There is no doubt that X-Men First Class is an awesome awesome movie, probably one of the best in the franchise in terms of storytelling and casting, if I were to be specific about it. The franchise did itself a great favor by signing on Matthew Vaughn (Kick ass) to helm this action adventure based on one of the most popular Marvel groups in this century because the director is obviously a fan of the franchise. His love for the characters reflected in every aspect of the movie.
X-Men First Class brings back the audiences to the origins of the group of heroes trained by Professor Charles Xavier to protect the humans and spawn the peaceful coexistence of mutants and humans. The story dates back to 1962 when the telepath Charles meets Erik Lensherr, a powerful mutant who can move metallic objects and manipulate them at will. They come together to help the government avert a nuclear war, but in the end, it is the same people they try to help that try to destroy them.
The two develop a strong friendship, but unfortunately do not share the same views in terms of coexisting with humans. Whereas Charles, who was raised in a well off environment and is educated on the ways of society, is an idealist who wants mutants to integrate into society with the humans and use their powers for good, Erik, who later takes on the name of Magneto is distrustful of people and wants to prove mutant supremacy and take revenge on the humans who have oppressed mutants for being different. At an early age, he is exposed to the cruelty of war and what extent some would go to achieve power. While the earlier X-men movies have established the friendship shared by the two, this story delves deeper into the factors that made the two protagonists view the world the way they do. Before they were archenemies, this movie is the testament to their friendship, and the deep and lasting relationship they have with each other.
There are a lot of backstories also explored by the film, that of the original members of the X-men — the young Hank McCoy (Beast) who is known as an affable genius covered in blue fur is portrayed as a young man craving acceptance and embarrassed by his mutation, Mystique, who is Xavier’s oldest and dearest friend who finds in Magneto the strength to stand proud as a mutant, Havoc, the reckless young teen (Cyclop’s brother but there was no mention of Scott Summer in the movie) who has trouble controlling his highly destructive plasma beams, Banshee, Angel, Azazael, Riptide, Emma Frost, and other mutants who I am not very familiar with. The story gives the viewers an insight into the evolution of the characters from what they were when they were young superheroes to what they have become when the X-men was formally formed under Xavier’s wing.
The best part of the film for me was the bromance between Charles and Erik. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of their characters was so intense that audiences could not help but develop an emotional connection with the two, and sympathize with either of the duo. For one, after seeing the movie, one could not simply dismiss Magneto as an arch villain, but rather see him also as a victim of circumstance. He is what he is because of what he has suffered through. Their mutual respect for each other is reflected in every scene, and their differences are marked by their opposite philosophies.
Michael Fassbender did not have a lot of high profile roles before X-men but I am hoping that after this, he would get bucketloads of movie offers. His acting, the pain in his eyes when he chose to let go of the missiles to retrieve the bullet that hit Charles’ spine was so emotionally charged that audiences (myself included) could not help but melt in that scene. His fierce protectiveness of his friend when he tried to kill McTaggert for shooting Charles was so realistic that one develops a soft for the villain, and his gentleness with Mystique is truly a clincher. In more ways that one, Fassbender outshone McAvoy in this film because he was able to be sensitive to the feelings of his fellow mutants and not just spout idealisms and dreams like Charles has. In all the years that Mystique has stayed with Charles, he was not able to give her the same level of acceptance as Erik has in the space of a few days. Erik successfully showed the sensitive side to the leader of the Brotherhood of Mutants, and Charles was pretty much remained consistent to the the Patrick Stewart portrayal of the role.
All in all, the film managed to deliver to the fans what they expected and even exceeded these expectations. It maintained consistency with the earlier versions of the movie, fed off its strengths and justified its weaknesses. While there may be some deviation from the comic books, they were minimal and negligible and managed only to strengthen the film. Now would also be a good time to credit the film’s costume team for staying true to original X-men costumes, and even Magneto’s earlier attire. A great prequel, and great movie. Good job!