X-Men: First Class is a very good movie, you'll notice I didn't say Summer movie with all the baggage that entails, it's just a very good movie that happened to be released in the Summer. It effortlessly blends multiple styles that give it a distinctly unsummerish feel and the level of performances delivered by it's key players elevate it above almost anything the genre has given us in the past (Christopher Nolan's Batman films being the obvious exception). It's not however that rarest of birds, the perfect ensemble film. While James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Rose Byrne are top notch and even some of the younger cast carry their own weight Jennifer Lawrence and the kids who play Beast and Havok, it can't completely escape the fact that some of the characters just aren't the best the X-Men have to offer. Alfred Hitchcock himself would struggle to make Darwin and Riptide compelling. Fortunately for us Vaughn seems to realize this and puts the focus squarely on the movie's strength's and not on its weaknesses...which kinda makes you wonder why the weaknesses are there in the first place? but that's a mystery I'm sure would be easily answered if we had inside knowledge of the production.
One of the most unusual aspects of the film I noticed was that unlike most hero-villain pieces it was actually the Heroes who were the strength of the movie and the villains who were decidedly weak. Kevin Bacon adds very little to the proceedings, January Jones fails to capture the essence of what makes Emma Frost captivating as a character despite filling out the costume very nicely and the afforementioned Riptide and Azazel are given very little to do beyond some cool effects driven scenes. This can and for me anyway has all been forgiven because of the great depth of chemistry and nuance given to Erik, Charles, Moira, Raven and Hank. At any time one or more of these characters is on the screen or idealy sharing screen time with one of the others this movie is Oscar caliber. Fassbender should probably get an oscar nom for this film, when you can make people forget about Sir Ian McKellen you've accomplished something significant. Imagine the way you felt for young Erik in his first scene at the concentration camp in the original and stretch that out for 2 hrs, add a slice of depth and nuance and set it all off with a dash of delightfully satisfying revenge. The scenes between him and Charles and the understated triangle between Erik, Raven and Hank are mindblowing. Also, in closing I should state that whoever made the decision to set this film in the 1960's deserves a round of applause. The Bondesque feel blended with the Cuban Missile Crisis pastiche really sets the whole thing off nicely. Also loved the cameo's and wink wink moments for fans of the series and comic books. All in all a very professional production that just misses perfection because of slight imbalances and an inability to sustain it's own heights throughout.