I had many reservations going into see X-Men: First Class, but I'm pleased to say it's an entertaining, action-packed superhero romp.
Unfortunately as a Marvel fan it pretty much obliterates years of story and character continuity, but I get the impression 20th Century Fox don't really care what the fans think as long as they cash in on our desire to see our favourite comic book heroes brought to life in some form on the big screen.
For those not in the know, this prequel to the other X-Men movies takes place in the 60's and deals with how Professor Xavier and Magneto met, how their friendship formed and how their different philosophies on Mutants set them on different paths.
Overall it's very watchable, with great effects and an interesting assortment of characters. It actually feels less like a superhero movie and more like an old James Bond spy movie, with a Cold War plot pitting America and Russia against each other by the evil schemes by Kevin Bacon's megalomaniac 'Sebastian Shaw', king of the Hellfire Club.
Shaw, breaking with continuity, even becomes a Nazi in this movie to fit neatly into Magneto's origin story, whilst longtime X-Men friend 'Moira MacTaggert' becomes an American CIA Agent and loses the Scottish accent and Genetics expertise she had in the third X-Men film.
When asked to gather other mutants, Professor X and Magneto gather a 'first class' of mutant teens who vary wildly from the original Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, (male) Angel and Beast.
Fox has pretty much killed off most of the important characters in future the initial trilogy, so we're left with a mishmash of lesser known X-characters, some expendable like 'Darwin', some younger than their counterparts like 'Banshee' and most from different generations of X-Men all thrown together. The funny thing this new movie even messes with the established X-Men movie continuity too, particularly when Professor X and Magneto go to visit a young 'Jean Grey'.
Promotional sky-writing for X-Men: First Class in L.A.
Luckily James McAvoy makes for a less stuffy and spirited Professor X, whilst Michael Fassbender provides a great tortured Nazi death camp survivor in Magneto, so between them they are able to unify all these disparate elements into an enjoyable story.
There are some nice cameos in the movie, from fan favourite characters and even previous film franchise actors, plus it's nice to see 'Emma Frost', the 'White Queen', brought to life with such icy aloofness by Mad Men's January Jones.
There is humour, emotion and some great flying action scenes to really set this movie apart from its predecessors. X-Men: First Class deserves four **** stars, but I can't help but feel if the studio had embraced the rich 40+ year heritage of the comics it's based on, that it could have been an even greater epic adventure.
I'm glad we live in a world where the fantastical world superhero movies come to life on the big screen, I just wish there was more respect for the source material at times.
So we've had two great Marvel movies this year so far in Thor and X-Men: First Class, let's hope Captain America doesn't disappoint this Summer...