Prequels often fall flat; witness all the Star Wars efforts. This, however, is one of the best prequels ever filmed. While the previous films starred Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as Charles (Prof. X) and Erik (Magneto), respectively, and had them as adversaries, this film shows how they came to be. Instead of Stewart and McKellen this film has youngsters James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as Charles and Erik before they took their X– Men names, and presents them as working together.
Although I went into the film expecting something dismal, the quality of the cast indicated that maybe this was to be a horse of a different color, and it is. This one shows how the mutants got together and how they came to be adversaries.
Set with a background of the Cold War at its coldest with the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis as the climax, it’s a James Bondian-type adventure–thriller. One could say that this is James Bond meeting The Dirty Dozen, but I won’t stoop to such an analogy.
Lots of people, like me, don’t get swept up in stories about mystical superhumans with superpowers, and try to stay away — far away — from films like this. If they stay away from this one, they will be missing a highly entertaining film, because it is essentially an adventure film with the metaphysical powers secondary to the plot.
The story is that the bad guy, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), a mutant himself, wants the Soviets and Americans to destroy all humans by inciting a nuclear war, so he manipulates the Cuban Missile Crisis. It’s up to Charles and Erik, who has a history with Shaw dating from Shaw’s time running a Nazi extermination camp, to thwart him.
Although the runtime is daunting, the script is very good and the special effects are spectacular. Most films based on comic books, like the Spiderman movies, are not my cup of tea. This one, to the contrary, is a special blend that is quite to my liking. Directed by Matthew Vaughn with a script (by four people, including Vaughn, and the story credited to two other people; so many people involved with the script usually spells disaster) that makes as much sense as a movie based on comic book characters can, this held my interest throughout.
Kevin Bacon gives a fine performance as Sebastian Shaw, the smiling bad guy, against whom both Charles and Erik unite, as do both Fassbender and McAvoy.
Although X-Men fans will find this especially interesting because it not only delves into the hitherto unknown relationship between two people who became known as Prof. X and Magneto, but it explains lots of things that were just assumed in the prior films. However, one needn’t be familiar with the other film to enjoy this, because it stands on its own. In fact, it might inspire those who haven’t seen the other films to go see them now. This one is clearly set up for sequels.