With many prequels failing the expectations of viewers, I’ve tried to go into a prequel not expecting a single thing. X-Men: First Class however, magnified what little expectations I did have and blew them out into space. This movie was an entertaining, slick and enjoyable watch.
It traces the roots of the characters we’ve already seen in the X-Men movies till date. It starts where the first X-Men film did, in 1944, showing a young boy separated from his parents, and taken into a Nazi concentration camp. There young Erik Lensherr (to-be Magneto) meets Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) who, like the Emperor in Star Wars, creates the X-Men world’s Anakin Skywalker, a young man angered by the death of his mother.
The plotline shows how the paths of Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) and young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) cross, how they become friends, how they learn to control their powers together and undergo a bromance that isn’t at all sappy or apparent. The two join forces with the government to stop the imminent threat of Shaw’s megalomaniac plans, with Lensherr having his own personal agenda on the cards. There are other mutants thrown in for good measure – we see the origins of Mystique, or Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) as she used to be called, Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and more.
In the process of fighting against the mutant threat, a rift is created between the two close friends and Magneto and Professor X are born from the ashes.
Why does the movie work? It has a fantastic story, the actors fit the characters like a well-made glove and the special effects are in no way overdone or tacky. McAvoy is a slightly cocky yet innocent Xavier, one who has not yet seen what the world can do, or what mutants can do. Fassbender is a wonderful Magneto; you almost feel sorry for him and wish he’d stay on the good side, even if it’s just to see the lovely friendship between his character and McAvoy’s continue. Lawrence as the vulnerable Raven/Mystique trying to fit into the world that won’t accept anything or anyone different is impressive. Bacon was slightly disappointing in the latter half of the movie, although his turn as the Nazi officer is chilling. Rose Byrne as Moira MacTaggert, the human CIA agent is the only one who believes in helping the mutants, and does well. The rest of the supporting cast played their roles well.
There are two blink-and-you-miss-them cameo appearances by cast members of the X-Men 1-3 movies, so watch out for those. A word of warning to those expecting a teaser scene at the end of the credits: there isn’t one this time.
All in all, a fascinating watch that makes viewers hope that there will be more prequels coming along especially if this is how they’re going to do it. Kudos to the director Michael Vaughn and the writers for giving us a great movie at the start of the summer.