In a year awash with superhero movies a new X-Men film was in danger of being overlooked, or even avoided altogether given the toxic slap of X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: Origins Wolverine and yet here we are with me telling you that X-Men: First Class is tremendous fun and edges up to X2 as one of the best of the series. How did Matthew Vaughn bring this series back from the edge?

Taking us back in time is a smart move and the origins of this film lie in the film’s opening scene which is a continuation of the previously glimsped moment when the young Erik Lensherr enters a Nazi concentration camp. At one point the next X-Men film was to be Magneto’s story and in First Class there is a strong case to be made for a Fassbender led film as he is easily the most interesting character here, but the crucial expansion of the story to include the other original X-Men gives the film a reason to be. We need to see the friendship develop between Xavier and Lensherr before watching it fall apart and the scenes between McAvoy and Fassbender are perfectly pitched and despite the shenanigans in Cuba and the Hellfire Club it is this relationship which fuels the film.

Watching it again on Blu-ray (which looks beautiful by the way, crisp and colourful) the film’s pacing really stands out, as do the dynamics of the characters which are nicely complex and completely true. In contrast Singer’s Superman didn’t work its characters against each other, they all existed in the same space but didn’t spark when they met. Here there is an excellent villain in Kevin Bacon’s Sebastian Shaw, and crucially he is the catalyst for the change in fortune for the X-Men. It’s an exciting ride with a stunning visual identity, a keen wit and a genuinely unfamiliar feel to it, and this is a key strength.

It’s hard to imagine a better main cast for the young X-Men and a strength of Goldman as a writer and Vaughn as a director is the charm and intensity of McAvoy and Fassbender respectively. To embody an earlier version of a character so well known, and so expertly played by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan, is no easy trick but the glint in Charles Xavier’s eye and the latent vulnerability of Erik Lensherr is something new and drives the film early on. That the characters evolve over the course of the film, Xavier to learn the responsibility of his power and position and Lensherr to embrace his mutant side wholly, and that this evolution happens so clearly and with the full force of the plot behind it is testament to the success of the film and the care which has gone into it.

Best of all it achieves the same, rare feat as JJ Abrams’ Star Trek reboot in that the new actors easily replace those we’ve come to know in the roles and as soon as the end scene rolls we want to see more. If the next film follows the trajectory of quality of the Singer Trilogy then the next X-Men will be anything other than Second Class.


Special Features:

  • Cerebro – The Ultimate Mutant Database replicates what happens when Charles locates mutants through Cerebro and allows you to learn more about various mutants, connect them to key events, decipher connections between them and much more (additional mutants can be unlocked through BD Live).

This is an odd extra but it does a good job of drawing the five films together with an animated ‘Cerebro’ menu taking us through the cast of mutants and then a short montage of their finest moments plays before a fact sheet is pulled up. You could spend a while going through each of the characters but I doubt many people will. It’s not a bad attempt at giving the Blu-ray buying public something a little extra but it’s a cumbersome way to see a video clip and a short bio.

  • Children of the Atom–Multi-part documentary on the X-Men including the following elements: Second Genesis, Band of Brothers, Transformation, Suiting Up, New Frontier: A Dose of Style, Pulling Off the Impossible, Sound and Fury and Untitled Closing.

This is where the good stuff is. Over an hour of comprehensive behind the scenes footage and talking heads taking us through the entire process, from first shortlist of directors (which didn’t include Vaughn) to the casting and visual effects sequences. It’s not breaking any boundaries of documentary filmmaking but there’s nothing like a well put together hourlong with contributions from each important voice. Well worth a watch.

  • 13 deleted scenes:
    o Erik in Argentinean Airport
    o Shaw with Cuban Generals
    o Charles and Moira’s Tryst, Part 1
    o Charles and Erik Recruit Angel (extended)
    o The Russian Truck (extended)
    o Erik vs. Russian Guards (extended)
    o Shaw’s Plan (extended)
    o Havok Training, Part 1 (extended)
    o Banshee Training, Part 1 (extended)
    o Havok Training, Part 2 (extended)
    o Banshee Training, Part 2 (extended)
    o Hank and Raven in the Lab (extended)
    o Charles and Moira’s Tryst, Part 2

Nothing hugely important was left on the cutting room floor. The relationship between Charles and Moira was hinted at in the film but given a new spin in the deleted scenes. Other than that it’s a mixed bunch but if you’re a fan of the film you’ll enjoy every extra minute.