franchise. I’d argue that overall Vaughn’s take on the band of ‘mutants’ is better than any of the previous films. However the script flops and some of the major performance fail to top those of Bryan Singer’s pictures (X-Men and X2), in particular McAvoy’s. 
Note: There is a fantastic cameo that Vaughn manages perfectly with enough humour and sensibility. You will laugh!!!!...............No its not Stan Lee (Thank God)