SPOILERS AHEAD. YOU'VE BEEN WARNED!
I'm going to assume that most of you know the X-Men universe (comics, not bastardized movie universe), so I'm not going to be throwing in a lot of explanation of characters...that's what Wikipedia and Google is for..
It's been a day now since I've seen X-Men: First Class, so it's given me some time to ruminate on it and how I felt about it. First off, I went into this with middle-ground expectations. All the reviews were giving it high marks, it was directed by Matthew Vaughn (who directed the very entertaining movie "Kick Ass" among others)...but my remaining doubt was that Bryan Singer was still attached as Producer and that Fox Studios still had control of this franchise. Let me explain, Bryan Singer's X-Men movies were subpar. Very little action (mostly because Singer isn't familiar nor comfortable directing action scenes, and it shows), and the same plot in all three movies. Yes, I know Ratner directed X3, but he only stepped into the director's chair a mere three weeks before filming began. That means he had to work with Singer's script and sets. Granted, Ratner added more action in X3 than we saw in X1 and X2 combined, but it still couldn't save that movie from the same tired and hackneyed script. Unfortunately. So you see my dilemma walking into this movie. So what did I think of it?
The beginning of the movie we get the same tired opening that we saw in X1 of the concentration camp that a young Magneto is being brought to with his parents. In fact, I thought the projectionist had slipped up and actually threw the old X1 reel onto the projector considering that he/she had screwed up a little earlier and had started Bridesmaids instead of X-Men: First Class. But I digress....
We get to see a little more of what happened to young Magneto at the camp and what awakened his powers. We also get to see a young Charles Xavier and Mystique as well within roughly the same time frame. Flash forward to 1962, and you have an older Magneto hunting down Nazi war criminals. Actually I found this part of the movie much more enjoyable and preferable to having watch Xavier and Mystique stumble through their part of the story in the same time frame.
We then get a bit of cheap James Bond-esque espionage thrown our way by the CIA investigating the Hellfire Club in Las Vegas. Here we meet Moira MacTaggert as a CIA agent. Now this change kind of ruffled my feathers a little. Moira, in the comics, is a fellow geneticist and doctor. She and Charles are to have met in school, and she was quite important in the X-Men universe. So this change kind of threw me. Anyway, back to the story.
It seems that the Hellfire Club is working at starting World War Three, by getting the superpowers to place missiles close to one another's borders. Why? Because supposedly mutants can handle the radiation that would kill off the regular humans. Yup, time to dust off that old chestnut again, the war between mutants and humans.
Anyway, MacTaggart sees the mutants and wants to fight fire with fire, so she contacts Xavier since he just has graduated with his thesis about genetic mutations in humans. After a little stint at the CIA convincing them of the need to recruit mutants against Sebastian Shaw and the Hellfire Club, that's just what they set about doing. Honestly, this whole government scenario could have been clipped right out of the movie and it wouldn't have been missed. But then again, if the CIA part had been clipped out, then you would have missed out on the cheap James Bond impression the movie makers were trying to use to cover up the fact that this is just the same old, tired X-Men movie plot we've seen three times before, just with a different cast.
The movie comes to the Cuban Missile Crisis where we have our big (and second of only two) fight scene in the movie. Things are wrapped up tidily with the governments of the world fearing mutants (gee, I haven't seen that before), and Xavier at his home, which has now become a school for gifted youngsters. Ta-da!
Fassbender as Magneto was good, and actually better than Sir Ian. I actually would have sat through a movie of Magneto hunting down Nazi war criminals rather than this movie. McAvoy...well, he played a pretty arrogant Charles Xavier. Did he do a good job? Well if his job was to irk the shit out of me every time he was on the screen, then his mission was surely accomplished. Then we have the chubby Jennifer Lawrence playing Mystique...if awkward were an acting style, she would be garnishing awards a'plenty. Every single time she uttered the phrase, 'Mutant and proud.' I shuddered at how badly it was delivered and how awkward it felt in the script. But it wouldn't be a Bryan Singer production if we didn't have a gay allegory shoved in there somewhere no matter how out of place it felt.
As for the other cast members, well, they were honestly forgettable and disposable. Even Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw was horrible. Think of one of the worst (least scary) Bond villains, and then bring it down another 100 fold, that's the character he played.
Again, as I stated earlier in the review, there were only two fight scenes in this movie. Two, in a movie that runs two hours and eleven minutes. There are two cameos in the movie, one that's actually quite funny and the high point of the movie, and the other which was fun but not really necessary.
The CGI was spotty in places, especially in the sub coming out of the water sequence, but other than that it was passable. The makeup on the other hand was bad when it came to the practical makeup on Beast. There's a scene in the air hangar when we first get to see the newly transformed Beast, and it looks like someone didn't glue the right part of the lip prosthetic on firmly enough. So all I ended up doing was staring at this hanging prosthetic wondering how it ever got past post-production. Anyway, enough with the tear down, let's get to the verdict.
If you're a fan of the Bryan Singer version of the X-Men, then you're in luck! Because this movie is just more of the same. Same plot, same characters, different actors, and the same lack of action. If you're like me and didn't care for Singer's version, then you're shit out of luck because you're getting more of the same, nothing new to see here. It wasn't Matthew Vaughn's fault, because he knows how to direct action movies and does it well, I put the blame directly on Bryan Singer's shoulders because this movie feels like he ghost directed it right back into the grave. I honestly hope Marvel can get the licensing for this property back from Fox and away from Bryan Singer, so that we can actually get a good representation of the X-Men done for once before I die.
Rating: Rental. I'm lucky that I got a free movie pass due to the projectionist screw-up, otherwise I would have been pissed that I spent $6 on this.