I guess it is part of my personality but when a movie gets praised to the hilt by fanboys I end up watching it not in the hope it will be bad but expecting to be under whelmed. That was how I felt as I sat down to watch "X-Men: First Class" as whilst I had enjoyed all the other X-Men movies the incredible amount of positive comments about this origins movie left my expecting to feel under whelmed. But I am happy to say that "X-Men: First Class" lived up to most of those positive reviews as it did a fantastic job of establishing a beginnings story line.
Now you could sum up "X-Men: First Class" by saying it is how the X-Men came to be, how Charles Xavier ended up being a mentor to young mutants, how having once been friends he and Erik ended up enemies but that would be to do the movie a disservice as it is far more elaborate than that. What we get to see builds on things we learned in the earlier movies whilst establishing how they got to that point. For example we get the footage of young Erik during the holocaust when he first encountered his ability to manipulate metal. But that is then built upon as Erik comes to the attention of an evil German doctor who killed his mother and so when Erik grew up he was on a mission to get vengeance on that man for the murder. That then elaborates further to bring Erik and Charles together who has already befriended Raven when he met her when they were children, something which poses a question about their ages but then explains it later on. As I said it does a really good job of establishing the characters who we already know from the earlier X-Men movies.
What it also does in a typical beginnings sort of way is whilst establishing all these characters, their relationships and their mutant powers is to also give us the bad guy story and that involves the evil German doctor Sebastain Shaw. Now this is where "X-Men: First Class" is clever because it then ties in to the Cuban missile crisis and in doing so using archive footage of JFK given public announcements on the crisis. None of which is new but it works to keep the X-Men grounded in the real world yet also being fantasy.
Of course the entertainment comes in many forms and that goes from the clever casting of Jennifer Lawrence as a young Raven and looking smoking hot whilst also introducing us to other mutants such as Emma Frost played by January Jones. That leads me to my next positive as you sit there watching and suddenly you spot a well known name in a supporting part such as Michael Ironside, Oliver Platt and Rade Serbedzija. The cast is basically impressive from start to finish and whilst it takes a bit of getting use to watching James McAvoy as Charles especially as a college student who drinks a yard of ale and flirts with pretty women they all work perfectly.
Plus there is the action, the huge array of special effects from character transformations to the big climax as the missile crisis becomes the focus. Visually it is impressive and exciting delivering plenty of bang for your buck but it lacks one thing and that is atmosphere.
What this all boils down to is that "X-Men: First Class" is an impressive entry in the consistently impressive X-Men series and lives up to the hype. Could it have been better? Yes, but for fans of the series it does a good job of answering a lot of questions but in a clever way which draws you in to the story.