I went into the theater with low expectations for this movie and was blown out of my seat. X-men: First Class ranks among the best of the superhero genre movies, in the company of Dark Knight, Spiderman 2, and Superman. It also distinguishes itself as the textbook example of what a prequel should be. I rate it at 120% entertainment value relative to other films in this series.
The story is set in the 1960s, and emulates perfectly the look and tone of the Sean Connery Bond films of that era. Kevin Bacon, as Sebastian Shaw, is surprisingly brilliant as the villain, and could hold company with Goldfinger and Blofeld and probably come out on top. No self-respecting world-dominating megalomaniac would be caught dead without a loyal familiar to stroke his ego, and this part is played beautifully by January Jones as Emma Frost (the White Queen) who is the cinematic mashing of Pussy Galore and Blofeld's Persian white kitty. In truth, this movie is very much a spy thriller in the 007 vein with super humans added in to optimum effect.
The story was expertly written, and Matthew Vaughn's direction was perfect; there was not a moment when the film lost momentum or pulled you out of the narrative. James McAvoy as Charles Xavier (Professor X) and Michael Fassbender as Magneto portrayed an effortless friendship between the two men reminiscent of the chemistry between Kirk and Spock. By the end of the movie, you believed their relationship would span decades. More importantly, you believed why, despite being on opposite sides with regards to their methods, Magneto would never kill Charles Xavier. Watch this film and afterwards put on the first X-Men movie... it's a perfect fit. "First Class" sets up the earlier films in the series in a way we all wished "Revenge of The Sith" would have set up Episode IV: "A New Hope."
The only sad part to having seen X-Men: First Class is that it came so early in the summer, nothing else is likely to match it for entertainment value and quality. This is a well-made, entertaining movie, so run, don't walk, to the theater. I rate this film $13.50 out of the the $13.50 to paid to see it. There isn't a better deal in town.
Edward Lazellari is the winner of Playboy's 1999 Short Fiction Contest and the author of fantasy novels Awakenings and The Lost Prince, from Tor Books.