Review: Does X-Men First Class Save The Once Dying Fox Franchise Without Sticking To The Comics?

Love them or hate them, the X-Men films have been one of the most successful franchises of the last decade, but they definitely weren't a proper adaption of the popular Marvel comics. Now Kick-Ass director Matthew Vaughn has been given the biggest challenge yet, to teach us the origins of the X-Men while working around Bryan Singer's messed up interpretation of the comics, and not even using any of the original X-Men. Can he do it?

X-Men First Class starts off with young Erik Lehnserr, a boy who has to live through the horrors of the Holocaust. After Nazi soldiers try to take Erik's parents into a gas chamber, his rage cause him to reveal his mutant powers and bend the metal fence of the concentration camp. He's brought to a Nazi named Dr. Schmidt, who is curious of Erik's powers. Forcing Erik to move a metal coin, Schmidt uses a horrid technique to force Erik's rage out, and so Magneto is born.
Skip forward to the sixties, where we are introduced to the young and intelligent Charles Xavier, who is also mutant telepath. He is accompanied by Raven Darkhölme, a shape shifting mutant who is disguised as Xavier's sister. In the mean time, it is revealed that Schmidt has been able to keep himself young all these years by absorbing energy and starting a club of mutants named the Hellfire Club.
In a desperate attempt to capture the Hellfire Club, the CIA hires Xavier and Raven to help defeat the fellow mutants. By a twist of fate, while encountering a Hellfire Club submarine, Xavier telepathically connects with Erik Lehnserr, who is also hunting down Schmidt (Now none as Sebastian Shaw) for revenge. Xavier saves Erik after feeling his thought, and the two team up.
After teaming up, Erik and Xavier decide on recruiting a team of young mutants to assist them against the Hellfire Club. They find a stripper named Angel Salvadore with wings, a prisoner named Alex Summers who can shot beams from his chest, a young scientist named Hank McCoy who has the feet of an ape, a young teen named Sean Cassidy who has a super sonic screech, and a taxi driver named Darwin who can adapt to his environments in order to survive, together the team tries to prevent the Hellfire Club from sending the United States into Nuclear War, as well as dealing with internal disputes between the group.
I'll admit, I definitely had my doubts about X-Men First Class. But there's no doubt in my mind now that Matthew Vaughn was able to pull off an excellent movie, despite his limits dues to the previous films. The chooses of mutant to use for the first class of mutant was spot on, introducing some very interesting characters who don't even get a big role in the comics, such as Banshee and Angel. The movies whole story of how each character meet, and how they became who they are today was extremely impressive, especially given the lack of source material.
As for acting, James McAvoy completely stole the show for me. He was able to capture all of the qualities and traits of the same Charles Xavier that Patrick Stewart portrayed in the previous films, and was able to really show Xavier's brilliance and ideas. Michael Fassbender was also outstanding as the traumatized Erik Lehnserr, and despite his accent, it was also very believable that he was a younger version of Ian McKellen's interpretation of the role.
As for the rest of the team, the best performances were by far Nicolas Hoult as Hank McCoy and Jennifer Lawrence as Raven Darkhölme. They had great chemistry, and brought great depth to their characters, depth that they didn't have in the original films. As for the rest of the cast, Lucas Till was pretty good as Alex Summers, but he pretty much played a more macho version of Scott Summers/Cyclops. I loved Caleb Landry Jones as Banshee, and thought he gave the character great personality, and made me like a character that I'd never even heard of.
Unfortunately the villains weren't as outstanding as their rivals. Kevin Bacon had a jaw dropping performance as Sebastian Shaw. He blow my mind completely, and showed a side to himself that a never knew was there. It was very interesting to see a superhero villain who was actually more of a mastermind, then physical for once. The rest of the Hellfire club was very sub-par, including January Jones emotionless performance as Emma Frost, and Azazel and Riptide not even getting a chance to speak. While the characters might not have had much development, they did play major roles and had cool powers that help you forget about their lack of personality.
In retrospect, X-Men First Class manages to deliver everything the previous films, especially The Last Stand, do not. Matthew Vaughn was able to create one of the most interesting origin stories I've ever seen, and prove that maybe curving away from the source material can be a good thing. With an impressive story, cast, and all around enjoyable experience, I  highly recommend X-Men First Class for comic book fans and regular movie goers alike. Bring on the trilogy!

I give X-Men First Class 4.5 out of 5 stars:
And here's the X-Men First Class trailer:
What did you think of X-Men First Class? Are you going to see it?