X-Men: First Class is a prequel and partial reboot to the previous four films in the Marvel Comics franchise.
Essentially, it tells how Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr, later Magneto (Michael Fassbender), met and became friends, as well as detailing the later events that led to their becoming mortal enemies in the other films.
The narrative also relates how the various mutants came together to form the X-Men and how some of that company would later stay with Xavier to fight for good, while others joined with Magneto’s dark side.
Another key plot line is Erik’s quest for revenge against Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), a mutant and former colleague of the Nazis, who killed Erik’s mother. Shaw now wants to wipe out the human race and start World War III by way of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
Generally speaking, I am not a fan of superhero movies. I don’t read the comic books and, with a very few exceptions, I think that all of these various superhero characters are just “Superman in another suit”.
I have, however, enjoyed the X-Men movies. Unlike other films in this genre, they usually employ an intelligent storyline, multi-dimensional characters and feature some of the screen’s best actors.
Although I do have some issues with it, X-Men: First Class is a good film that, quality-wise, in the same league with its predecessors. It boasts good actors, plenty of excitement and has an engrossing story involving subjects (e.g. the Holocaust, the Cuban Missile Crisis) that grown-ups will appreciate.
So, what are my issues?
First, the film incorporates too many storylines for a single picture. It has the Xavier/Erik relationship, Erik’s quest for revenge against Sebastian Shaw, the recruitment and back stories of the various mutants, a couple of romantic subplots, Shaw’s convoluted plan to start World War III, and so forth.
Frankly this is too much plot and too many characters for a movie that runs 132 minutes (including end credits). The primary plots here are the Xavier/Erik relationship and Erik’s quest for revenge against Sebastian Shaw. Perhaps the other material should have been held over for another picture.
Second, maybe it’s just me, but it annoys me that facts established in the earlier films (e.g. when Xavier and Erik first met, when the Hank McCoy character became Beast, etc.) have been altered for the convenience this picture.
If the producers wanted to do a total reboot of the franchise, like Warner Brothers did with Batman, that’s fine. But, this movie is supposed to be a prequel and established facts about the characters should be respected.
Finally, although I think that Kevin Bacon is one of our finest American actors and I enjoy watching his performances, I think he was miscast in the role of super villain Sebastian Shaw. His isn’t a bad performance at all, but he’s just too young in the 1960s scenes and too “American”.
Rose Byrne, Oliver Platt, Jennifer Lawrence, Jason Flemyng and January Jones play other major characters in the action-filled picture, directed by Matthew Vaughn.
The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen picture is sharp and without flaws.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound is excellent.
Children of the Atom is an interesting 22-minute featurette that includes interviews with the producers, writers, director and almost all the key cast members. They discuss in detail the development and making of X-Men: First Class.
Despite its flaws, if you are a fan of the X-Men movies, then you will want to own this entry.