Just got back from an advance preview screening of this (again), and...
Believe the reviews coming out of the gate, this is not just the best X-Men film to date it's also the closest contender of the "best comic book adaption" title to date - right up there with The Dark Knight and Iron Man. Like the case was with Thor, i have never read any of the old X-Men comics so keep this in mind when reading the following.
Review: X-Men First Class
Everything that all previous X-Men films have gotten wrong (Script, Characters, Pacing) this gets right and while some parts do feel a bit rushed it keeps everything coherent thanks largely to an extremely solid script and strong acting. I was never bored, never found myself uninterested in the plot, and found myself both recoiling and unexpectedly laughing really damn hard at some parts. The CG effects are just breathtaking as well.
Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) were PERFECTLY cast as their respective characters, a fantastic feeling of comradeship develops as the two get to know each other, something that makes the ending all the more tragic. Raven Xavier/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) gives a good performance as do all of the team, but they do feel a bit overshadowed by the two main characters - They're not bad actors here... it's just McAvoy and Fassbender are so good they stand out so much amongst the cast.
The movie sets the tone of the story as being EXTREMELY dark right from the first scenes with the young Erik being held in a Nazi concentration camp, what happens there made me lean back in my seat almost and i am pretty sure i heard some in the audience whispering "No... oh god no..". This part of the film i felt borrowed a bit from the Star Trek reboot as it compares the early lives of Erik and Charles and the results of said upbringings. It's here where Fassbender's Erik really steals the show: The film goes from 1944 to 1964 where a 30 year old Erik, who now has a grasp of his mutant powers, has made it his life's goal to hunt down and exact revenge on the Nazi's that wronged him. You see everything he does in all it's bloody glory.. I felt at this point the film really shakes the audience, almost saying "This is what you're in for, get ready".
Charles Xavier has a much easier time throughout his story in comparison but that does not mean his story is any less interesting; his character is clearly conflicted and tragically arrogant despite having good intentions. Seeing his character finally realizing how completely wrong he is for once towards the end of the film and the price he pays for it is a very powerful scene.
The story has a surprising amount of humor in it despite it's overly dark and serious themes based in a Cold War setting (Vaughn really did his homework here). A fair amount of the comedy comes from Charles Xavier, forget the wheelchair bound sage from previous films, this character is one full of swagger and enough charm to woo any woman he wants (and he does). Erik has a handful of funny scenes as well which feels good and odd at the same time given his character's back story.
There was a freakin' hilarious part that had EVERYONE in the screening laughing their asses off for a good minute, BIG SPOILER >>> BEST... CAMEO... EVER....
You'll know it when you see it...
The fights are intense, they make very good use of the CG effects and they don't use close up shots to an extreme like other films have done. Watching Azazel rip through a squadron of soldiers with close to no effort was a "Wow" moment for me. Nothing is done to be so insanely over the top it becomes laughable, which is incredible to say about an X-Men film. The pacing is spot on, never going too slow but never zooming along so fast it leaves half the audience in the dust but still the 2 hours and 15 minutes running time just flies by, left me a bit let down when it ended... i sort of wanted it to keep going.
I'm not sure if Vaughn intends to continue his own take on the X-Men universe, the ending is open to interupritation as far as i saw it, but suffice to say he's got the winning formula down just like J.J Abrams did with Star Trek and I'd be thrilled if he went and did Wolverine's story some justice if he goes there.
See this film ASAP even if you don't think you'd like an X-Men film, you won't be let down.
Edited, Jun 1st 2011 7:48pm by Tatham