You know those ride simulators in arcades or even the ones like the Spider-Man ride in universal? They’re a blast, right? Then again, remove the vehicle that bumps along with the ride and watch that video in another location and it’s probably not particularly enjoyable anymore. Well, consider Green Lantern that displaced amusement park simulator video, tacky visuals, unconvincing and only capable of holding your attention for minutes at a time.
In 1733, Johann Sebastian Bach, born and raised a Lutheran, premiered two pieces of what would become his Mass in B minor, which he spent the remaining years of his life expanding and honing until the liturgy used for both major Christian denominations became a full-blown Roman Catholic Mass. Composed in chunks up to his final years, his Missa is disjunctive, consisting of clashing textures reflecting both the different kinds of inspiration that drove him in each writing block as well as the altered emotional state of the composer as he drifted into blindness and illness. Yet the result is one of the undisputed masterpieces of Western classical music, the apotheosis of nearly every musical style of its time in one grand, summarizing statement.
Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class shows his continual fragmentation as a filmmaker, seemingly incapable of sticking to any one idea and the continual downward spiral of his satiric abilities, although the fact that the film feels at all tongue-in-cheek suggests a muted cleverness at work that never quite shows through the convoluted wash of genres tossed at the screen. Maybe the filmmakers wanted to break up the rote feel of a prequel, an admirable decision given the execrable Wolverine, but the film can’t help but grind to a halt when it attempts to incorporate ’60s era Bond, Dr. Strangelove, The Breakfast Club and on-the-nose subtext of closeted homosexuality into the already bombastic superhero genre.
At least the leads are great. Michael Fassbender plays Erik “Magneto” Lehnsherr as a sleek but imploding killer seeking revenge for the horrors he experienced as a test subject of experimental doctors in the Holocaust, not yet hardened into Ian McKellan’s cool shell. He’s the first person to look sinister in a turtleneck in decades. James McAvoy, making the best of a wildly inconsistent character, plays Charles as wide-eyed and with a joy of knowledge that occasionally dips into good-natured arrogance and one too many uses of the word “groovy.” He has all of Professor X’s optimism with unchecked naïveté: he hasn’t yet had to test and earn that fundamental belief in the goodness of mankind.