My stars and garters, what a pleasant surprise is X-Men: First Class. I don't know if it is based on the recent Marvel series of the same name - I haven't read it - but I do know that it is an excellent prequel to the previous X-films and, as others have indicated, a successful and fresh reboot in the way that JJ Abrams' Star Trek was.
Like the Trek reboot, this is a film that goes back to the origins of some familiar characters, showing us their past and how they met. Like the other X-films, the screenplay takes some liberties with what mutants exist at what time; instead of the actual original team of Marvel Girl, Iceman, Cyclops, Beast, and Angel, we have a young Mystique, Havok, Banshee, some kid called Darwin, and the insect-winged Angel from Grant Morrison's New X-Men. The baddies are the Hellfire Club, with Kevin Bacon doing a great job as Sebastian Shaw and January Jones phoning it in as Emma Frost.
The heart of the film is of course the relationship between young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Eric Lensherr (Michael Fassbender). I would have happily watched an entire film of Magneto travelling around the world to hunt Nazi war criminals. Instead we see the roots of their division over the role mutants should play in human society, combined with building the relationship between Magneto and Mystique in a way that parallels the first film's depiction of Wolverine and Rogue.
Matthew Vaughn has given us another excellent superhero movie that knows when to ramp up the action and when to be quiet. The script is possibly the best of the X-films, with a few forgivable "anvils" and a couple of very entertaining cameos. The production design is worth the price of admission alone. First Class slows down a little with its final set piece, in much the same way that the other X-films did, but the cast pulls it off. McAvoy, Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence are particularly watchable, and Rose Byrne is a welcome sight as Moira McTaggart.
Dare I hope for a sequel filled with Sentinels?