This prequel to the hit X-Men franchise follows the blossoming yet ill-fated friendship between a young, mobile Professor X (Scottish heartthrob James McAvoy) and a tortured, revenge-seeking Magneto (the always enjoyable Michael Fassbender). Early ’60s-era Cold War hysteria provides both the backdrop and subtext for the assemblage of the original team of mutants, none of which are nearly as interesting as their predecessors, but many of which are much more gorgeous (see: Mad Men‘s January Jones as the telepathic Emma Frost, Winter’s Bone‘s Jennifer Lawrence as the shape-shifting Mystique, and Bridesmaids‘ Rose Byrne as mutant sympathizer Moira MacTaggert). Kevin Bacon serves as the film’s villain, former Nazi Sebastian Shaw, in a multilingual role that he pulls off quite well. Director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, Layer Cake) includes plenty of lackluster montages such as training sessions and a globe-spanning recruitment tour that features the film’s most rewarding moment (you’ll probably hear about it before you read this). Vaughn provides a necessary degree of cinematic slickness to the action scenes, though none of them are particularly memorable outside of the climactic showdown. Not the most imaginative nor interesting film, but an easy summer watch.
X-Men: First Class opens wide in Philly-area theaters today.