As we return to the X-Men series, we turn to the 2011 X-Men : First Class. Almost in the spirit of the Origins premise for Wolverine in the previous film, this film acts as a prequel story for a number of different characters.
The film is written and directed by Mathew Vaughan who wrote the screenplay with Jane Goldman, Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz. Interestingly Bryan Singer (director for the first two films – and for me whose departure was partly responsible for the series losing its way in the third) gets a story and production credit.
The film is set in the early 1960’s and finds a young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), an academic expert in mutation. Xavier, along with his adopted sister Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) is approached by the CIA for assistance following an encounter with a number of human mutants.
The mystery finds them meeting another mutant in the form of Eric Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) who is on the trail of former nazi’s, especially Dr Klaus Schmidt (Kevin Bacon). As the two groups unite to take on Schmidt, they are joined by a number of young mutants finding their way in life with cast members including Nicholas Hoult, January Jones, Jason Flemyng, Zoe Kravitz and Caleb Landry Jones.
The film is a comic story however heavily grounded in the feel of a 60’s cold war thriller and it works very well. It is clever and finds a balance throughout in nodding to its predecessors (well, successors but made earlier – you know what I mean).
Fastender makes for a great Magneto (compelling in the role although with a slippery accent at times) and McAvoy too brings a new light and youthfulness to Xavier, however it is Lawrence who takes the opportunity to bring a huge amount of development to the character of Raven, a character with limited impact across the previous stories.
It is clever, well written and features some big action set pieces (especially in its climax). The score too is a stand out for the drama that it brings to the film.