The experience of X-Men: First Class has been a rollercoaster ride... even before the movie came out! When I first heard James McAvoy was going to be a young Professor X, I wasn't sure what to think. Then there was the first trailer, which was pretty cool. Then there was another trailer... and another trailer... and another trailer... and (hideous) poster upon (atrocious) poster. Then the reviews came pouring in, and they were declaring how outstanding the movie was. The TV ads were changing themselves to quote reviews saying things like how it battles The Dark Knight for best comic book movie ever made. Rotten Tomatoes has it currently at 87%. In fact, I'd only heard one relatively negative review (and Dylan assured me they were almost all he'd heard--in fact, he'd seen nothing but lukewarm-at-best reviews, and none of these "excellent" ones). And then, after all that, I finally saw the film.
Erik (Michael Fassbender) is a Holocaust survivor, but he's still a tortured soul, in no small part thanks to a man named Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon). Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is a "professor" of genetics, with a focus in mutations. He travels together with his friend and kinda-adoptive sister, Raven (Jennifer Lawrence). But when Shaw begins his attempt to start the third World War, Xavier and Erik meet and work together with a CIA again named Moira (Rose Byrne) and form their own team of mutants to fight him. Other mutants (good and bad) you'll see are Riptide (Alex Gonzalez), Azazel (Jason Flemyng), Angel (Zoe Kravitz), Emma Frost (January Jones), Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones), Darwin (Edi Gathegi), and Alex Summers AKA Havok (Lucas Till). There's one more really fun one, but I don't want to spoil it, so I'll stop there.
I've never read the comics. I watched the cartoon sometimes growing up, played a video game or two, and saw the other movies, but that's about it. I can't argue if they stayed accurate or not... except two issues. Even I know that Alex Summers is Scott Summers/Cyclops' younger brother, so there's no way he could be in the first class. And I'm relatively sure (spoiler?) that's not how Prof X gets paralyzed. Besides those, I couldn't tell you anything glaring about it the adaptation.
I like it when stories are presented like this--going back and showing how things came together. We already know the stories and characters, so seeing everything's origins was fun (since it was done right... not like Origins: Wolverine). I'll be honest: I'm not a total hater on X-Men 3. But even I can't deny looking at that and looking at this and seeing the huge difference in quality, from acting to writing to... everything, really. I'll be honest some more: I was never of the kind that thought X2 was one of the greatest comic book movies before The Dark Knight. In fact, outside of the outstanding opening sequence, I thought it was a bit too long and kinda dull. I think this film strikes a nice balance between everything and gives us an X-Men movie that is equal parts strong story, good characters, good acting, and great action.
In the acting department, I was continually drawn in by rising star Jennifer Lawrence. I thought she was amazing in Winter's Bone, and she brings a needed depth to Mystique here. From the short clips and pictures we saw of her beforehand, the makeup bugged me. But it doesn't really bug me in the actual film, for some reason. James McAvoy excels as Charles, giving us a different side of him than we saw in the other films, but still keeping that wisdom endeared on us by Patrick Stewart. And Michael Fassbender was equal parts menacing and troubled as Erik/Magneto. Of course, I can't talk about the acting without bringing in Kevin Bacon as our villain. I don't know why he was absent from practically all advertisement. He's a huge part of the movie. But yeah, he was pretty creepy and did well with what he was given.
Though I think they could have done a little more with his climax battle. He had some really cool moments, but it could have been extended a little bit, I think. Overall, I think the writing was pretty good... though there really didn't need to be two Charles-Xavier-will-eventually-be-bald jokes.
Personally, I really enjoyed the film. It had some great moments, really fun action, some good humor, great character interactions, and a couple nice appearances by other (unmentioned) characters we've met in previous films. I think it captured the heart of X-Men really well, and I can safely say it's one of my favorites of the franchise. Is it perfect? No. The first 15 or so minutes bugged me for various reasons, and there were a few things here and there throughout the rest of the film I could have liked differently. But overall, it was a very good and very enjoyable superhero movie.