Going back to 1962, at the height of the Cold War, a young man named Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is approached by a special unit of the C.I.A. that is interested in his theories on genetic mutations, unaware that he himself is a mutant. As he goes on to prove himself, he begins to gather a team comprised of gifted youngsters who possess unique talents and abilities. As Charles begins to find other mutants, he forms a team consisting of Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Dr. Henry McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Sean Cassidy/Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones), Angel Salvadore (Zoё Kravitz), Alex Summers/Havok (Lucas Till) and Darwin (Edi Gathegi).
Working along with their government liaisons — Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) and the man in black (Oliver Platt) — the team sets out to combat the nefarious Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) and the members of his Hellfire Club, a secret society dead-set on igniting a war between the humans that would consume and destroy them. Helping Sebastian Shaw are the lovely Emma Frost (January Jones), Azazel (Jason Flemyng) and Riptide (Alex González).
As time passes and the deadline for a true face-off draws near, the newly formed X-Men must train and learn to accept themselves and their powers if they have any chance of stopping Shaw and preventing World War III. Alliances and allegiances will be made and broken as each person must decide what they stand for and who they will stand with. Although any true fan of the comics or the original trilogy of movies will know where most of them end up, their journey of how they get there is still as enthralling as it would have been if it was our first time meeting each of them.
“X-Men: First Class” was not the movie that many originally wanted to be made, but it is the film that fans deserved. With many disappointed in the past two X-Men films (“X-Men Last Stand” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”), director Matthew Vaughn (“Kick Ass”) has created a totally unique and wonderful film that has many nods to the fans in reference to the original trilogy and also a few cameos from past characters as well. Showing a darker and grittier beginning than we have seen previously, you will now witness the true metamorphosis of how two best friends can become enemies and siblings and friends become rivals.
The casting for the two leads was spot on in my opinion; James McAvoy was strong and stoic as Professor Xavier, Michael Fassbender channeled James Bond for his interpretation of the tortured and vengeful Magneto. You can truly see how they would become such good friends in such a short time and how their core ideologies would threaten that friendship. Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw was an odd choice to me at first, but after seeing how he played the role with just the right amount of cockiness and confidence, Bacon convinced me he was the right choice. The rest of the X-Men and Hellfire Club all did a good job as well. Although some had some pretty cheesy dialogue, I enjoyed every performance and was actually finding myself wishing to have seen more of the new characters to the franchise. However, with the film running slightly over two hours, I see why they had to focus the few core characters.
The special effects, editing and sound design were on par with the high standard we have seen in the past films by Marvel Entertainment. This is an origins story, so the majority of the action does not take place until the final act of the film, but surprisingly, my favorite parts of the movie weren’t the epic battles but the training montages and scenes in which the characters are all getting to know each other.
The opening of the film focuses on Erik and Charles in their childhoods. Erik, who was in a concentration camp, grows up to become a killer of Nazis in his quest to track down the man that murdered his mother. On the other side of things, we meet a young Charles Xavier, who befriends a scared and lonely Raven who ends becoming his adopted sister. The sibling love shown between them is one of the very unique twists on these characters that I have never seen before and found quite interesting.
For some fans, there are going to be storylines and characters that don’t fit into the timeline and continuity of the previous films, but it’s important to get over that and just enjoy the film. Matthew Vaughn has created a storyline that does tie into the previous films that take place in the future. He even goes on to show you things that have never been revealed in the franchise until now and help explain facts that you already know about the characters, such as: where Magneto’s helmet came from; how Charles Xavier ended up in the wheelchair; and what the deal is with Magneto and Mystique’s relationship.
The bottom line is that “X-Men: First Class” is a fun and unique take on a comic book based super hero film that delves deeper into these characters than we have ever seen before and it uses comedy in all of the right places, action when it needs it and has an emotional story arc that keeps you enraptured from start to finish. So if you are a fan of the previous films — or are simply a newcomer to the franchise — this movie will entertain you and holds up on its own as well.
“X-Men: First Class” is in theaters now and is rated PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexuality and a violent image.
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