'X-Men: First Class'
(James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, Caleb Landry Jones, Nicholas Hoult, et al / NR / 117 mins)
Overview: Set in the era before Professor Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr became mortal enemies as Professor X and Magneto, respectively, director Matthew Vaughn's X-Men: First Class follows the two former allies as they lead a powerful team of mutants on a mission to save the planet from nuclear annihilation. Charles (James McAvoy) and Erik (Michael Fassbender) were just young men when it began to appear as if the world was careening toward destruction.
Verdict: The latest edition of the sprawling action-comic-fantasy epic takes us back to the future with moments of greatness. But those flashes of amazing are fleeting, ultimately undone by a frustrating mire of multiple plots, overreaching special effects, leaden ancillary players and world-ending military standoffs that have all the tension of a water balloon fight.
The film stars James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, two "First Class" standouts, as Professor X and Magneto in the '60s, when they were just a couple of mutants working through their power issues. But there is more, so much more … a back story about the Cold War and the Cuban missile crisis; a subplot tied to an evil Nazi mutant (Kevin Bacon doing vile particularly well); a running teen coming-of-age bit featuring some X-Men mutant favorites; a CIA-in-conflict story; a U.S. colonel compromised by lingerie models; and a few more threads I'm probably forgetting.
The stories unfold in — deep breath — Auschwitz, New York,England, Argentina, Las Vegas, Miami, Moscow, somewhere outside of Moscow, Virginia, under the ocean, in the sky, on the ground, underground, under polar icecaps and in several undisclosed locations. At times it feels like someone was playing spin and point with an old globe of the world.