With Matthew Vaughn taking over the X-Men franchise, people were wondering what to expect from the man most people only knew as the guy who had directed "Kick-Ass" which, to me is one of the best super her movies ever made. If nothing else, audience could be assured that this would be a whole new direction for the mutant anti-heroes.
The movie starts with a re-imagining of the opening scene from the original X-Men movie that debuted in 2000 and informs the audience that the series is indeed getting a fresh start and is headed in a wonderful, new direction. We are introduced, at first, to a young Erik Lehnsherr as he begins to discover his powers and we also see an equally young Charles Xavier who is already aware of his abilities but makes an intriguing discovery of his own when a would be thief turns out to be a girl named Raven that can shape shift in to any form she chooses.
Over the course of the first half of the movie we see Lehnsherr years later on a quest for revenge while Xavier, with Raven at his side, is on a mission of discovery. What I loved most about this part of the film is the cool vibe and ultra hip style of the 60's that is completely captured and conveyed on the screen. At times, it feels more like one of Connery's Bond films than a super hero movie which really isn't a bad thing at all.
A mutual threat eventually brings the two men together and, as part of a secret government agency, begin to recruit other people with special abilities to counteract an equally gifted opposing force led by Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon). Shaw has plans to instigate a nuclear was which will create a new world order that he intends to lead and the only thing in his way is an uneasy alliance between Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender).
What is most impressive is how Vaughn is able to take a full roster of both hero and villain characters and give them all just enough screen time so you never feel like any one of them is getting lost in the shuffle. If anything, you wish you could see more of characters like Emma Frost, Havok, Darwin, and Azazel because they are all so cool. Finally, bringing in Kevin Bacon to play Shaw was inspired casting although I was very skeptical going in. He brought a charisma and personality to the character that was flamboyant without ever going over the edge.
We also get to see two of today's brightest stars in McAvoy and Fassbender do their thing and I have to say they are the keys to this movie being the smashing success that it is. The high level of acting ability they bring to the table makes "X-Men: First Class" much more than just another super hero action movie.
This movie isn't just about mutant powers and big explosions, although there is plenty to go around, it is also about powerful acting performances that really allow you to engage with the characters which is important as each of them are forced to make life altering decisions.
You will definitely want to grab a big bucket of popcorn for this movie as there is no shortage of big time, blockbuster sized special effects, but what makes it really special is just how well everything fits together to make a truly great movie. If this first effort by Matthew Vaughn is any indication of what audiences can expect from future X-Men movies, then we are truly in for one seriously kick-ass ride.