Review of 'X-Men: First Class'

x-men-first-class.jpg Stepping back in time we learn the origins of the X-Men. In a second world war German concentration camp young Erik Lensherr (later, Magneto; played here by the young Bill Milner) is separated from his parents but resists by using his powers over metal, bending the gates of the camp. Scientist Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) sees this and tries to harness Erik's powers by threatening then killing his mother at which point Erik kills the guards and destroys the room. In New York state a young Charles Xavier discovers he is not the only mutant when he finds one in his kitchen one evening (Mystique). Moving forward to the 1960s Erik (Michael Fassbender) is determined to find and kill Shaw while Xavier (James McAvoy) has become an expert on mutants and sharing his home with Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence). Shaw has enlisted the help of several mutants in a bid to start World War 3 using quite a different take on the Cuban missile crisis. The CIA approach Xavier for his assistance so, with the help Erik united in the goal to find Shaw, Xavier recruits mutants he has unearthed using an early version of the “Cylops” device seen in other films. They begin their training but will this young, inexperienced team be able to master their mutant powers to stop Shaw before the world becomes a radioactive pile of rubble?

An action-packed film with tremendous performances by it's leads. McAvoy is stunning as Xavier, managing to capture a much more dynamic, youthful Professor X but yet still keeping the spirit of the character we have known from Patrick Stewart's performances in other X-Men films. Fassbender as the obsessed Erik is frightening in his intensity which never quite convinces in his ultimate conversion into Magneto. In this story those that we are familiar with as being the bad guys are shown to be actually more shades of grey…as are the good guys who are not as wholly good as we are used to seeing them. This is refreshing as this more accurately what we all know to be true in life and grounds this movie perhaps more than others in the series. It is also great to see the characters we know and are familiar with in their early, vulnerable, state as well as seeing things before they got all serious. Yeah, it is fun.

The plot is quite complex and manages to seamlessly juggle the various elements that tie it to the other X-Men movies. Those that are familiar with these other films should be happy with what has been done but some will doubtless spot minor flaws. There are some tremendous action set pieces as well as ragged fight scenes that further reinforce the idea that these characters are earlier versions of what they are yet to become. The action never really lets up throughout the film with even the training sequences quite abbreviated to make way for the finale. It is only the relentless build up of the tensions between the Soviet Union and the US that occasionally gets tedious but this is really only a minor complaint.

Great for fans of the original films but likely appealing to anyone who likes action and superhero films. Great to see characters we know in their vulnerable youth and more about why they are the way they are. It is never as simple as black and white.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2019-03-09

Directed by: Matthew Vaughn

Studio: Twentieth Century Fox

Year: 2011

Length: 131 minutes

Genre: Action/Adventure

Other reviewed films by Matthew Vaughn: