Made in 2011 X-Men: First Class is a superhero film that takes place mainly in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It also looks into the relationship between Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr and how they ended up on opposite sides with one forming the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants.
Okay, now after the disappointing X-Men: The Last Stand in 2006 and the largely pointless X-Men Origins: Wolverine in 2009, the X-Men franchise was just refusing to die and was limping on and on with one poor film after another, as it tried desperately to keep things going. So when trailers for X-Men: First Class appeared I was understandably apprehensive, a trailer can make a crap film look good, believe it or not, before I had read the book of Twilight the film was already in cinemas, and the trailer actually made me want to go and see it, and read the book. That is how effective a decent trailer can be. But after the lacklustre second sequel, and the irrelevant prequel, I was not sure exactly where the film makers were going with this film…but more on that later…so what is going on…??
A young Erik Lensherr (Bill Milner) tears down a metal gate in a concentration camp (in a scene copied from the opening of X-Men) and brings himself to the attention of one of the camp’s employees Dr Schmidt (Kevin Bacon), who murders his mother in an attempt to get Erik to use his powers, it works and much to Schmidt’s delight Erik destroys the room in a fit of rage. Meanwhile a young Charles Xavier (Laurence Belcher) walks into his kitchen to find his mother there, he realises that it is not his mother but a blue mutant named Raven (Morgan Lilly), that possesses the ability to look like anyone she wishes and welcomes her into his home.
Years later Erik (Fassbender) is on the hunt for everyone responsible for his treatment in the concentration camps and more specifically Schmidt. Meanwhile Charles Xavier has finished his thesis into mutation and is approached by CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) who witnessed mutants plotting with a high up in the military. Xavier and his ‘sister’ Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) accompany her back to the CIA and realise that there are a lot more mutants than they ever realised.
During his hunt for Schmidt, Erik and Xavier cross paths and the resulting friendship sends them both down the path that will ultimately make them enemies. But first the audience gets to see them as friends and gives them an insight into how close they once were.
When this film came out I can honestly say I was not exactly sure what it was, whether it was supposed to be a reboot, or is it was a prequel. Some of the details don’t really gel which makes classifying it as either a reboot or a prequel quite difficult. It has been hinted in the previous X-Men films that Xavier and Erik has been friends for years, and it was only their political views that put them on opposite sides of the line. Indeed Erik refuses to allow any of his followers to go after and kill Xavier despite Pyro begging to let him in The Last Stand. In this film the two met and struck up a friendship but it very rapidly became obvious that whilst Xavier has faith in the goodness of humanity, Erik believes that sooner or later mutants will end up in concentration camps, the likes of which he witnessed in World War 2 so they quickly go their separate ways.
There are a lot of very good things about this film, for one it picks up from the very disappointing X-Men: Last Stand and breathes some new life into a franchise that seemed to have run out of steam. It is also the first X-Men film that does not centre around Wolverine and as a result the audience gain an insight into the relationship between Xavier and Erik, when they were both much younger men. In the 1960s mutants were not well known, they had no rights and were in hiding from a government that barely even knows that they exist.
The cast are all chosen well with Fassbender doing an excellent job as Erik, a man who believes that it is only through pain and anger that he can use his powers, it is not until Xavier shows him how that he begins to realise that rage doesn’t have to define him. Kevin Bacon is also surprisingly good as Schmidt (and Sebastian Shaw), a man working both sides against one another in order to eventually take over the world himself, a man at the head of his own band of mutants. I hadn’t seen Bacon do much for a while so I was surprised that he was here, but I enjoyed his portrayal of the film’s bad guy, and it gives Erik his motivation. As he puts it in one scene “I’m Frankenstein’s Monster and I’m looking for my creator”
Like, I said, it is a little unclear whether X-Men: First Class is meant to be a prequel to the trilogy or is an entirely new reboot which nullifies the X-Men Trilogy. In the former category there is a cameo from a certain mutant with a lot of facial hair that seems to suggest this film is a straight forward prequel to the trilogy, however, the audience also learns how Xavier was paralysed. But when Patrick Stewart was playing Xavier in both X-Men: Last Stand and in X-Men Origins: Wolverine he was seen being able to walk, so it begs the question, how was Xavier paralysed in the 60s and yet when he is older and bald (McAvoy has a full head of hair), being played by Patrick Stewart with Ian McKellen as Magneto, he is once again able to walk? Perhaps if there is a sequel that will be explained because at the moment it is a little unclear exactly what X-Men: First Class is supposed to be. Xavier and Erik’s relationship also seemed to go deeper than the brief glimpse that the audience is able to see during the film.
The continuity problems aside First Class is still an excellent superhero film with a magnificent cast doing an excellent job in the pre-not-too-distant future universe that the audience have seen in the X-Men Trilogy. There is certainly room for further sequels in which the relationship between Erik and Xavier could be further explained, and anyone who enjoys a good superhero film should look no further. Do not be put off by the disappointing X-Men: Last Stand and the prequel X-Men Origins: Wolverine as any fan of any superhero franchise should give this film a watch.
I am happy to give X-Men: First Class a solid Thumbs Up because in all honesty it is on par with X-Men 2 and might even be better
8.5/10 - This is the X-Men film that we have been waiting for since X-Men 2, it is an eExcellent film that is only flawed by a few continuity issues (which could just be me being picky)