Even though the X-Men-movies could not possibly get worse after X-Men Origins: Wolverine, my skepticism was raised when I heard that that guy from Wanted was now going to play the great and powerful Charles Xavier. However, I started hearing nice things about the new film, so I decided to simply give it a chance.
Giving X-Men: First Class a chance turned out to be a wise decision on my part. At first I was worried, though – a young, walking Xavier flirting with attractive girls by reading their minds? Not very promising, I thought. But things eventually started to take a turn for the much, MUCH better.
The film opens in 1944 with the childhoods of both Charles ‘Professor X’ Xavier and Erik ‘Magneto’ Lehnsherr. Xavier meets a young, frightened Raven ‘Mystique’ Darkholme (Jennifer Lawrence) in his kitchen where he, upon realizing they’re both mutants, promises to look after her and calls her a member of his family, whilst in Poland (as The Holocaust is taking place) a young, furious Erik Lehnsherr is seen by the evil Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), aka Dr. Schmidt, bending the gate of a concentration camp with his mutant-powers. Shaw brings young Lehnsherr into his office, trying to learn him to control his ability.
The film then jumps ahead to the 60’s – Xavier is now James McAvoy and his thesis on mutation attracts the attention of CIA Agent Moria MacTaggert (Rose Byrne), who needs his helps to locate other mutants in the world in order to assemble an army to take down Sebastian Shaw, who is still at large. A man referred simply to as The Man In Black (Oliver Platt) introduces Xavier and Raven to Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult; the kid from About A Boy all grown-up) who is the creator of Cerebro, Xavier’s famous mutant-finding device.
Meanwhile, an adult Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) is also searching for Shaw, intending to kill him, but he is soon discoverd by Xavier and the CIA when they, at one point, all attempt to strike at Shaw at once. This is where the friendship between Xavier and Lehnsherr began.
Shaw, it turns out, is a mutant himself. He has the power to absorb energy, which makes him both invulnerable and immortal, and also an army of other mutants known as The Hellfire Club – the telepath Emma ‘White Queen’ Frost (played by January Jones and almost as busty here as in the comics), the demonic teleporter Azazel (Jason Flemyng) and whirlwind-creator Riptide (Álex González). It eventually turns out that Shaw has World War III in mind and was apparently the one who made the Russians put those warheads on Cuba, causing The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962. It is kind of fun to see the soon-to-be X-Men as they first interact as incompetent teens, playing with their powers and thinking of code names for one another, such as ‘Mystique’, ‘Beast’, ‘Angel’ and so on and so forth.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a complete X-Men-film without the discrimination towards mutants. There is an obligatory scene where CIA-agents taunt the young mutants and view them as zoo-animals. Some mutants decide to just be proud of who they are and come to peace with how they look, but one of them has particularly little tolerance for the way humas treat them – who else but Magneto?
I enjoyed this film quite a lot, and since I have read no X-Men-comics I don’t know how true it is to the source material, but I’ve never heard, among cartoons or other movies, that Mystique was once part of the X-Men. This did not bug me all that much though, since I’m not entirely sure after all. I am rather certain Angel was never female, however.
Kevin Bacon did a pretty good job in his role as the villain; the acting in general is rather good and there are surprisingly many familiar faces all over the place – we’ve got Michael Ironside as a U.S. Navy Captain, Ray Wise of Twin Peaks-fame as The United States Secretary of State, Matt Craven as a CIA-supervisor, John F Kennedy as himself and a very amusing cameo by someone I think most X-Men-fans will recognize.
X-Men: First Class is actually a very good film; much better than I expected, for sure. Some of the special effects, like certain times when Magneto used his powers and when one mutant learned to fly, looked awful and were consequently hard to take seriously, but other than that I’m satisfied. Very good action scenes, pretty good acting, an interesting story; it is definitely better than the last film, as well as the best one in a while. It is worth seeing, for sure!
Finally, I would like to thank the film for being in 2D.