X-Men First Class begins back in Poland, 1944 like the opening of the first X-Men film, where a young Erik is seen attempting to open the gates at Auschwitz through special powers.
Cut to Westchester, New York, 1944 and a young Charles Xavier (Laurence Belcher) apparently sees his mother in the kitchen, who wants to make him a hot chocolate, but he senses precisely that his mother has never been in their kitchen for anything at all, and the imposter reveals herself to be a young Raven (Morgan Lily), who was homeless but over time he has treated as his sister during their life together.
Erik is then being talked at by Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) who has an interest in genes and that mutant aspect to this, and knows the lad has a lot of power and so tells him to move a coin, but he can’t until Shaw threatens to execute his mother at which point he shows the full force he can muster…
From here on the plot jumps about over various locations and on to 1962 where Erik is in Geneva, plotting revenge on Shaw, then over to Oxford University where Charles is showing off his lothario skills by effortlessly chatting up a young lady while Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) tries to show off, causing them to leave. Shaw then tries to persuade Col. Bob Hendry (Glenn Morshower), who CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) is staking out, to put Jupiter missiles in Turkey and do his bit to make the Cold War even worse. Hendry is dead against this, but we know how persuasive the bad mutants can be.
The link between Rose and Charles comes when she needs his help to get to the bottom of this, and in a meeting with the CIA bigwigs, our professor states in his wise words that over time the human race has mutated in many forms along the way, and that the nuclear age may have accelerated the process.
Cue lots of new recruits who are brought along to help take care of Shaw, namely Angel (Zoë Kravitz) – who can fly, Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), who later becomes Beast, Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones) – who can fly with the use of creating sonic waves with his voice, Darwin (Edi Gathegi) – who is trained to adapt and survive, and Havok (Lucas Till) – who shoots out hoops of fire. All of the actors provide decent support, as do those on the side of the baddies, namely Álex González as Riptide – who sends tornados at whoever he feels, an unrecognisable Jason Flemyng as the teleporting Azazel and January Jones as Emma Frost – who can protect herself with a diamond-encrusted exoskeleton.
There’s also a role for the omnipresent Oliver Platt, cast simply here as “The Man in Black”, but full credit goes particularly to the two leads, James McAvoy as Charles Xavier, aka Professor X, and Michael Fassbender (below-left with McAvoy) as Erik Lehnsherr, aka Magneto, both of whom are superb and provide as good a match as any pairing can in these roles, even if no pairing could ever be on a par with the might of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKelen.
Complementing the cast are plenty of lush locations and there a few with big names, even in smaller parts, such as Twin Peaks‘ Ray Wise as a Secretary of State in the war room and Michael Ironside and a ship’s captain, plus Rade Serbedzija proving he’s the go-to Russian bigwig and a cameo from Hugh Jackman as, well, you know who.
In X-Men: First Class, we learn the origins of Magneto’s helmet, how Charles was put in a wheelchair and also the divisions between who’s on each other’s side. Overall, the film goes on a little too long, but it does have some outstanding scenes of special effects and great comaraderie between the whole cast so I’ll be looking forward to the expected sequels. I’d give the film 9/10 overall as it’s certainly the most well-rounded X-Men movie to date, so if I was a lazy tabloid journalist I’d be saying it doesn’t deserve ‘First Class’ honours, but a 2(i) will suffice.
But I’m not. So it’s 9/10. The end.
Oh, but I will add how apt it is that the jaw-dropping Jennifer Lawrence (below) in X-Men First Class also starred in “Winter’s Bone”… (ahem)
Go to page 2 for the presentation and the extras.
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.