From my understanding, the first two X-Men films directed by 'Usual Suspects' Bryan Singer were the catapult of not just the franchise, but the superhero genre. And from what I heard was that the last two films X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine were dead in the water leaving the brand out of balance and just recently a proposed sequel for Wolverine (simply named The Wolverine) has been on the rocks when its director Darren Arronofsky left for personal issues. With that said, I haven't seen any of the X-Men films.
This is X-Men: First Class, the prequel to the first X-Men; before Professor X and Magneto were fighting over mutants they were friends. First Class begins when in 1944 Erik Lensherr/Magneto, imprisoned in a German Concentration camp see through his eyes the murder of his mother as a little boy. He then let out his magnetic powers and as an adult (Michael Fassbender) vowing revenge on those who killed her that happens to be Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon). He heads a small group of mutants called The Hellfire Club consisting of Emma Frost/The White Queen (January Jones) who shapeshift into a diamond human and is a telepath, Azazel and Riptide. Shaw plans to provoke a nuclear war between the US and the USSR so that mutants can rule the world.
It's the 1960s Lensherr then meets Charles Xavier/Professor X (James McAvoy) who runs a school of mutants. The mutants consist of Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) who is Xavier's best friend before moving with Magneto, Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Alex Summers/Havok (Lucas Till) who shoots laser rings out of his body and Sean Cassidy/Banshee who beams out a supersonic wave. Along with Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne), Xavier aims to have mutants coexist with humans while Lensherr looks for Shaw and aim at wiping out all of humanity.
If I was a huge X-Men fan, I would say this is the best film out of the franchise. This is what X-Men Origins wanted to be but it couldn't because of the timelines relating to the characters and through its portrayal of these people we would want to believe from.
Moralistic and conflicting, there's something that adds more to the film than just being an X-Men film. Directed by Matthew Vaughn who gave us the marvellous superhero satire Kick-Ass and the stylish crime thriller Layer Cake, he incorporates the elements of these films to give us a superhero flick occuring in a period filled with class and cynicism added to the film's mise-en-scene. He also brought in the feeling of a James Bond movie with many of the characters and action paying homage to these movies.
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The supporting cast are mixed. Most of the cast gave us decent performances, but only half of the characters are underutilised or never met any development because there are too many characters here. Perhaps the most interesting character was Mystique, played fantasticly by Jennifer Lawrence, where she's something away from her antagonistic role in the series. But like all of the cast, she's never given any screentime and we never see her powers other than her turning and shapeshifting; and like many of the women cast, we feel like they're reduced to eye candy to the guys (in particular January Jones who wear a bra for the whole of the movie).
But what's put it down from being "the best of the series" to "the best of the series being momentarily awkward" was the last 30 minutes in where Professor X after the betrayal of Magneto is put under a wheelchair where he predicts their future and there was one line that say he's becoming bald. We get it already! Enough with the in-jokes.
Overall X-Men: First Class is not almost to the level of the first two films but at least it shows a big improvement from the last two films. So where does it leave Watchmen after this? Economy Class?