X-Men: First Class is a prequel to the popular X-Men series and is based on the famous Marvel comic books. The film is set during the height of the Cold War, where the Cuban missile crisis is a looming US threat. On his quest for revenge against those responsible for his parents’ death during the holocaust, Erik Lehnsherr (Fassbender) crosses paths with genetics expert Charles Xavier (McAvoy). While both of them display mutant abilities and have differing views on humanity, they become best friends and assemble a team of younger mutants. What follows are events that shape the eternal war between Xavier and Lehnsherr, who of course become known as Professor X and Magneto respectively.

You don’t have to be a comic book fan or have even seen the other X-Men films to truly appreciate this film, since there’s something for everyone here. The film takes us back to the early beginnings of the X-Men and sets it during a turbulent period in America’s history, which adds a political dimension to the film. It also works as a fresh introduction to the X-Men universe and its rich and diverse characters. Amidst all the exciting action, the compellingly complex relationship between Professor X and Magneto carries the story. If that wasn’t enough, there’s plenty to please the eye; whether it’s the amazing special effects or the good-looking young cast.

Performances are excellent across the board, with McAvoy (Atonement) and Fassbender (Inglorious Basterds) perfectly complimenting the performances of Stewart and McKellen from the previous X-Men films, while also adding their own approach to their roles. Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) fills in the role of a younger Mystique quite nicely, while the always reliable Bacon gives a formidable performance as the film’s main villain Sebastian Shaw. The rest of the cast don’t get quite much screen time as the rest, but manage to make an impression with their brief screen time.

X-Men: First Class lives up to its name, as it delivers on all fronts. A compelling story, great acting, and spectacular special effects make this one of the best films of 2011 so far.