Review by: Josh Perrault
After finally seeing Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class it reaffirmed that there is no doubt in my mind that X-Men is one of the, if not the greatest comic book movie franchise of our time. Despite the rough first impressions of the last two films in the X-Men franchise (X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine), X-Men: First Class is just what the franchise needed to give it the justice it needs of this long-loved action hero series. X-Men: First Class takes place in the early 1960s during the Cuban Missile Crisis and focuses on Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and the beginning of Xavier’s X-Men and Magneto’s Brotherhood of Mutants. The film has an amazing supporting cast consisting of Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw, a mutant and long time enemy of Magneto plotting to take over the world, Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, Rose Byrne as Dr. Moira MacTaggert, among many others including a cameo by Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.
James McAvoy portrays a whole new side to Charles Xavier we had never had the chance to see until now. This is the Charles Xavier who drank, womanized, walked, and even had hair. McAvoy’s take on the young version of the beloved old man in the wheelchair is nearly perfect as the film goes on and more and more well-known characteristics of the Xavier we have previously seen on the screen begin to unfold.
On McAvoy’s other side is Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr, or Magneto. The story of Magneto tends to drive the film overall. The film starts out as a recreation of the opening of the first X-Men film, as Erik as a child in a Nazi concentration camp. As his mother and father are taken away from him, Erik shows his mutation as he bends and tears away at the metal gates before him. Though the scene has been showed before in a previous X-Men film, I believe that it is the perfect setup, as the scene is taken even further creating a more traumatic origin story of Magneto. In this case, all the talk of a Magneto origins film should be out of the picture. The same goes for making another Wolverine origins film, but I digress. Throughout the film we see Erik become more and more infatuated with killing the man who made him who he is, Sebastian Shaw. While on the other hand, Charles Xavier is all about peace and harmony amongst the mutants and the rest of the human race. Despite their differences Erik and Charles form a bond that at one time puts them on the same team, though we see otherwise in the previous films.
The X-Men series, like many action hero franchises, has seen its ups and downs. The first two films, X-Men and X2, were a huge hit in the box office as well as amongst fans and critics. However, though doing very well in the box office, X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, did not get the same appreciation. Director Matthew Vaughn had a lot on his shoulders to get the love and appreciation back for this series. And he did just that. Amongst having to bring the franchise back up on its feet, the film needed to be able to tell a very interesting story while not leaving out the crucial elements of the previous films. On top of that, origin stories tend to be a difficult task on their own. However, Vaughn easily pulled it off, and there is no doubt that X-Men: First Class will be listed among J.J. Abram’s Star Trek and Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins as the standard outline of how a fantastic prequel should be made.
The film contains just about everything needed in a prequel to such a well-known series. Though there is a lot to take in as both the Magneto and Charles Xavier characters do a great deal of changing amongst the backdrop of the CIA and actual historic events, while at the same time Sebastian Shaw is doing his own dirty work to cause world panic and ultimately have the world at his own will. The film does justice to truly explain the origin of all the tiny little details we see in the original film series. We learn how Charles Xavier was put in his famous ‘X’ wheel chair. We learn how Beast became, well, a beast. We also learn where Magneto’s infamous helmet came from and its extremely significant history as far as the character of Magneto goes. There is definitely a lot to take in, but the film still drives you into keeping interested and on the edge of your seat.