I am sure that many of you already know that X-Men: First Class was originally intended to be the second Origins film, focusing on Magneto. At some point its development shifted away from being a Magneto film and instead moved its target towards a slightly larger target, the dawn of the mutant age and Charles Xavier's first students. It is a choice that made for a better film and a more than successful reboot of the franchise. Yes, I said reboot. I believe it was initially intended to be part of the existing film universe, but there are just too many inconsistencies and I would prefer to look at this as a break from the others, no matter how good the first two are, the third film and Wolverine were considerably less so.
Matthew Vaughn, who had been on board for the third movie but left abruptly before shooting was to begin, returns to the franchise on better terms and with Bryan Singer, who helmed the first two films, on board as producer and co-writer, the film was certainly in good hands. I know I was looking forward to it when I saw it in theaters, whatever they delivered. Both men have vision and an understanding of how to make a good movie and while this film is not without its faults, it more than delivers.
The movie opens with Erik Lensherr and Charles Xavier as children at the approximate time their mutant abilities manifested themselves. With Erik, it was when his parents were taken and placed in a concentration camp during WWII. His anger revealed an ability to affect metal. It is an ability whose power is hinted at when the man running the camp, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), takes an interest in the lad and pushes him until his anger unleashes the full, unfocused strength of his metal bending talent. As for young Charles, it came a bit earlier, as a young boy at his family's estate when he awakens in the middle of the night and has a chance meeting with another young mutant, Raven Darkholme (Jennifer Lawrence), later known as Mystique, showing he was not alone.
We pick the story up some years later during the Cold War when our heroes are now grown men. Erik (Michael Fassbender) is on the hunt for those responsible for the death of his mother in the concentration camp while Charles (James McAvoy) has proven himself to be something of a ladies man at Oxford. The two are on a collision course, and there is nothing that can stop what they will become. Their meeting is inadvertently assured by Shaw, whose Hellfire Club is doing plenty of behind-the -scenes political maneuvering, moving pieces into place for a third World War. Not to be forgotten is Moira Mactaggert (Rose Byrne), a young CIA operative tracking Shaw. The backdrop to this drama is the building Cuban Missile Crisis, giving it some real-world heft, complete with archival footage of JFK.