When Bryan Singer released X-Men into the world in 2000, it was the first big budget comic book film and was a real gamble as up till then that genre hadn’t been a big success apart from Superman and that was 22 years before.  This film launched the genre into the mainstream and has lead to a summer in 2011 where we have Thor, Captain America, Green Lantern and X-Men First Class, and then next year, The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises.  The comic book film is king and the studios are relying on these films to be a success and if you can’t get a sequel then do a prequel which is where we find ourselves with X-Men:First Class.

The idea for First Class popped up at the end of X-Men Origins Wolverine, where Charles Xavier turned up to rescue the young mutants freed by Logan, and there was also talk for ages about doing a Magneto origins film, but it seems that has been incorporated into First Class.  Bryan Singer has returned to the franchise as a producer after having turned X-Men 3 to do Superman Returns. The original director of X3 was to be Matthew Vaughn but he pulled out while in pre production and went off to make the amazing Kick Ass. Off the success of that film he was persuaded to come back for this prequel and has brought his Kick Ass screenwriting partner Jane Goldman along as well.

The film follows Charles Xavier and Eric Lehnsherr  as they go from childhood to becoming friends to ultimately enemies. Charles finds himself working with the CIA to help hunt down Sebastian Shaw a weapons dealer who is trying to start a war between the super powers. Erik Lehnsherr is trying to hunt down the German Scientist who experimented on him in the concentration camps, using any method to get the answers he wants. Soon they run into each other and Charles convinces him to join his group of mutants to hunt for Shaw, and to try and recruit some more members and try to stop the cuban missle crisis.

I really enjoyed the X-Men films, even X-Men Last Stand and Wolverine, so was looking forward to this one, and it fits in really well with the existing films, even though it is a slight reboot.  Setting it in the 1960’s was a great move as it gives the film it’s own distinct style, not just clothes but environment.  It was also a time of paranoia where everyone was suspicious of each over so throwing mutants into that mix is a clever move.  The story of two friends becoming enemies is also handled really well, in fact the times where Mcavoy and Fassbender share the screen are the strongest parts of the film. James Mcavoy playes Xavier with the same calmness that Patrick Stewart brought to the role but with a more playful side especially when we see Charles the ladies man. Michael Fassbender is perfect as Erik, he brings this real intensity to the role, a man driven by anger, looking for revenge. There is one sequence where Erik and Charles go travelling around the world looking for other mutants where there is a really fun chemistry between them. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Fassbender as James Bond one day as there are scenes in this with a real bond tone. My one criticism of him, would be his accent. For the first 2/3rds of the film he has a non descriptive accent, but in the last third his real Irish accent comes out really strong and it did jar abit. I get the feeling that maybe they ran out of time to go back and re-record his dialogue.  As Sebatian Shaw, Kevin Bacon gives a good sinister performance, and the lovely Januray Jones is very good as his right hand woman, Emma Frost.  Jennifer Lawrence who was Oscar Nominated earlier this year for Winter’s Bone, is good as Mystique struggling to deal with her mutation. Nicholas Hoult has come a long way from the boy in About A Boy and is very good as Hank ‘Beast’ McCoy. As one of the non mutants Rose Byrne showed a bit of sexier side to her previous roles as Moria MacTaggert, the CIA operative who becomes close with Xavier.  The other mutants don’t really get a a huge amount of time to really develop their characters, but hopefully if there is a another film we might get to see more of them.

Considering the shorter amount of time that he has had to make this, Matthew Vaughn has done a pretty good job with the film. I don’t think it’s as good as the two Bryan Singer films but is a lot better than Last Stand and Wolverine.  It moves along at a good pace, keeping you interested in seeing how the relationship between the two leads will develop, but it also has a real fun side to it, stopping it becoming too serious and pompous. There is a small cameo half way through which I thought was really funny.  The Cuban Missle crisis element of the story helped to ground it in the real world, though there seemed to be a few histroical elements wrong, yes I know the X-men didn’t really exist and stopped the crisis! The visual effects as usual these days were up to scratch with some nice sequences. Apparently it hasn’t done as well in it’s opening weekend as Thor, but I think that all the elements are there for a deserved sequel, and I hope the remaining two big comic books films left are as entertaining as the First Class.

Rating 8/10