Marvel is back with another X-Men movie, this one dipping deep into X-Men history, similar to the “Wolverine” movie.
Set in the years between World War II and the Cuban Missile crisis, “X-Men: First Class” gives a nod to “Forrest Gump,” by inserting its characters into some of history’s most pivotal moments. We get a much more in-depth look at Magneto’s (Michael Fassbender, “Inglorious Bastards”) history; he is taken from his parents at a Nazi camp in Poland, mirroring a similar scene from the first film. He is recruited by Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon “Elephant White”), who is a mutant himself, capable of absorbing energy. But Shaw kills Magento’s mother, setting Magento on the path for revenge throughout the movie.
We also take a look at how Professor X (James McAvoy, “The Last King of Scotland”) got his start. His character is refreshingly imperfect in this movie. Yes, he’s a brilliant, well-to-do scholar who believes in humanity; but he is also a college boy who drinks from beer bongs and uses terrible lines to pick up co-eds.
Eventually, the two meet up and recruit other mutants in an effort to stop Shaw from starting World War III by setting off nuclear weapons during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
In his biggest movie yet as a director, Matthew Vaughn hits most of the right notes. He stops just short of corny in many scenes, an important skill for a director to have. He also makes his characters’ emotions penetrate the audience and he puts the special in special effects. By far, the pace Vaughn sets is probably his best achievement. The movie never slows down, but never really feels rushed. In some areas however, Vaughn stops short. He doesn’t develop the romances to a point where they are believable. In several instances, very important dialogue is hastily delivered so that the audience might miss important points if they’re not paying close attention.
Although Kevin Bacon’s acting as the villain was spot on; Michael Fassbender was the standout in this film. Michael Fassbander was the most riveting to watch on screen as he never misused a second of his time, driving home his agony and arrogance so much that the audience might accidentally end up on his side. The chemistry he creates with James McAvoy makes the frenemyship we see in later movies ring true, and the audience is sad to see them part ways. Rose Byrne (“Bridesmaids”), who plays an adaptation of Professor X’s love interest Moira MacTaggert, was convincing as a kick-butt member of the CIA- except during those long stretches of time in which she left her mouth hanging awkwardly open like a fish. Jennifer Lawrence (“The Beaver”), who plays Mystique, laid out her backstory well also, second only to Magento’s.
Once again, for die-hard fans, the story veers liberally from that of the original comics. The characters chosen were certainly not the first class of X-men, Moira was an expert in genetics and for goodness sake, Professor X was bald from the age of 16! But those fans will be delighted to see Mystique and Azazel go off together to join Magneto’s team since they know what comes next, and yes, it’s a baby in baby carriage. Mystique and Azazel were the parents of Nightcrawler in the comics.
And for the average fan, these are minor details that will not affect enjoyment of the movie. In fact, they allow for perhaps even better storytelling. For instance, when Hank McCoy (Beast) tells Professor X it would be best to just shave his head in order to use cerebro, the audience is charmed and laughs off Professor X’s response: “Don’t touch the hair!” We know his fate, even if he doesn’t. And even though it may not have made much sense, a cameo by Wolverine was also crowd-pleasing.
The bottom line: Go see this movie. It’s funny, touching, action packed and assembled in a two hour package!