X-Men: First Class had all the makings of another brilliant Marvel film. It had the effects, it had the actors and it had the backstories to many well-known X-men veterans (not just Magneto and Professor X but also Hank McCoy and Mystique). And yet somehow it managed to fall flat. I didn't dislike it but I didn't love it. It wasted what it had bizarrely with too much plot. If it was the back story it might have worked but it played the leads against a wartime backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Holocaust, expanding on Erik (Magneto's) discovery of his skills just as his parents are taken away from him at a concentration camp.
Some amazing actors end up looking really strange. Kevin Bacon, who plays the evil Shaw, doctor at the concentration camps turned destroyer of the world, speaks so many languages it sounds odd and he just didn't work as a comic book bad guy. His right hand woman, Emma Frost (played by January Jones) looked like an extra from the Avengers in her all white leather get up and just didn't have the charisma that Mystique manages to pull off in the trilogy films in a similar role.
The saving grace though is the two leads. James McAvoy as Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr are mindblowing. They play the roles with depth and subtlety which many actors would have struggled with and their developing friendship is fascinating to watch. It's also lots of fun for X-Men fans to see a young Charles Xavier chatting up young college students with his knowledge of evolution and being rather protective over his luscious locks. It's compelling viewing seeing a young Erik battle with the completely understandable rage that has been festering in him since Shaw killed his parents and tortured him into developing his 'gift'. It explores the two characters opposite approaches to the humans, with one trying to appease and play nice and wait for them to come around and the other sick of waiting and already convinced they are the enemy.
For fans of the other films, there is a brilliant cameo that had me laughing and lots of in-jokes (namely about Charles' hair) but it does still make sense to those who haven't see any so don't worry if you're not all clued up.
The action sequences are impressive but for this film buff there was just too much plot, too much politics and not enough action. Still worth a watch.
3 out of 5 FOBLES.