While the big press screenings for X-Men: First Class are yet to take place, I am lucky enough to have seen it already. Embargoes being what they are, I can't exactly review the film right now, but I'm going to go ahead and tell you about it anyway, and I even promise a nice clear answer to the basic question "Is it any good?"
I'm going to assume you have a working knowledge of how the film is set up and what it's about, but if you would like some background on the film, I suggest you catch up on our earlier posts – there's lots of trailers and clips and posters and so on, but also interviews with some of the stars and a nice scoop or two.
So, here are Five Things about X-Men: First Class, ahead of a full review. If you have any absolutely burning questions, please put them in the forum and if I can, I'll address them soon.
1. It's The Spiritual Prequel To X2
Not only does this film fit very snugly into the continuity of Bryan Singer's two X-movies (more snugly that we can even talk about, for now), it also seems to really belong in the same set. Which is to say, after I'd been bowled over by X2 and its blend of big fun and big ideas, I wanted more. And now, eight years later, I've got more.
And now, I want even more. X-Men: Sophomore Year, please.
2. It's Full But It Doesn't Burst
First Class contains some of the briskest and most efficient storytelling I've seen in any recent blockbuster. An awful lot happens, and awfully quickly at times, but it's all clear and while some nice moments might be over in the blink of an eye, this can only reward repeat viewers.
There's a sequence later in the film, from which much of the material for the "character trailers" was gathered, that actually uses split screen to crack the pace up one more notch. This film does not hang around – and at over two hours of running time, that's a virtue, because when nothing drags, and the audience don't get bored, the minutes just whistle by.
There are some characters who get short shrift and aren't allowed the space, or focus, that would have allowed them to really come to life – Riptide and Azazel, definitely, and Darwin, perhaps; and Moira McTaggart sort of fades away for a while, but while she's around, some of her scenes are great.
An amazing amount of the characters are sketched out most deftly. It's that efficiency again.
3. James McAvoy Nails it
I don't think you can really call the star of a film a scene-stealer, but McAvoy is the best thing in more or less every sequence he's in, which translates to more or less all of the film. He even gets the opportunity to pull off some great little comedy bits and, when necessary, packs just enough emotional punch.
I don't know how much McAvoy studied Patrick Stewart to prepare for the role, but I know this: I didn't once think of Patrick Stewart while watching the film. I just thought of a young Charles Xavier, what he believed in, what he stood for, what would drive him, and how he could sometimes trip himself up.
Similarly, the two actors to play Erik Lensherr – Bill Milner and Michael Fassbender – both bring the appropriate gravitas and rage, and the character, ultimately, attains the necessary hint of serenity.
More on the cast in my full review. Lots of them do interesting things.
4. How True Is It To The Comics?
I don't really know how true the film is to the comics, if I'm being honest. There's an awful lot of comics, and they seem to contradict themselves an awful lot. There's some interesting work done in making sense of bits of disparate comics continuity within this one new framework, and a lot of "grounding" of things that might go unexplained on the page. The jumpsuits everybody wears are completely sensible, for example, and there's even a range of reasons that explain why Emma Frost is always dressed the way she is. Fun details that will make for some nice, chewy debates.
5. So… Is It Any Good?
Oh, hell yes. I really would recommend you go see it.
X-Men: First Class opens officially on Wednesday June 1st, in the UK, and Friday June 3rd, in the US. I'll be shading out more of the light and dark in my full review, which you'll be able to read as soon as the embargo lifts later in the week.