X-Men: First Class is the prequel to the X-Men franchise and is directed by Kick Ass‘ Matthew Vaughn. This latest addition to the, until now, trilogy details the formation of Professor Charles Xavier’s (James McAvoy) school for young mutants, focusing on his relationship with Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and where it took a wrong turn, and explaining the origin of the rival mutant teams, introducing us to both younger characters from the previous films and to new characters as well, showcasing a handful of extraordinary new powers.
Beginning with the same scene from the first (or in a way second) film, we are introduced to the prominent leaders of these mutant teams, Professor X and Magneto, at the ages of twelve. The story unfolds in short scenes following these two characters separately as we see Charles first meet Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), who is at this point an ally named Raven, the two go on to university where Xavier becomes a professor, and the beginning of the revenge-fueled dispute between Magneto and the films baddy Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon).
Set primarily in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Shaw, who can absorb kinetic energy, is planning to start a World War. Alongside his sidekicks, the sparkling, but also telepathic, Emma Frost (January Jones), hurricane-maker Riptide (Álex González) and the devil-like Azazel (Jason Flemyng), things don’t go as easy as first planned as the distinction between friendship and rivalry becomes very vague with a constant change of who’s on what side.
Professor X is asked to help the government where he teams up with detective Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) and meets the ‘Beast’ Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult). They find Magneto and persuade him to fight on their side as they begin to recruit new mutants – flying Angel (Zoë Kravitz), ever-adapting Darwin (Edi Gathegi), plasma blasting Havok (Lucas Till) and sonic screaming Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones) – the ‘first class’ of X-Men who the Professor begins to train to use their powers for the benefit of humanity.
As a prequel, First Class touches on aspects of the previous films and we therefore know what to expect in some parts. We know who Hank McCoy is and what he will turn into, and we know that Magneto and Professor X will realise their opposing views on humanity’s relationship with mutants and which side Mystique will take. Nevertheless, the film is never predictable and it never uses these scenes to a disadvantage. The inevitable moment when Professor X looses the use of his legs could happen at any point in the film – we know that it is going to happen and we expect it constantly, but this scene is done in a way that it still provokes an emotional response as one of the sadder scenes in the film.
This latest X-Men film also has a great cast with well-known names such as James McAvoy who plays Professor X brilliantly and Kevin Bacon who somehow pulls off his antagonist role. This is then mixed with a selection of new talent and also with the talent from some who may surprise the audience, including Skin’s Nicholas Hoult who, until he turns into a blue fury beast, plays his role quite charmingly. January Jones‘ character was the only one that needed some getting used to as she plays her typical, coquettish character that suits the many rom-coms that she has been in. In a sense, it worked, but at the same time it wasn’t anything that needs applauding.
They may not be in The Avengers, but this is still a Marvel must-see for 2011.