It is unfortunate that we as humans lack the ability to go back in time and watch our younger selves and the undoubtedly stupid mistakes we all have made. To have this ability would be to have the honor of retracing our first steps, our right and wrong decisions, and repeating the path of experiences that made us who we are today. It is indeed unfortunate we lack this ability, but luckily for us, Hollywood doesn’t. They have a time machine and, in this case, they take us back to the start of a relationship that would change comic book history forever.
X-Men: First Class is the fifth installment of the highly successful X-Men franchise and serves as a prequel to the previous four. Here, we watch Erik Lensherr (Magneto) and Charles Xavier (Professor X) meet for the first time. Each have different backgrounds. Lensherr is a victim of the Holocaust, forced to watch his mother shot at point blank range by the evil Sebastian Shaw. Xavier is raised as an aristocrat of sorts, being pampered by maids and butlers. These two worlds join in an attempt to stop Shaw (Kevin Bacon) from antagonizing nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States, thus eliminating every human and leaving mutants to run the world.
Although this film has everything going for it, the most exciting aspect is the evolving relationship between Lensherr and Xavier. Michael Fassbender (Lensherr) and James McAvoy (Xavier) have huge shoes to fill in the form of Sir Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. However, the two young actors fill the shoes nicely, and much more. Especially Fassbender, who literally owns this movie. The viewer can feel the tension in every scene he is in. One scene in particular takes place in a bar, where Lensherr gets a measure of revenge on two former Holocaust officers.
The secondary characters do a fine job in their roles. While they do not receive nearly as much attention as Fassbender or McAvoy, two roles that stand out for this viewer are Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique and Nicholas Hoult as The Beast. Lawrence nails the inner conflict that curses Mystique, and Hoult plays the nerdy underdog well.
Very rarely do we see a superhero movie that has it all: action, suspense, story, and emotional attachment. The director, Matthew Vaughn, despite fear of not meeting executive schedules, includes all of these assets into the film, creating a mix that works so well the creator of Deadpool would be jealous.
Watch for cameos. I will not spoil them for you, but the nods to the franchise are very well placed.
As a novice film critic, I have learned that no movie is perfect, and even though I enjoyed this movie immensely, there are some minor grievances. The editing seems rushed. The story jumps from place to place (Vegas to the east coast of the United States to the Soviet Union to Switzerland and so on and so on) in a way that the audience may feel they have the teleporting ability of Azazel or Nightcrawler. Emma Frost is an overall disappointment. The actress, January Jones, almost proceeds as if she doesn’t want to be in the movie. Let me replace her (although I wouldn’t look nearly as attractive in the costumes she has to don).
Despite a few insignificant objections, X-Men: First Class is no doubt in the first class group of superhero movies. As I write this, my mind branches off into so many questions: Will Mystique and Azazel hook up to breed baby Nightcrawler? Will we see how Xavier loses his hair? Will Magneto recruit more to his cause, and, if he does, what other types of mutants will we see? Just like life, we have to wait for these questions to be answered. For now, X-Men: First Class will definitely do.