An origins tale that's a true comic novel of a movie, "X-Men: First Class" boasts CGI action and character development that provides a nifty origins foundation for the series.
The beginning is set in a concentration camp during World War II (a setting that has already been established), and then it fast-forwards to 1962, creating an alternate history in which mutants - people born with special powers - were being born and/or created. They either went into hiding or tried to fit in by appearing to be "normal."
James McAvoy is the young Professor Charles Xavier, who works with CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne, who is everywhere these days, also appearing in both the recent "Bridesmaids" and "Insidious") to gather a team of mutants, including his "sister," (Jennifer Lawrence), who becomes Mystique. The "good guys," including Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), who has magnetic control over metal and will go on to become Magneto, are supposed to overcome former Nazi Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon).
Erik is driven by his quest for vengeance because Shaw killed his mother. Erik believes that violence is necessary and that a bigger war is on its way. Charles, though, is of a more peaceful mind.
Meanwhile, we meet the folks who will go on to become Darwin, Angel, Emma Frost, Beast and Havoc, all with interesting secondary stories and relationships with each other that range from jealousy to romantic feelings. (Incidentally, those familiar with all of the films in the "X-Men" series will notice discrepancies between characters and situations in this movie and other shows.) Additionally, there are a couple of terrific cameos, one of which is only a couple of seconds in duration.
The tone of the movie is mostly serious. Although there are a couple of chuckles along the way, there isn't much comic relief to be found.
Action aficionados will enjoy lots of movement here, from explosions caused by the mutants to full-on battle scenes that are pretty impressive. That's not surprising because the film is in the hands of director Michael Vaughn, who helmed one of my all time favorite "superhero" movies, "Kick-Ass." In this latest tale of the X-Men, I love the way he occasionally uses a split-screen to create a comic-book-like effect.
And if you're a longtime superhero-movie buff, please take note: This one does not include an extra scene at the end.