X-Men: First Class is a prequel to the X-Men trilogy. The studio plans on it being the start of a new trilogy. It’s the origin story of Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr and how they became Professor X and Magneto. It’s set in the swingin’ sixties, right around the Cuban Missile Crisis, which plays an important part in the film. I love movies with alternate histories, it’s better that blatantly sabotaging history like they did in Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor.
The movie starts out with a familiar scene: a young Erik Lensherr is being separated from his parents in a concentration camp and he demonstrates his ability to manipulate metal. An evil Nazi doctor (Kevin Bacon) tries to get Erik to recreate the event and kills his mom. For motivation I guess. And so Erik gets a little emotional and unleashes his powers.
Meanwhile back in America, a young Charles Xavier meets a young runaway shape shifter named Raven Darkholme, and he invites her to live with his family within ten minutes of knowing her and without consulting with his parents. It was a simpler time back then.
The movie jumps to the 1960s and CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne from Bridesmaids) finds out that a former evil Nazi doctor, currently using the alias Sebastian Shaw, is planning on starting World War III. He’s the leader of the Hellfire Club, filled with mutants like the telepathic Emma Frost (January Jones), the teleporting Azazel, and the tornado-maker that they call Riptide for some stupid reason. Moira decides she needs to find an expert on mutants, and she turns to Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) for help. Charles and Raven decide to help the CIA stop Sebastian Shaw and the Hellfire Club.
Meanwhile Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) is busy tracking down former Nazis and killing them, all the while searching for Sebastian Shaw to seek revenge for killing his mom. Erik, Charles and the CIA all find Shaw at the same time, and shit goes down, Shaw escapes, and Erik and Charles become friends.
Charles and Erik meet Dr. Hank McCoy, and Charles makes his first use of Cerebro to track down mutants to join their cause. They recruit the winged stripper named Angel, the ultrasonic screamer Banshee, the rapidly evolving Darwin, and Havoc the hula hooping energy blaster. There are some pretty lame powers. A spitting dragonfly lady?!? A man with such a shrill scream that he can use it to fly?!? Darwin has an awesome power, too bad it looks stupid as fuck on screen.
While the young recruits are bonding the plot keeps trudging forward and eventually the Hellfire Club manipulates a Russian general into sending weapons to Cuba, thus starting the Cuban Missile Crisis. The X-Men go to battle with the Hellfire Club and Erik gets to Shaw and gets his revenge.
Erik goes crazy with power and tries to destroy a bunch of military ships. Charles tries to stop him and they fight and Charles ends up getting shot. Erik is sad that Charles got paralyzed and stuff, but he decides to part ways with his friend, taking Angel, Riptide, Azazel and Mystique with him. The movie ends with Erik, now calling himself Magneto, recruiting Emma Frost to his side… The sides are set for X-Men: First Class 2 – How Xavier Goes Bald.
I would rate this the third best X-Men movie. X2 is the best, followed by the original X-Men, and First Class is after that. The film was rushed into production, and there are a few parts where it is evident, but for the most part it’s a solid script with a lot of good moments. The cast lacks the star power of the original trilogy, and a lot of the mutants are second string. They changed a lot of stuff from the comics. There are some cool fight scenes, but I was disappointed with a lot of the powers. They are pretty second-rate. There are way too many mediocre mutants showcasing boring powers.
The third X-Men movie was a huge setback for the franchise. The Wolverine movie had its moments, but it was a terrible movie and butchered a lot of good Marvel characters. First Class is a step in the right direction, and even though it has a few flaws, it still redeems the franchise.
Critically Rated at 13/17