Risa and I went to see "X-Men: First Class" last night. Cheapie Tuesday movies, for the win.
The quick review; it was very good. As good as X2 in my opinion, and Risa liked it even better than that.
Spoilers may follow from this point on, so be warned, all ye who enter.
First off, director Matthew Vaughn has yet to direct a movie I don't like. His first three flicks were "Layer Cake" (which essentially got Daniel Craig the role as James Bond), "Stardust" and "Kick Ass". Are you asking how to make action movies that have strong characters and compelling drama? Talk to Matt Vaughn (I'm looking at you Michael Bay and Gavin Hood). The movie looks great, and is set in 1962 without it constantly beating you over the head with "Hey, it's 1962, folks! Look at those wacky 60's!" (The one part where that does happen is when Charles tells a woman her eyes are "groovy" while trying to pick her up in a bar, but it works.) The action scenes are bombastic, and are (thankfully) not riddled with "shakey-cam" so the viewer can actually appreciate what's going on.
The casting was pretty great for this movie. I was pleasantly surprised at this because I was not all that enthused as the casting was announced during pre-production. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender did great work as Charles Xavier and Magneto, and I both believed their friendship and their routes to different paths. Nicholas Hoult was Hank McCoy, and he looked picture perfect as a young and non-furry Beast, and really, I have no complaints about the rest of the team. They looked the part, and played it well enough for me. I did find it odd that they added Havok to the team, as he is supposed to be Cyclops' younger brother, and making him a teen in 1962 would but him well in his 60's now, but that's neither here nor there, and is mostly the fanboy in me being nitpicky. Mystique was also well played, and handled the development of being a self-loathing mutant with much more delicacy than the way it had previously been done with Rogue in the first trilogy.
The villains are headed up by Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw, who does play a menacing and evil character quite well. The rest of the Hellfire Club have the look, but don't add much more than their powers to the movie. Even January Jones, who I found took a choice role in Emma Frost and made her bland and a one-note character, losing her clever and catty dialogue and leaving behind only a hot body in revealing clothing. That's really a shame, but it doesn't take too much away from the overall experience. Azazel and Riptide also both looks cool, and get in on the action scenes, but don't really drive the movie forward. One thing Azazel does do, however, is show how bad-ass a demonic-looking teleporter assaulting a government institution could be. Oh wait...
If you don't know where Azazel comes from, his moronic origins were quite nicely explained over at Robot 6 last week. He's better in the movie than in the comics, it should be stated.
Look for a few great cameos/easter eggs during the film. They deliver. Also, the closing credits Saul Bass-esque design was wonderful. But there is nothing after the credits, so you don't have to sit there until the end. And lastly, this film was decidedly missing a Stan Lee cameo. *tsk*
To summarize, the movie is well written, well directed, and well acted. It was worth seeing, and is one of the better super hero movies made thus far. It exceeded my expectations, and I say, go see it.