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X-Men: First Class movie poster

X-Men: First Class: Movie Review

Genre: Action, Adventure
Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Bacon, January Jones, Nicholas Hoult, Zoe Kravitz, Jason Flemyng, Rose Byrne
Released by: 20th Century Fox

In Short: This reboot of the "X-Men" movie franchise is an exciting, believable flick and a fun ride that takes us back to the beginnings of the popular Marvel Comics characters, human mutants with incredible powers.

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Rebooting the "X-Men" Franchise

It's hard to believe that it has been 11 years since the first Marvel Comics' "X-Men" movie burst onto the movie scene. That hugely popular tale of mutant humans with incredible powers spawned two sequels ("X2" and "X-Men: The Last Stand") and one prequel ("X-Men Origins: Wolverine") in the ensuing years. Now, with "X-Men: First Class," Hollywood and Marvel have gone all the way back to the beginning, to tell the tale of how Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr first met and formed the group that was to become those fabled X-Men. And they have done it beautifully.

There's no need to have read a single "X-Men" comic book nor seen any of the previous movies to enjoy "X-Men: First Class," either. Director Matthew Vaughn ("Kick-Ass") has wisely created a film that stands completely on its own. Starting with the childhood experiences of Xavier and Lehnsherr, the movie then moves into the young adulthood of those two men, who become friends when they discover their mutant commonality.

Of course, this being a comic-book movie, there is a very bad guy involved. Kevin Bacon is perfectly cast as villain Sebastian Shaw, who chews up the scenery as an uber-powerful mutant whose dream is to rule the world. He's the guy that Xavier and Lehnsherr know they have to stop, but he's recruited some scary cohorts to help him along. He's got the luscious mind reader Emma Frost (played by another perfectly cast actor, January Jones) and devilish Azazel (an unrecognizable Jason Flemyng).

January Jones and Kevin Bacon in X-Men: First Class James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender in X-Men: First Class

As Xavier and Lehnsherr join forces to stop Shaw, they recruit a bunch of young mutants along the way, including a few who are younger versions of characters we recognize from the later movies. Especially noticeable is blue-skinned Raven, played by Jennifer Lawrence (in Rebecca Romjin's role from the earlier versions), in a part that's quite a change from her "Winter's Bone" Oscar nominated turn. She's terrific, as are most of the other young mutants. After spending some time at a secret CIA facility learning to harness their powers, then it is off to defend the world against Shaw and his gang in an action-packed finale.

The story, set in 1963 as the Cuban missile crisis comes to a crescendo, is a cleverly constructed, fast-paced tale that blends real history with a believable plot – believable, that is, if you set your imagination free and go with the idea that the mutants really could exist. And why not? It's a fun ride with a dark side, filled with fantastic visuals. Plus, it's a perfect set-up for a whole new series of "X-Men" movies to come, and if the sequels are anywhere near as amusing as this one, we're sure to be seeing more of them for another 11 years — at least.

Reviewed by Jenny Peters


(Updated: 06/02/11 CT)

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