The summer of Marvel Comics on the silver screen continued last week with the opening of “X-Men: First Class,” and the Crusade was there to check it out for you.
In this latest, prequel installment of the X-Men series, director Matthew Vaughn creates a familiar but different mutant universe.
While not a relaunch in the same vein as “Batman Begins,” it manages to offer something fresh while not abandoning the feel of the previous films.
“X-Men: First Class” delves further into the pasts of the future X-Men. The majority of the story takes place in the 1960s, right at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Erik Lehnsherr/ Magento (Michael Fassbender) is on a path of revenge, searching for Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), the man who murdered his mother. He finds his path detoured by a young professor, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), and Charles’ foster sister, Raven/ Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence).
The trio is recruited by the CIA to hunt down Sebastian Shaw, and his accomplices, the Hellfire Club (January Jones, Jason Flemyng, and Álex González).
Charles and Erik set out on recruiting mutants to help them fight the good fight. They end up with a team including Alex Summers/ Havok (Lucas Till), Sean Cassidy/ Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones), Angel Salvadore (Zoë Kravitz), Armando Muñoz/ Darwin (Edi Gathegi) and Dr. Henry “Hank” McCoy/ Beast (Nicholas Hoult).
Well, you can imagine what happens next (and you’ll have to, because I do not ruin movie endings).
The quick-witted humor and charm of the original trilogy is still there. When “outed” as a mutant by the well-meaning, young Charles Xavier, Dr. Hank McCoy defends himself stating, “You didn’t ask, I didn’t tell.” There’s nothing worse than a comic-based action movie that takes itself too seriously.
In “X-Men: First Class” the “meet and greet” relaunch of the popular series, not only are audiences being introduced to some new characters, but some familiar ones are reintroduced.
Without a doubt, this young, new cast is a large part of what makes this film work.
Taking on the big X behind the X-Men is no small task, and James McAvoy takes on the role with ease. McAvoy’s Charles Xavier is not simply Professor X with hair and functioning legs. He is given a base from which to evolve into the Professor X which we all know and love. McAvoy’s Charles Xavier is young, sensitive and a little cocky at times. He even attempts to pick up coeds with lines about his thesis on genetic mutation. Not exactly Patrick Stewart’s Professor X.
Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto is pretty much everything you could want in a future supervillain. Intelligent, charming, very easy on the eyes and just a bit scary. Magneto is one of the most sympathetic villains in the Marvel Universe, and Fassbender makes it even harder not to like the guy.
Jennifer Lawrence as Raven / Mystique is definitely a strong addition to this young cast. Her initial insecurity and lack of self-acceptance are a far cry from Rebecca Romijn’s confident, uber-sexual Mystique. However, throughout the film you can catch glimpses of who this young woman will become (quite literally at times).
With its timeless message about fear of the unknown, and the danger of villainizing those who are different, this latest X-Men installment lives up to and in some ways surpasses the expectations set by its predecessors.
Plus, you don’t have to watch all the other films to understand what’s going on. One of the great things about prequels. Although, it wouldn’t hurt (just a suggestion).
…just for fun: