X-Men: First Class

Rated 3.0

Director Matthew Vaughn’s franchise reboot or prequel or whatever it is has some artificial flavors—corn, cheese, Kevin Bacon bits—but also some natural advantages in James McAvoy as the learned telepath Professor X and Michael Fassbender as his tormented friend Magneto. It would be fine to spend the whole movie with just these two wily Brits, each well-adapted to the Ian Fleming-style espionage thriller being presided over by Rose Byrne’s CIA agent, who sets a certain tone by stripping down to lingerie in an early scene. But of course we have a class to assemble, and the professor’s and Magneto’s philosophically opposed styles of tutelage to discern. We have subplots and subcharacters to establish, mutant superpowers to demonstrate, and January Jones’ already baffling career to further enable. At least Jennifer Lawrence, as the reluctant shape-shifter Mystique, tags along for comely companionship and cliché mitigation. The 1960s setting clarifies the movie’s top priorities: apocalyptic brinksmanship and groovy clothes.