I was not surprised that I liked X-Men: First Class – I was surprised at just how much I liked it.
X-Men: First Class is a fantastic movie, due in large part to phenomenal casting and a solid script. James McAvoy as Charles Xaviar and Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr both add an earnest weight to this movie, without taking it over the top. Through their performances and the carefully-constructed background on each of their characters, you begin to understand how they become Professor X and Magneto of the Marvel comic universe. And though they may be playing mutants, their performances are very human and relatable.
Kevin Bacon as the villain Sebastian Shaw is surprisingly understated; where he could have gone into the strange and silly, he kept instead quietly sinister and fully justified in his evil-doings. I also thought January Jones was appropriately cool as Emma Frost, and Jennifer Lawrence was solid and consistent as Raven (aka Mystique).
The first 40 minutes of this movie had me a little dazed, only because the story hops back and forth between time and place in order to sort out the puzzle of who’s who and what’s what. The writers worked hard pulling several different threads together to bring Erik, Charles, the villain Sebastian, and the United States CIA to the same place at the same time, but once they get there, the film turns a corner and takes on a fun, action-packed pace.
There’s fighting, explosions, a few battles of will and shows of strength that come with the best comic book movies. There’s plenty of cheeky banter and self-discovery as new mutant recruits learn to discover and control their powers. There are also a few hat-tips and fun surprises related other X-Men movies and characters.
When I told my 14yo daughter – who has a near-encyclopedic knowledge of Marvel comics – about the movie, she chuckled and said that although most of the characters in the movie are indeed from the comics, many of the details and story lines of the movie were written just for the film. “It’s to be expected, though,” she said. “That’s how they usually do it.”
Finer details aside, I think any X-Men fan will love X-Men: First Class, and the movie may even pick up some new converts along the way.
Rating information: X-Men: First Class is rated PG-13 for “Intense sequences of action and violence, some sexual content including brief partial nudity, and language.” My two cents: this movie seems a bit more brutal in some of its violence and a bit more revealing in the sexual content than I remember the other X-Men movies being. Again, just my two cents!
*Disclosure: I received one complimentary ticket to view this movie at a press screening. No other compensation was received. All opinions expressed are honest and my own. And since I actually had no idea who was starring in this movie before I went, the moment James McAvoy came on screen, I audibly sighed. He sure was a pleasure to watch for 132 minutes!