Cold War-era origin film is HOT.
The film opens during the Holocaust, showing the tragic childhood of Erik Lehnsherr who learns in a concentration camp that he can control metal. His emotional tale is paralleled with the lavish, albeit lonely, life of James McAvoy, a handsome Oxford graduate with telepathy. His run-in with a shape shifter attempting to steal from his home lands him a best friend, Raven Darkholme, who spends the whole film working on her self esteem and appreciation of her power despite her physical appearance of blue, scaly skin. Lack of confidence and embarrassment is a common theme among those coming out as mutants, and the choices each character makes by the end of the film sets the sides for those with, and those against, unification with humankind.
The fun begins after CIA agent Dr. Moira MacTaggert, played by Rose Byrne, recruits Xavier to gather a band of mutants to help stop an impending nuclear world war set in motion by the human-hating Sebastian Shaw, played by Kevin Bacon. With Xavier's first use of Cerebro, the telepathy amplifier created by Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult), to find other mutants, introductions are made to lesser noticed characters in the other X-Men films. Angel, Banshee, Darwin, and Havok are given their beginnings, making First Class the perfect film for fans wanting to see more students from the early School for Gifted Youngsters. Comedic scenes of the mutants learning to control their powers adds relief to the otherwise constant emotional action that sets up a course for relationships and anti- or pro- human sentiment found in the sequels.
Kevin Bacon gives a solid performance as the energy-absorbing Sebastian, the embodiment of evil, and provides the signature helmet later donned by Magneto. Other standout performances by archenemies include January Jones as Emma Frost, Janos Quested as Riptide, and Jason Flemyng as Azazel, the Satanic-looking father of Nightcrawler.