As a prequel, reboot, preboot, redo, re-imagining, whatever, X-Men: First Class is first-rate. And I say this with some authority, being old enough to have purchased X-Men #1 in the ’60s when it first appeared. (No worries, it’s now tucked safely inside a safe deposit box.) Now First Class makes me proud to be an aging Marvel kid.
Though we’ve seen such pre-X-Men history before (the opening Nazi concentration camp scenes seem downright recycled), I loved the way director Matthew Vaughn then cut to the Cold War chase, with a young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender) starting as allies as the U.S. and U.S.S.R. teetered toward nuclear annihilation. Only the mutants can stop this, right?
Action is aplenty, and exceedingly well staged, while the characters grapple with genuine dramatic heft — and add some cheeky humor. The Kennedy-era trappings, now in vogue, also work well, while Kevin Bacon as vile villain Sebastian Shaw (fun German accent, Kevin) steals the show big-time. And that’s in a rare superhero film that feels more character-driven than action-driven — not that First Class skimps on the latter bent.
With the glut of superhero movies it’s hard to stand out, but this one does–and rightfully earned $350 million at the global box office.
Whether you’ve seen previous X-Mens or not, it works, so make a note: On Friday, Sept. 9, X marks the spot with Fox’s Blu-ray and DVD release of the year’s best superhero movie, X-Men: First Class. Face front!