Review: X-Men - First Class

Director Matthew Vaughn's X-Men: First Class takes us back to the early lives of Professor Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr - looking at their friendship and formation of 'The X-Men' against the backdrop of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

First Class is easily the best entry in the X-Men Film Series since Bryan Singer's phenomenal X2. In fact, it's also incredibly reminiscent of the early James Bond films - partly due to its frequent globetrotting to a plethora of exotic locations, its political/espionage elements and the suave nature of several of the characters. First Class takes us to Argentina (slightly reminiscent of The Boys From Brazil), Geneva, Las Vegas (which feels very Diamonds Are Forever), Oxford, Washington and Miami (*cough* Goldfinger) with Matthew Vaughn making stunning use of these wonderful locations and giving the film a very grand feel. Kudos to costume designer as well, Sammy Sheldon really captures the 1960s setting in her work.

Given this rapid departure from present day, First Class still works as well as the previous entries - if not even better. Through the 1960s setting we really get the feel the world is an extremely tense and unsettled place through the Cuban Missile Crisis and the way the X-Men are written into this is done extremely well. However, political intrigue and paranoia are not the only genres that this superhero film dips into - First Class also deals with the subject of war. Seeing Michael Fassbender's Lehnsherr hunt down Nazi war criminals could have been a film in itself - the scenes of him in Argentina are amongst the films best. Vaughn handles this vast range of scenes stylishly and incredibly well. There are also some light touches of humour that will go down well with fans of the series, as well as a fantastic cameo (and it's not Stan Lee).

Originally, I was slightly disappointed with the casting decisions - purely because it wasn't Ian McKellen or Patrick Stewart playing these iconic parts. However, most of the new cast members are excellent. Michael Fassbender is truly outstanding as a man haunted by the acts of Nazi war criminals and shows several sides to the character of Magneto. McAvoy is also quite impressive as the young Charles Xavier bringing a sense of vulnerability and a more humorous side than we see through the Patrick Stewart interpretation.The casting of Kevin Bacon, which originally I found quite odd, has really paid off - he's one of Marvel's best film villains and particularly shines in the film's opening. Rose Byrne also appears as a CIA agent working alongside the mutants - considering she's acting against some larger than life characters, she does very well. However, not all casting is so strong - January Jones looks absolutely breathtaking in this and looks the part as Emma Frost, however I found her extremely unconvincing and what should have been a very interesting character, doesn't feel fleshed out. Several of the new recruits are quite dull as well and I had little interest whether the characters survived, mainly Havock, Riptide, Angel and Darwin.

First Class IS NOT 3D! YAY! The high standard of the film really shows that 3D adds nothing to the filmic experience.

Overall, First Class is on par with X2, in my opinion, far superior to Wolverine and The Last Stand. The 1960s setting and Bondish elements bring a lot to the film and Matthew Vaughn's direction is perfect. The lead performances are outstanding, despite some mixed supporting performances. Go and see First Class!

So what's next for the X-Men saga? Most likely we'll see First Class 2 and The Wolverine next - However part of me still longs for a proper end to the original X-Men Trilogy - The Last Stand didn't do these fantastic characters justice. Or even a Storm prequel. I'd also love to have seen a full Magneto prequel like David Goyer's that was originally planned, but that's not going to happen now a lot of the ideas seem to have been incorporated into First Class.

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