X-Men: First Class offers viewers an explanation of how Professor Charles Xavier’s secret academy for mutants began. It also reveals what led to the break-up between Xavier and his friend Erik/Magneto. Unfortunately, this fifth X-Men outing failed to draw me into what was happening on screen in the exciting way the previous movies did. Because I’m such an avid fan of Wolverine -- as portrayed with great animal magnetism by Hugh Jackman -- I have to admit his absence as a major character here probably influenced my negative reaction to this prequel. Also, it was difficult for me to imagine James McAvoy’s (Wanted) Charles aging into Patrick Stewart’s Xavier and Michael Fassbender’s (Jane Eyre) Erik later becoming Ian McKellen’s Magneto. No doubt these things interfered with my enjoyment of First Class.
So -- if you haven’t seen X-Men: First Class yet, my advice is to black out your memory of previous films in this franchise before buying a ticket. Free your mind as you fork over your cash. How I wish I could have done that!
Although the movie takes us back to the 1940s for a few scenes showing Charles and Erik as children in very different circumstances, most of the action is set in the 1960s. Charles, who reads minds, is trying to locate other mutants who will be able to help make the world a better place. Erik, who can bend metal to his bidding, wants revenge on Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon, having a ball with this villainous role) because of his evil deeds during the Holocaust.
When Charles and Erik first meet, they become friends and colleagues despite their contrasting views concerning how mutants should use their powers. Joining forces during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the two men and their mutant followers show what miracles they can perform when they work together. But with differing philosophies, a parting of the ways seems inevitable.
A word about a few of the mutants depicted here. Jennifer Lawrence plays shapeshifter Mystique with little of the passion she brought to her Oscar-nominated performance in Winter’s Bone – but it’s fun to watch the special effects change this character from a beautiful young girl into an exotic blue-coated creature. January Jones (Unknown) also benefits from special effects magic as her gorgeous Emma Frost turns into a human diamond. As Angel Salvdore, Zoe Kravitz (The Brave One) boasts lovely butterfly-like wings which confuse us about her true nature. For me, the most interesting male mutant is Hank McCoy/The Beast (Nicholas Hoult), an eager young scientist with two very special appendages. Too bad we get such sparse information about all the mutant team members. But be sure to watch for an amusing cameo that makes this movie worth seeing for fans of a certain popular X-Men character!
Speaking of special effects, when Magneto uses his full mutant power during the Cuban Missile Crisis, it’s awesome to behold. Hmm. Wonder why that never made all the newspapers.
(Released by Twentieth Century Fox and rated “PG-13” for intense sequences of action and violence, some sexual content including brief partial nudity and language.)
For more information about this film, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.