The reboot is an exponentially powerful tool for commercial and critical acclaim being employed by studios these days to save sagging movie franchises. Be it Bond or Batman nearly everyone has undergone one in the past decade with many more lined up in the near future so it was but obvious that the X-Men franchise which had been faltering in its steps with the last two movies (X3: The Last Stand & X-Men Origins: Wolverine) would go under the makeover knife. So though a prequel set mostly in the 60s which retains the ethos and thematic element of the earlier movie this is quite a different beast in every other aspect; some for the better some for the worse.
Like the first movie this too starts off during the Holocaust with a young Erik Lehnsherr (Eric Fassbender) being separated from his parents and unlocking his magnetic powers much to the delight of a Nazi scientist, Klaus Schmidt (Kevin Bacon). A personal tragedy later the movie jumps to the 60s where Erik is a super-suave Nazi-hunter hot on the trail of Klaus who now goes by the moniker of Sebastian Shaw. During an unsuccessful attempt by Erik to capture Shaw he comes in contact with Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) who's working with the U.S. Government on capturing Shaw. Shaw apparently has been running an underground secret organisation called the Hellfire Club that would make Blofeld proud. Hes bent on world mutant domination by causing nuclear conflict between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. thus wiping out most of humanity in one fell swoop. Erik & Charles form an uneasy alliance based on the mutual goal of stopping Shaw and his band of mutants but eventually come around to sowing the seeds for the "frenemies" that they will become in the future.
On paper the plot sounds intriguing enough and the right lead-in to the earlier movies, it contains all the requisite elements that define the crux of the nearly all X-Men stories involving Professor X & Magneto, however this is could have delved into far deeper to define the complex relationship the two men form beyond customary checklist emotions and moments. At times it reflects far too much of what was already well established in the first three movies without adding anything substantial to the plot. Certain moments that are defining moments in them being friends and enemies are very well played out but honestly for a fanboy well aware of the relationship this is simply skimming the surface. The same can be said of Erik relationship with Shaw which has overtures of the Frankenstein and his monster, something the movie doesnt shy away from putting on the table emphatically. This again could have been far deeper than what the movie accords it.
The other characters (which are plenty) are given far less time to develop here than the two principals. Too be honest Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) & Beast (Nicholas Hoult) are given more of a back-story than any peripheral character in the original trilogy was allotted. Maybe future movies will delve on them further.
The movie's chequered production history is pretty evident in the uneven effects and the level of writing. The action sequences though plenty dont quite have the "holy-crap-that-just-happene d" quality to them. Remember Wolverine's raw rage against the soldiers in the X-Mansion in X2: X-Men United or Magneto using the Brooklyn Bridge as his personal chariot in X3 or even the first major fight sequence in Wolverine where the team takes down an African warlord. Though I have to say Shaw's power is pretty damn cool.
Eric Fassbender should be a shoo-in for Bond once Daniel Craig is done with the role, and at the cost of sounding cheesy hes truly "magnetic" as the anti-hero in the movie. I'd root for Magneto any day over anyone else in the film. James McAvoy though competent doesn't quite bring the gravitas to the role that Patrick Stewart did with the role first time around. Bacon hams it up gleefully that obviously shows he's relishing the role. January Jones is pure eye-candy, while Jennifer Lawrence is under-used.
All in all this is good reboot to the franchise which completes all the formalities required of it as a prequel but with the amount of talent involved, particularly Matthew Vaughn, this could have been so much better. Don't miss out on the cameos littered throughout the film, particularly of our favorite clawed mutant.