After the X-Men trilogy, the clock was wired back in Origins: Wolverine. Origins: Wolverine showed the origin story of the mutant Wolverine and it was only a mild success. However Marvel must have been happy about the movie because they decided to give the same treatment to the X-men.
After a slow start, the movie truly begin when a CIA agent named Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) discover a dangerous group of mutants called the Hellfire Club who are attempting to cause war between the US and the USSR. Unable to convince her superiors in the existence of mutants, she looks for help in the form of Charles Xavier, a Professor of Genetics at Oxford University. Unknown to MacTaggert, both Charles and his “sister” Raven/ Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) are mutants.
Charles help the CIA attack the Hellfire Club but the attack failed. Members of the Club, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), Emma Frost (January Jones), Azazel (Jason Flemyng) and Riptide (Alex Gonzalez), are all mutants and they proved too powerful for the CIA. However the CIA did meet with Eric Lensherr, a Nazi-hunter who is chasing down Shaw for reason of his own. After this first meeting between Charles and Eric, they begin to gather a group band of mutants, including Havok (Lucas Till), Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones), Dr Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), and Angel Salvadore (Zoë Kravitz) to go up against the Hellfire Club.
That is the basic story of the movie. Mutants are the next stage of human evolution and after years of believing themselves to be alone, they are starting to discover that there are other mutants out there. Humanity also begins to realize that there is a new species of human around and the movie traced their understandable reaction to the presence of their “successors”.
As you can probably tell from the summary, X-Men: First Class is a prequel to the first X-Men movie; this is a movie about the origin of the X-Men.
Set in 1962, the movie is about the first fateful meeting between Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Eric Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) and the group they setup that will eventually become the X-Men. How they met, how they became allies and friends, and what caused the spilt between them in the end; these are the events that keep the story going.
Personally, I found the movie to be pretty good. Perhaps not the best X-Men movie around, it is still much better than X-Men: Last Stand and Origins: Wolverine. There’s a lot going on but viewers are not overwhelmed as director Matthew Vaughn kept a tight grip on the story, rolling out the action sequence one after another while keeping everything fairly straightforward. The actors also did a good job with McAvoy especially good at being a playful Charles Xavier. A fairly faithful showing of the 1960s also helped me get into the movie.
However, X-Men: First Class has a few problems. The main negative is one they can’t help with. X-Men: First Class is a prequel so everyone knows what is going to happen. Much like the Star Wars prequel trilogy where everyone knows the Jedi will fall, the Sith will win and Darth Vader will be “born”, everyone knows that Charles and Eric will end up on opposite sides, the humans will try to kill the mutants, and Mystique will join Eric’s side of the mutant war. The surprise factor just isn’t there and that brings down the tension of the movie.
I also wonder if something was left on the editing floor because I found the end of the movie to be slightly abrupt. The way Eric “turned” against the humans was strange. One moment he was killing Shaw (oh please, that can’t be a surprise), the next he was fighting against humanity in the name of mutant society. Uh?
Still I found X-Men: First Class to be an excellent movie. It has good action scenes and it treads that fine line between paying attention to the past movies without paying homage to them. With this movie, the X-Men franchise is back on track.