It’s refreshing in a way that is reminiscent of the latest Star Trek. It’s light and fun with good energy and no major flaws.
Ultimately, First Class doesn’t really reach the level of X2 or the first Iron Man, but it makes a fair stake for itself, mainly behind the performances of James McAvoy (who plays Charles Xavier) and Michael Fassbender (Erik Lehnsherr as he makes his transformation into Magneto.)
The film starts with young Erik folding in a gate at a concentration camp after being taken from his parents. He is then taken to Nazi officer Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), who tries to activate young Erik’s magnetic powers by threatening to shoot his mother if Erik can’t move a coin with his mind. It’s almost as if Shaw is trying to create a comic book supervillain.
And then we have young Charles Xavier finding a young Mystique/Raven, the teenage version played by Jennifer Lawrence for the majority of the film, stealing food from her kitchen.
The film plays out in the backdrop of the Cold War as Charles, Raven and Erik find each other, they also find that Shaw, now teamed up with Emma Frost (January Jones) and two disposable baddies, is dead set on starting up World War III and the extinction of us lesser humans.
The good guys of course have to try and stop this, teaming up with the CIA and recruiting more mutants, Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Angel (Zoë Kravitz), Sean Cassidy/Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones), Alex Summers/Havok (Lucas Till) and Darwin (Edi Gathegi).
All these young cast members lend to the film a great deal of energy and charisma, which director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake,’ Kick-Ass’) uses well.
And of course, it wouldn’t be the X-Men without the over-arching theme of alienated outcasts who deal with rejection, fear and hate – themes that have drawn awkward teens to their stories since the days of Stan Lee. The metaphor here extends — in some places less subtly than others — to the LGBT community and at one point when McCoy is asked why he never mentioned his mutation, he replies: “You didn’t ask, I didn’t tell.”
Despite the film being over two hours long, it’s very well-paced. The special effects are all up to par, the acting is on point most of the time – Lawrence does a great job playing the transformation from insecure to empowered — and the score is well done. Most fanboys will probably disagree with me here, but there might have been a bit too much winking and nudging with the inside jokes. Ultimately this is good summer fare, nothing here that’s breaking any genre boundaries, but you won’t be disappointed if you venture out and catch it this weekend.