In the midst of the Cold War, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) is trying to incite World War III. The CIA recruits Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) to stop Shaw. Xavier and Lensherr put together a team of fellow mutants consisting of Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Angel (Zoe Kravitz), Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones), Darwin (Edi Gathegi), and Havok (Lucas Till). Together they must learn to control their mutant powers to defeat Shaw.
After X2: X-Men United, the X-Men franchise didn’t quite hit the same quality with X3: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. They lacked a good story and heart. X-Men: First Class finally breaks the downward trend and present a story that not only has a lot of heart, but has a great cast and is a lot of fun.
First Class starts off with the same scene as X-Men with a young Erik in the German concentration camp being separated from his parents and bending the metal gates. It was smart to start the same way so it’s obvious this story exists in the same universe as the X-Men trilogy. Some of the events that happen throughout the movie make it seem like it is a reboot but by sharing a scene with the original movies it says ‘Nope, same place, new story.’
I thought this movie was awesome as a period piece. The fact that the story wove around actual events (the Cuban Missile Crisis) was pretty cool. Some movies try a similar approach of using historical events as their backdrop but aren’t always as successful as First Class. The setting was also used to show off Shaw’s character. By manipulating both sides he was able to display how smart and strategic he can be. I felt this was an great representation of his character.
The cast of First Class is amazing. Kevin Bacon is always enjoyable to watch on screen, but he is especially fun here as the villainous Sebastian Shaw. He’s very suave and laid back, but when he gets serious, watch out. James McAvoy as Charles Xavier and Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique do well, too, but I would have to say my favorite performance would have to be Michael Fassbender as Magneto. Fassbender brings a charisma to the role that portrays the confidence, but at the same time the vulnerability, of the character. The students of Charles and Erik are fun to watch, too, especially when they are showing off their powers. And there is a great Wolverine cameo.
Despite being an ensemble movie, the plot never gets too convoluted. In the beginning, Shaw is set up as the big baddie and the rest of the movie is either him and his team of mutants trying to start manipulate the US and Russian governments or Charles and Erik and their team of mutants getting ready to stop Shaw. Other than a few of the supporting bad mutants, most of the characters get their fair share of screen time and character development, leading to a fun little training montage. Most of the time is spent focused on Charles’ and Erik’s relationship, but this is to be expected since their bond is such an integral part of the X-Men’s history. Even though you know how their friendship plays out, seeing how it begins makes the breakup even more painful.
After the disappointments that were X3: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: First Class sets the X-Men franchise back on course. The casting was perfect, particularly the core cast of Kevin Bacon, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence. The chemistry between McAvoy and Fassbender really made the relationship between Charles Xavier and Magneto come alive. Even though the cast was fairly sizable, every character received their time in the spotlight. First Class has set up the franchise’s future and I can’t wait to see how Fox builds off the events of this film.
Also check out my reviews for X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse
Cast & Crew
Mathew Vaughn – Director/Screenplay
Bryan Singer – Story
Sheldon Turner – Story
Ashley Miller – Screenplay
Zach Stentz – Screenplay
Jane Goldman – Screenplay
Henry Jackman – Composer
James McAvoy – Charles Xavier
Michael Fassbender – Erik Lensherr
Kevin Bacon – Sebastian Shaw
Rose Byrne – Moira MacTaggert
Jennifer Lawrence – Raven / Mystique
Zoe Kravitz – Angel Salvadore
Nicholas Hoult – Hank / Beast
Caleb Landry Jones – Cassidy / Banshee
Edi Gathegi – Armando Munoz / Darwin
Lucas Till – Alex Summer / Havok
Oliver Platt – Man in Black Suit
January Jones – Emma Frost
Alex Gonzalez – Janos Quested / Riptide
Jason Flemyng – Azazel
Glen Morshower – Colonel Hendry
Matt Craven – CIA Director McCone