X-Men: First Class
This prequel to the first three X-Men is nice character piece and has some great action set pieces. While the prequel aspects of the story don’t fully set into everything we’ve seen in the earlier X-Men movies, it does lay the ground for the future conflicts between Xavier and Magneto. Thrown into their interesting relationship is the shape shifter Mystique.
The movie is set mostly during the days leading up to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Sebastian Shaw, Kevin Bacon, is a mutant that is secretly setting up both the US and the USSR for a nuclear showdown. With the US government’s help, a young Xavier and Magneto find a team of mutants to stop Shaw.
First Class is a step toward the first two Bryan Singer films more than the third movie in tone and style. This probably also had to do with Matthew Vaughn being a fan of those films, plus Singer was a producer of this film. Vaughn really does capture the civil rights vibe that was present during the 60s. And, his film actually takes the time to let us get to know the most important characters in the piece, which is unlike the third X-Men film.
Michael Fassbender is simply kickass as Magneto/Erik. There is a brooding hatred within him that comes to surface whenever he goes after Sebastian Shaw and his allies. While the first movie set up Erik’s origin, this film gives us true insight into why Magneto becomes such an enemy of humanity. Fassbender is outstanding in the role.
James McAvoy as Xavier is also good. Sometimes his telepathic expressions are goofy, but McAvoy is convincing as a guy that truly believes in the X-Men cause. Xavier is a bit of playboy in his early college years, and a bit of trickster. We get a complete turn with his character the end of the film. McAvoy and Fassbender have great chemistry together.
Jennifer Lawrence plays Mystique, and she is the one that amazed me the most with her role. Lawrence has sadness to her Mystique as she is torn between her stepbrother Professor X and Magneto. This backstory gives the Mystique in the first three movies a different aspect after watching this movie.
The action scenes are pretty good for the most part. It is character pieces that are more compelling here than the action. However, the final act with the Cuban Missile Crisis is very well directed. The FX shots seem to fit within the film well too, given that movie film production was rushed into filming this year.
There are few discontinuity issues with this story. Such as a certain thing happens at the end of the film that doesn’t fit with the opening of X3. There are few other bits retconned in this prequel. While the big one with a certain character is a problem for me, I can look pass that.
Oh, there is a wonderful cameo from a fan-favorite X-character in this movie.
Overall, I have to say I am impressed with X-Men: First Class. After the interference from FOX with the Wolverine movie and X3, it is refreshing to see them give Vaughn enough room to make his version of the X-Men. The acting and character development fits right in with the rest of the movies. The interconnection to history will turn younger people off from the movie, but true X-Men fans will love it.