It’s 1942 and the lives of Erik Lensherr (future Magneto) and Charles Xavier (future Professor X) , couldn’t be more different. Erik is a Jew who discovers his magnetic powers when he gets separated from his mother in a concentration camp. Prompting camp-doctor Sebastian Shaw(the ageless Kevin Bacon.) to experiment on him.
Charles lives a privileged life in America and knowing he has a special power (telepathy) coincidentally befriends a young blue shape-shifter Raven.
Twenty years later: Erik (Michael Fassbender) is now an angry young man trying to hunt down nazis. Charles (James MacAvoy) is working on his thesis on mutation at Oxford and lives with his sister Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) who’s taken on the appearance of a beautiful blonde to hide her blue scaly self.
The paths of Erik and Charles cross when the CIA recruits Charles to deal with a group of mutants who seem to have their hearts set on causing a nuclear war. At the helm of this group: Sebastian Shaw, Erik’s archenemy.
With the help of Dr Hank McCoy (future Beast, played by Nicholas Hoult) and an early version of the machine Cerebro, which the Professor uses in later films to connect to mutants over the world, Erik and Charles take it upon themselves to recruit their own mutant-group to fight Shaw.
Charles tries to instill a sense of pride in all his pupils, telling them to accept themselves: though he does seem to repeat the same spiel every time. He seems to try to impress with his knowledge, as shallowly as a chat-up line.
Erik has a different method to convey the same message: he literally pushes students to show them they can fly and in general prefers action to words.
As different as their approaches, are the men’s views on the conundrum of a society with humans and mutants: Charles believes we all can live in harmony, but Erik scarred by his past, is worried that mutants will be hunted down. This comes to a head when they have to deal with what will be known as the Cuban missile crisis: the X-men and The Brotherhood are born.
The film is a feast of recognition for fans of the franchise: the back-stories are revealed, the relationships are explained and references to the comics are made, as well as containing a few surprising cameos.
It lays on the message of self-acceptance perhaps, but this is based on a comic book and teenage angst after all. Director Matthew Vaughn has made the action sophisticated, the dialogue is funny and effective, and characters are carefully developed and portrayed by bright young things. Nice set up for the second film then.