It's 1962, and Charles Xavier (McAvoy) is recruited by US Agent MacTaggart (Byrne) to explore how the CIA can benefit from mutant humans. The telepathic Charles grew up with shapeshifting Raven (Lawrence), and they start assembling a team. A key partner is metal-manipulator Erik Lehnsherr (Fassbender), who's set on revenge against energy-absorbing Shaw (Bacon), who killed his mother in a Nazi war camp and has powers of his own. And now Shaw has his own mutant team (Jones, Flemyng and Gonzalez) and is sparking a nuclear war between the USA and the USSR.
Continue reading: X-men: First Class Review
This boisterous comic book movie benefits hugely from Branagh's steady hand as a director. Even though it's over-designed and far too loud, the characters are strong enough to hold our interest.
In the mythical realm of Asgard, King Odin (Hopkins) is about to hand his throne to cocky son Thor (Hemsworth). But Thor recklessly ignites a war with an old enemy, so is banished to earth without his powers. He adjusts to New Mexico life with help from scientists Jane and Erik (Portman and Skarsgard). As they fend off interest from SHIELD agent Coulson (Gregg), Thor's mischievous younger brother Loki (Hiddleston) is making moves to take over the kingdom. Then Thor's pals (Alexander, Stevenson, Asano and Dallas) arrive on earth to help.
Frankly this is more like a video game than a movie, as virtually every scene is painted extensively with digital trickery. But nothing looks lived in, from Asgard's shimmery bronze towers to the plasticky battle armour. At least New Mexico feels real until a giant killer robot appears. All of this looks extremely whizzy (the 3D is sharp but unnecessary), and will please fans of the genre, but the spectacle continually distracts us from a good story.
That said, the plot's complexities are continually ironed out, as the narrative must jump through various hoops to set things up for both a sequel and Marvel's Avengers movie. So a lot of this film feels requisite, establishing relationships, grudges and so on. Fortunately, Branagh brings a terrific sense of humour to the film, with offhanded moments that make us laugh and give us insights into the characters.
Hemsworth is terrific in the central role, using his imposing physicality and sunny personality to maximum effect. It's not difficult to see why Jane falls for him, although Portman doesn't get much to do beyond bat her eyes and say sciency things every now and then to remind us that she's not a bimbo. Many of the other actors are unrecognisable under layers of armour, hair or effects, although they do get moments to shine. And even if the film isn't hugely satisfying, at least it leaves us wanting more.
Agent Cody Banks was made just to make money, and to stock Toys 'R' Us shelves and McDonald's Happy Meal boxes with cheap action figures. The script, which feels like the cheapest writers available threw it together in a week, is actually quite impressive in how every mind-numbing scene attempts to manipulate the minds of susceptible adolescents. It uses every trick in the book, from pre-teen humor and Bond rip-offs, to busty secret agents, phony special effects, and, of course, Frankie Muniz. If -- God forbid -- the movie is a hit, the producers have even secured an easy sequel with its carefully formulated ending.
Continue reading: Agent Cody Banks Review
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