X-Men: First Class. It is.

I had reservations, when I first saw the pre-production stuff posted on various sites around the Web. As a life-long X-Fan and self-admitted geek, the shots and costumes looked rather dicey.

Kudos to Matthew Vaughn and Marvel, for proving me wrong. This is a cracking good film.

Events kick off in 1944, at the concentration camp scene in Poland, from “X2: X-Men United”, where the young Eric Lehnsherr first exhibits his magnetic (Magneto-ic?) powers. Meanwhile, in Westchester NY, an equally young mutant telepath, Charles Xavier, discovers a little blue shape-shifter girl named Raven, raiding the kitchen of his parents’ mansion.

Flash forward, to the Swinging Sixties, and the film hurtles on, in Cold War spy thriller mode.

We’ve got young man Eric (Michael Fassbender), pursuing leads and dispatching witnesses with ruthless efficiency, as he attempts to track down the monster who made him the monster he now is: Nazi war criminal turned mutant uber-villain, Sebastian Shaw (played by Kevin Bacon).

And young man Charles (James McAvoy): witty, urbane, brilliant – and fully capable of kicking ass in his own, unique manner.

It’s Sean Connery’s James Bond versus John Steed, from The Avengers. And it works.

This being 60’s spy territory, we also get strong and gorgeous female leads.

January Jones is just fine as powerful, white lingerie sporting telepath, Emma Frost. No British accent, but that’s okay; her bio in the comics lists her as a native of New England, so she’s a Stateside gal. And yes, I know her ability to turn herself into a living diamond isn’t supposed to manifest till much later. Just think alternate universe; this is REEL life, not a comic book, fer crissake.

I confess I was thoroughly smitten by Jennifer Lawrence’s Raven / Mystique – in both her human camouflage and natural blue skin forms. She’s not hissingly evil, or angelically good. Like everyone here, she’s believably ambiguous. And since she ages at a quarter of the human rate, I expect we’ll see more of her, in future.

As I hope we do of Rose Byrne, as Moira MacTaggart. Destined to become a leading global figure in mutant research – for now, kicking it, Modesty Blaise style, as a plucky CIA operative.

Stage set; game on. And the game is preventing World War 3 – as orchestrated by Sebastian Shaw, in an attempt to eradicate humanity, and leave the Earth free, for mutantkind. It culminates in the Cuban Missile Crisis – as staged by opposing factions of super-powered mutants, caught between the global superpowers.

It’s spectacular stuff. I mean, you’ll get to see a man levitate a nuclear sub from the ocean depths, while clinging to the landing gear of a cruising war plane. That’s worth the price of admission, alone.

Grab some popcorn. See this. It’s good.
I highly recommend it.