X-Men returns, but with a prequel audiences can deem as cake icing to the already successful franchise. First Class sets up another trilogy and focuses on the Professor X/Magneto friendship gone awry.
At the start of the film, we witness a young Erik Lehnsherr (Bill Milner) – later known as Magneto (Michael Fassbender) – bend a metal gate when taken captive at a concentration camp and separated from his parents. Fans of the original X-Men film may find this opening a little familiar.
After killing Erik’s mother, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) eggs (no pun intended) him on as Erik destroys his office (with his mind) – in a rage.
Meanwhile, a younger and pre-paralyzed telepath Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is starting his thesis on genetic mutation. In this film, Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) – later known as Mystique who can shape-shift into anyone – tags along as his adoptive sister. Xavier is approached by CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) who ultimately wants to team up to deflect the threats of Shaw’s role in the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Also on the search for Shaw is Erik, seeking to avenge the death of his parents.
The CIA houses Xavier, Raven, and Magneto in an off-site facility to protect them from outside attacks. The CIA already employs a mutant, Hank (Nicolas Hoult), whose feet bare resemblance to the hands of a hairy construction worker. Hank later becomes Beast, looking like a blue puppy in the face.
Hank and particularly Raven, struggle with body image issues. Raven believes her blue skin and scales to be unattractive, shape-shifting to a “normal” woman for the majority of the film. And Hank is determined to discover a formula that will allow mutants to appear normal without sacrificing their God-given ability.
Scouring the Earth for mutants to build a team Xavier finds young cohorts who dub themselves; Angel (Zoe Kravitz), Darwin (Edi Gathegi), Havoc (Lucas Till), and Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones). All have their respective powers; flying, adapting, fire rings, sonic booms, and shape shifting. The special effects are crisp.
Xavier has them all train extensively to harness their powers; which even includes Magneto, who practices his metal-moving by changing the direction of a satellite.
The mutants find themselves in a battle that pits the practical Xavier against the revenge absorbed Magneto. The moral dilemma of using their powers for good or evil is at the heart of it. The complexities of mutant life.
Not short on action, this film utilizes the mutants’ powers at full force; from forcing submarines into the air to stopping missiles mid-air (makes you wish you had a few favorable mutations by the end of it).
I’ll admit the attempts to thread the story with historical events is a little choppy. But one can never go wrong including a clip of late President John F. Kennedy in the mix. Entertaining and successful in not veering too far off of the story, X-Men: First Class should satisfy comic book obsessives, earning it 3 out of 4 stars. Not to mention all the films' actors have now gained more proximity bragging rights to Kevin Bacon.
Moviegoers can head over to Muvico in Rosemont to see X-Men: First Class in premier and general seeting. Click here for showtimes.