Director: Matthew Vaughn
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence, January Jones, Nicholas Hoult, Oliver Platt, Jason Flemyng, Lucas Till, Edi Gathegi, Kevin Bacon, Caleb Landry Jones, Zoe Kravitz, Matt Craven, Alex Gonzalez, Rade Sherbedgia, Glenn Morshower

Rating:

Storyline: If you’re into back-stories and reworked beginnings, Matthew Vaughn’s latest interpretation of a classic Marvel Comics series is sure to please you.

X-Men: First Class unveils the epic beginning of the X-Men saga and a secret history of the Cold War and our world at the brink of nuclear Armageddon. As the First Class discovers harnesses and comes to terms with their formidable powers, alliances are formed that will shape the eternal war between the heroes and villains of the X-Men universe. X-men much as Casino Royale rebooted the James Bond franchise in a fresh and dynamic way.

‘SHAITAN’ thrills box-office and audience

X-Men: First Class injects new blood into a franchise that, for all its profitability, had become blandly anaemic. In fact, roughly the first half of this massive and very well cast origins extravaganza is arguably the best hour of Marvel Comics-derived filmmaking among the torrent of it that's cascaded across screens in recent years. Audacious, confident and fueled by youthful energy, this is a surefire summer winner for a wide global audience.

The prequel to all the X-Men films traces the beginning of the mutant world. It's 1962, the year of the Cuban missile crisis when America and Russia almost threw the world into a nuclear war. CIA agent, Moira (Rosie Byrne) hires telepathic Professor Charles Xavier's/Professor X (James McAvoy) and a bunch of fellow mutants to work as a special force and avert the crisis which has been precipitated by the evil Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon). The super army also includes Holocaust survivor Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender) who seems to have his own motives for teaming up. He still hasn't forgotten his bitter childhood memories.

The film opens in a riveting manner with a young Erik being forced to display his special metal-bending powers in a concentration camp in Poland. At a German concentration camp in occupied Poland in 1944, scientist Dr Schmidt observes young Erik Lensherr bend a metal gate with his mind when the child is separated from his parents. In his office, Schmidt orders Lensherr to similarly move a metal coin on a desk and kills his mother when the child cannot. Lensherr's out-of-control magnetic power manifests, killing two guards and destroying the room, much to Schmidt's delight. Meanwhile, in a Westchester County, New York mansion, young telepath Charles Xavier meets homeless young shape-shifter Raven. Overjoyed to meet someone else "different" like him he invites her to live with his family.

In 1962, an adult Lensherr has begun tracking down former Nazis, hoping to find Schmidt and take revenge. Meanwhile, in England, Oxford University graduate Xavier is publishing his thesis on mutation; his foster sister Raven, a waitress, lives with him. In Las Vegas, CIA agent Moira MacTaggert follows US Army Colonel Hendry into the Hellfire Club, where she sees Sebastian Shaw, Emma Frost and Azazel. After Shaw threatens Hendry, Azazel disappears with the officer; moments later Hendry is in the War Room, advocating that the US install nuclear missiles in Turkey. Shaw later kills Hendry, revealing himself as Schmidt and demonstrating the energy-absorbing mutant power that has de-aged him.

MacTaggert, seeking Xavier's advice on mutation, introduces him and Raven to the CIA, where they convince Director McCone that mutants exist and Shaw is a threat. Though McCone refuses to employ the mutants, they are sponsored by the unnamed "Man in Black Suit", another CIA executive. Xavier tracks Shaw down, arriving in time to stop Lensherr, who had attacked Shaw, from drowning as Shaw escapes. Xavier brings Lensherr to the CIA's secret "Division X" facility. They meet young scientist Hank McCoy, a prehensile-footed mutant whom Xavier inadvertently outs as a mutant. McCoy, developing a bond with Raven, promises her he will find a way to normalize their appearance. Xavier uses a mutant-locating device, Cerebro, to find and recruit mutants for training to stop Shaw. He and Lensherr find stripper Angel Salvadore; taxi driver Armando Muñoz, who takes the code name Darwin; Army prisoner Alex Summers, who calls himself Havok; and Sean Cassidy, who dubs himself Banshee. Raven takes the name Mystique.

When Frost meets with a Soviet General, Xavier and Lensherr capture her. Meanwhile, Azazel, Riptide and Shaw attack Division X, killing everyone but the young mutants and offering them the chance to join him. Angel accepts, and when Darwin tries to rescue her, Shaw kills him. With the facility destroyed, Xavier takes the mutants to train at his family mansion. McCoy devises protective uniforms and a stealth jet.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, President John F Kennedy institutes a blockade to stop a Soviet freighter from moving nuclear missiles to Cuba. Shaw, wearing a helmet that foils Xavier's telepathy, accompanies the Soviet fleet to ensure the missiles arrive, trying to trigger World War III and mutant ascendency. Raven tries to seduce Lensherr, but he turns down her advances, and convinces her to embrace her nature as a mutant. McCoy soon offers Raven his cure for her appearance but she refuses. The cure backfires on McCoy rendering him a leonine beast. Though ashamed of his new appearance he pilots the mutants and MacTaggert to the blockade line. In an ensuing battle with Shaw, Lensherr takes the helmet for himself, allowing Xavier to immobilize Shaw. Despite Xavier's objections, Lensherr kills Shaw by forcing the concentration camp coin through his brain.

Fearing the mutants, the fleets fire their missiles at them. In a struggle, Xavier keeps Lensherr from destroying the fleets with the missiles, but when MacTaggert fires at Lensherr, a deflected bullet hits Xavier in the spine. Lensherr, remorseful, leaves with Mystique, Angel, Riptide and Azazel. A wheelchair-bound Xavier and the mutants return to the mansion, where he intends to open a school. MacTaggert promises to never reveal his location and they kiss; at the CIA later, she says she has no clear memory of recent events. Lensherr, in a uniform with the helmet and calling himself Magneto, breaks Frost from confinement.

Thumbs Up: Most action films may boast of loads of action but go low on story and character growth. Here's where X-Men: First Class scores. It has the racy screenplay; the well-executed action sequences; the engaging drama in the second-half. Great action, riveting drama, real dilemmas and interesting characters, X-Men: First Class is fun all the way.

Thumbs Down:
The performances could have been better; the love angle in the film doesn’t work. On the whole, X-Men: First Class is an engaging and entertaining fare in spite of a few flaws in the story.

JPN