X-Men: First Class
Zach Davis

Directed by: Matthew Vaughn

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne, January Jones, Oliver Platt, and Kevin Bacon

X-Men: First Class is Matthew Vaughn’s fourth time out as a director.  After having made Layercake, Stardust, and Kick-Ass, First Class marks the first time he has worked with a budget of more than $100 million.  The problem with First Class is a common one amongst comic book movies.  Vaughn tries to force too much trivia into the film.

As a young boy, Erik Lenhsherr (Michael Fassbender) is a holocaust prisoner who is singled out for his mutant ability to manipulate metal.  A Nazi officer named Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) takes a special interest in Erik and teaches him how to use his powers.  Shaw believes Erik is at his most powerful when he's angry and shoots his mother in the head to test this theory.  Now that Erik is all grown up, he's on the hunt for Shaw and his other Nazis capturers who escaped punishment after the war.  He's out for blood and will twist as much metal as needed to get it.

Elsewhere, a telepathic mutant child named Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) meets another young mutant girl who can shape shift named Raven (Jennifer Lawrence).  He takes Raven into his home and offers her shelter.  Xavier grows up to be a respected academic who is well-versed in genetic mutations.  Given his expertise, CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) seeks him out to help her prove to her superiors the danger of Shaw who is now planning to start World War III between America and Russia.  She invites him to help the CIA  track down Shaw.
Xavier and MacTaggert eventually locate him in a submarine.  At the same time, Erik is finally closing in on Shaw.  He arrives on the scene with the intent of breaking into the submarine and killing his nemesis.  The crafty Shaw proves to be more than Erik can handle though, and Xavier luckily locates Erik just in time to save him from drowning.  Now teaming up, Erik and Xavier set out and find other mutants to form a team.  The team must learn to fully control their mutant powers and find a way to stop Shaw’s plan.

Most of the characters in X-Men: First Class offer little depth except for Erik, Xavier, and Shaw.  The real scene stealers though are Fassbender’s Erik and Bacon’s Shaw.  Fassbender skillfully delivers the twisted Erik, better known as Magneto, as he traverses from a hero to the villain he will ultimately become.  Bacon delivers a complete madman, who seems to hold all the power in the world.  He is one of the best villains put forward so far in any comic book movie.

The rest of the characters, especially the female ones, are very underdeveloped.  Raven’s struggle with her mutation and her ultimate choice at the end are delivered by Jennifer Lawrence with very little power.  As Emma Frost, the emotionless January Jones once again looks as if she is doing her best robot impression.

One major flaw in the film is Oliver Platt’s character.  He serves no purpose other than minor comic relief.  He adds no real value to the film.  His presence on screen ultimately distracts from the story at hand.

Despite these flaws, X-Men: First Class is worth a watch.  Just remember to grab a six-pack or some wine to have the best overall experience.  This prequel gets a 0.06% rating.