Before seeing X-Men: First Class X-men comic fans will need to ignore the history of how the group first started in the comics. The new movie is a complete reboot – an alternate universe using the same fascinating characters created by Marvel comics. This is a prequel to the entire movie series started in 2000 and rather impressively tells a different tale of how the X-Men first formed.
James McAvoy & Michael Fassbender
In this film we learn how Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) started the X-Men with the help of Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence). The plot remains the same as all the other X-Men movies. The human race needs to be destroyed so mutants can rule. Using the same plot line in the last three movies is starting to get a little old, still X-Men: First Class is quite entertaining thanks to new casting of an excellent cast and a captivating story line set during the Cuban missile crisis.
Antagonist Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) is a mutant who has the ability to absorb kinetic energy and use it to his advantage. His objective is to make all mutants the ruling race. McAvoy is an interesting choice as the young telepath Xavier. Seeing him with a full head of hair and not bound to a wheelchair was strange at first, but McAvoy’s enthusiasm made me believe he’s a young know-it-all that eventually becomes an older wiser man.
Fassbender, who eventually becomes the metal-manipulating Magneto, is equally as excellent in his portrayal of a character gripped with uncontrollable hatred which would eventually consume him. Oscar-nominated for her role in Winters Bone, Lawrence is quite convincing as one of the most complex and mysterious mutants in X-Men history – the shape-shifting, blue-scaled Mystique. Since Mystique looks so different from other humans, her character is in constant conflict to try to fit in with society.
The best performance in X-men: First Class is Bacon. The opening sequence where he speaks fluent German is impressive, and his demeanor as Sebastian Shaw, made me believe he’s evil to the core. My least favorite portrayal was January Jones as Emma Frost. While she might look sexy in skimpy lingerie and tight white leather outfits, she offers no real personality to the character who is suppose to be one of the more intriguing mutants.
The other mutants introduced are Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Havok (Lucas Till), Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones), Darwin (Edi Gathegi), Azazel (Jason Flemyng), Angel Salvadore (Zoë Kravitz), and Riptide (Álex González). Beast develops a relationship with Mystique and his journey is how he goes from a human with big feet to a big blue furred wolf. The background of most of the mutants is not fully explored in this film and is mostly just used for action sequences.
An important part of the X-Men series is the use of complex computer graphics, which again is well done in X-Men: First Class. When Mystique uses her shape shifting abilities or Azazel teleports into a puff of red smoke, it’s evident how much detail and time the CG team has invested into making the audience believe what they see is real. The graphics are so good; I forgot that a computer did them and just enjoyed the story.
Photo credit: Murray Close / Twentieth Century Fox