X-Men: First Class 
Director: Matthew Vaughn
I feel obligated to admit right away that I am not much of an X-Men fan. I know very little about the series and its characters, and I have only seen the original 2000 film. It’s not that I am opposed to the series in any way, it’s just that I could never be bothered to dig into it. Until now.
X-Men: First Class is a prequel to the original movies, and it focuses on the origins of the groups led by Professor X and Magneto. This concept intrigued me quite a bit simply because it would tell me, a non-fan, how exactly everything came to be.
The movie takes place predominantly in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. A young mind-reading Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) meets a fellow mutant, Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), who shows him that he is not alone in the world. Their paths intersect with Erik Lensherr (aka Magneto, played by Michael Fassbender) who is on a revenge mission to kill the Nazi bastard (Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw) who murdered his mother. The two future leaders team up and recruit a bunch of other mutants including Dr. Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), Angel Salvadore (Zoë Kravitz) and Sean Cassidy (Caleb Landry Jones) to take out Shaw and his small band of accomplices, the most noteworthy being Emma Frost (a terrible January Jones), who are now attempting to start World War III.
While the majority of the characters get their fair share of screen time, the bulk of the action is placed on Professor X and Magneto. McAvoy and Fassbender are more than up to the task for their roles, as they both deliver strong performances with impeccable chemistry together. The acting is generally pretty good all around, except for the aforementioned January Jones, whose only duty is seemingly to show off the movie’s required amount of cleavage. Jennifer Lawrence in particular is quite good as Raven, and she is certainly building momentum after last year’s brilliant performance in Winter’s Bone. I also enjoyed Rose Byrne’s role as a CIA agent who is working with the mutants.
X-Men: First Class doesn’t have any major “holy shit” moments and relies more on dialogue than action, but it still moves at a brisk pace even considering its 132 minute run-time. I found the back story to be quite fascinating, and this movie has inspired me to continue delving into the series — something the 2000 film couldn’t even do. While I feel more could have been done with the film’s 1960s setting, it still made good use of the ongoing Cold War and offered an interesting fantasy alternative as to what really happened. As far as summer blockbusters go, this is one of the better ones to come out this year.