Matthew Vaughn has managed to do something I wasn't sure was possible. He took what was, let's face it, a movie franchise barely limping along at this point, and hit it with the Doc Frankenstein treatment. Sure it takes a prequel to get it done, but damn it if this wasn't an entertaining ride from beginning to end. Oh! I nearly forgot to mention there's some great acting along the way too.
The original X-Men films (well the first two anyway) were decidedly good thanks to great leadership behind the camera from Bryan Singer and the likes of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as the yin and yang of mutant relations, Professor Charles Xavier and Erik "Magneto" Lehnsherr. They were, along with Raimi's Spiderman movies, that the comic book movie had come into its own honestly. They begat Iron Man and so on and so on. I, personally, have a soft spot in my heart for the X-fellas because of Jack Kirby and, well, Magneto.
Vaughn and company present to us, the fine moviegoing public, the origins of the X-Men. It is a story of a young Jewish boy who has everything taken from him and his psyche and powers manipulated by a cruel doctor. It is the story of a young man who would grow to become brilliant geneticist and also a damn fine telepath. First Class is the prequel to all we've seen before, but is more Casino Royale than anything else we've seen so far.
Michael Fassbender (Magneto) and James McAvoy (Professor X) bring their A-game to the project and we're all the better for it. Fassbender, in particular, walks away with every scene he's in. We see not only the rage and agony spurned by his awful past but the gentle kind-hearted side that remains somewhere within as well. The character of Erik Lehnsherr is a complex one that I felt was handled with such expertise by Fassbender. I loved him in Inglorious Basterds, but now one could look at him as the next big thing. If we don't get to see him as Magneto again it will be some sort of travesty. McAvoy brings the confidence and intelligence to the role of Xavier that only one as skilled as he could. It's tough, though, to fill the shoes of the likes of McKellen and Stewart but the duo certainly did it.
Youthful zest is weaved in between the anguish and heartache of moving past strife and finding others like them. The supporting characters that comprise the gifted youngsters is a bit of a mish-mash with few standing out aside from Hank McCoy and Mystique.
Kevin Bacon was a bit of a casting surprise for me considering the role he was to fill, but man did he own it. I loved him as Sebastian Shaw and it certainly helped that he looked dapper 100% of the time and also had a sweet submarine complete with wet bar and nuclear reactor room. January Jones (Emma Frost) also managed to show she can do more than just be pretty on screen as she does in Mad Men most of the time.
I know that's a lot regarding the acting, but frankly it was good considering this was a movie where the Cuban Missile crisis was actually the ploy of a mad man who wanted to destroy humanity so mutants could take over. Singer and crew (some of which worked on Thor) did a great job of churning out an origin story that is not only great, but always on the move. There is quite a bit of jetsetting in terms of locations as any good 60's globe-hopping adventure should be. There is less wit and humor here than in say Kick-Ass but damn if I wasn't satisfied by the dialogue and overall scripting of the film.
The effects were, for the most part, great spare a few scenes where it just seemed like someone got a little lax in their effort. The score, composed by Henry Jackman, paired well with the on-screen action and did well to segue between set pieces. The costume design was fantastic and there was no shortage of, pardon the street parlance, ballin' suits worn by multiple people at once. I've always been a fan of the original team outfit with the blue and yellow so it was definitely a nerdgasmic moment when we got to see it for the first time.
I compared this effort to Casino Royale because this film, much like the aforementioned Craig Daniel vehicle, has managed to revive a franchise that was, thanks to an abysmal sequel and spin-off movie about Wolverine, down at the bottom of the barrel. We had globe trotting and lots of action along with plenty of set-up in Royale and the same goes for First Class. You'll even get to see the full-on Magneto outfit at some point as well and don't be surprised if somewhere, deep inside, you want to just exclaim "Fuck yeah!".
Marvel, so far this year, is on a roll considering Thor was a solid entry into the line of films and now X-Men: First Class is a certified fresh experience well worth paying to go see. These characters deserved to have their origins done right and we've got that here. I could have used more Nazi hunting with Magneto, but perhaps my dream will come true one day of seeing Magneto in his OWN film. Probably not, but I can wish can't I?
A very good entry into the Marvel lineup, to say the least. GO SEE IT.