The X-Men franchise is a huge name in the comic book world, and its forays into the world of the big-screen have had remarkable success. For full disclosure, I will admit that I fell asleep during all three of my attempts to watch X-Men (2000) before giving up on that particular series. However, the sleep-inducing problems that were present in X-Men have been solved in X-Men: First Class, because they limited the extensive backstory and replaced it with action and plot development. Then, they added more action and character development.
The story begins with a brief flashback to 1944. Young Erik Lehnsherr (Bill Milner) is in a Nazi concentration camp, where his abilities draw the attention of an unethical researcher (Kevin Bacon). Meanwhile, a young Charles Xavier (Laurence Belcher) apprehends a unique burglar, the shape-shifting Raven (Morgan Lily).
In 1962, Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is on a quest for vengeance, trying to track down his Nazi captors. Meanwhile, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) has graduated with a doctorate in human genetics, and Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is his constant companion and only friend. They are approached by CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne), who, while undercover, observed Azazel (Jason Flemyng), Emma Frost (January Jones) and Janos Quested / Riptide (Álex González) using their mutant powers to intimidate Colonel Hendry (Glenn Morshower) into placing US missiles in Turkey to exasperate an escalating situation with the Soviet Union.
While Charles and Moira are on the case, they rescue Magneto from certain death as his personal vendetta against Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) intersects with their investigation into the other mutants. Erik reluctantly joins them, and he and Xavier go recruiting. They recruit a team: Angel Salvadore (Zoë Kravitz), Armando Muñoz / Darwin (Edi Gathegi), Alex Summers / Havok (Lucas Till) and Sean Cassidy / Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones). After a humiliating defeat at the hands of Shaw, the team goes into hiding and Xavier begins to train them. Throughout this process, Magneto’s forceful personality often conflicts with Xavier’s methods, but as the situation escalates to an action-filled conclusion.
This film was exciting and filled with character development, plot twists and, of course, incredible special effects. Mystique’s shape shifting was beautifully done, as were the visual aspects of the abilities of the other mutants. Magneto was especially well cast, Michael Fassbender’s ability to convey his extremes of emotion – anger, sadness and determination – added much to the character.