‘X-Men’ delivers a first-class film

“X-Men: First Class” is everything a summer blockbuster should be: It’s fun, action-packed and includes plenty of youthful energy to fuel this highly-entertaining prequel.

The “X-Men” franchise was left on life support in 2006 by a mediocre “Last Stand” and a disappointing “Wolverine” in 2009. In this fifth film of the Marvel mutant franchise, audiences discover how best friends Professor X and Magneto turn into mortal enemies.

Much like the original 2000 “X-Men” movie, the film opens at Auschwitz, a German concentration camp.

There, mad Nazi scientist Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) discovers a young Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) who possesses magnetic powers.

Sebastian teaches Erik (who later becomes the super villain Magneto) how to unleash his powers.

Meanwhile, back in New York state, a young telepathic Charles Xavier meets blue shapeshifting Raven.

Two decades later, Charles (James McAvory) has grown up to be a professor driven by a passion to understand genetic abnormalities. Erik has grown up to be an angry man who is driven by seeking revenge against Sebastian, and Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) is struggling on how to be “mutant and proud.”

By this time, Sebastian has perfected an American accent and has assembled a yacht full of mutant sidekicks (including January Jones, Alex Gonzalez and Jason Flemyng) bent on nuclear destruction.

All this unfolds on the eve of the Cuban missile crisis. A loner Lehnsherr teams up with Xavier to recruit a gang of young mutants to thwart Sebastian’s plans.

These mutant youngsters include an intellectual Beast (Nicholas Hoult), the fire-blasting  Havok (Lucas Till), the sonic-sounding Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones) and the fairy-winged Angel (Zoe Kravitz).

The characters of these young sidekicks aren’t developed much, but I’m sure that’s OK with the movie’s producers. After all,  there’s plenty of sequels to be made and spin-off franchises to create.

While McAvory adds a bit of humor to the staunch character of Professor X, it’s hard to imagine that one day he will lose his hair, deepen his voice and possess the same Shakespearean gravitas that Patrick Stewart provided in the earlier films.

It’s easier to imagine Michael Fassbender one day grow into Ian McKellen’s (also a Shakespearean actor) Magneto. In fact, Fassbender is a real find as a vengeful Magneto. His storyline is the darkest, and most compelling.

A surprise cameo by a current X-Men provides a good laugh.

Four out of five stars.

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